Sunday, May 14, 2017

Halbai or Halubayi - Mother's day, parenting and more

A very happy Mother's day to all you lovely mammas and motherly ladies out there, hope you all had a wonderful day in the company of your loved ones and enjoyed your special day!! 

My wishes are probably reaching most of you after the mother's day. I was debating whether or not to publish a post this time for Mother's day at all. I waited till the day was almost over writing, erasing, rewriting the post as I tried to make it acceptable to myself, hopefully I am able to make it not all personal. The silver line definitely is the wonderful recipe today, do try it sometime. I sincerely wish you all had a wonderful day and hope you were lucky enough to have had a chance to wish your own moms and mom-equivalents in person, over phone, via email etc. For many years now, ever since I realized there was a special day for mothers, I have wished my mom atleast by phone if I wasn't physically with her either in India or here. The first mother's day without my mom, without even a chance of being able to call her up and talk to her has been tough to say the least. A day of celebration that brings a lot of pride and happiness as a mom is also a day where the heart aches for the one special person I can never again celebrate this day with. As some of you may have noticed, I break my 'no personal pics on the blog' policy only for the mother's day posts, here is an old pic of my mom with me in her arms, needless to say one of my favorites :-)
I miss her asking me if I had lunch/dinner no matter what time of the day I called, I miss her asking how I was doing first before asking how BH and DD were doing making me feel just a tiny bit more special, I miss our conversations mostly about the grand child, less about me and the SIL, I miss the tenderness in her voice if I ever complained of a minor head ache during our calls, I miss the uncanny 'mom instinct' that caught any hint of cold/cough/uneasiness without me ever opening my mouth, I miss her contagious laugh as it trickled through the wire of the wireless communication across the continents, I miss her nostalgic memories of days past, I miss her dreams of the future for her children and grand children. Most of all I miss the love that laced every spoken and unspoken syllable in those conversations. It is especially hard as with her exit I lose the comfort of parents, the go-to source for all of life's bruises - minor and major alike. On the bright side, I recognize the legacy she has left behind with countless people - cousins, relatives, friends and others fondly remembering her and sending a kind word, showing a kind gesture which has made the last 9 months easier than it would have been otherwise.
My child didn't come with a manual, neither did my mom's. Infact the 5 children she raised are all such different individuals that they would have had to come with custom manuals every time they popped out if she had relied on written words, with no possibility of cross reference. Instead she drew her wisdom from elsewhere, while guiding and shaping us constantly but also knew well to let us be ourselves, fall and get up on our own. Considering the limited resources they had, I continue to be amazed at the wonderful job my parents did with all of us especially at how we all turned out (for most part and for most of the time atleast :-)). I got literally chewed up by some of my college classmates the other day on a related topic of letting kids be kids and not try to fill every moment of every waking day with an activity in preparation of the the unknown evil/extremely competitive world :-). It is almost like you want to hold the pencil in your child's hands every time they do the homework so you can turn the pencil the right way and not have them stumble. I know parenting is a very 'individualistic' approach and what works for me and my kid may not even be suitable in your situation, so I let it go without making the argument unnecessarily longer. But I am secretly glad my parents didn't have access to such articles or highly opinionated peer parents so they could use 'benign neglect' as they parented us :-). For that and everything else, all I can say is an honest, "I Love you" to both of them.
I keep going back to my mom's condition and how severely and quickly she deteriorated since the official diagnosis 3 years ago. In my own totally non medical way, I have read/watched every material (fiction, non-fiction, scientific, unscientific, personal and non personal) about Alzheimer and dementia ever since it hit so close home in an attempt to make sense of what I was experiencing with my mom. While I am still no smarter on what she would have thought/remembered in her most lucid moments, something that cast a line of hope was this gem by Lisa Genova, neuroscientist and author of 'Still Alice". She concludes one of her TED talks on how to prevent Alzheimer with, "You don't lose emotions, you only lose memories with Alzheimer and you are more than your memories". Knowing that my mom was in touch with her emotions even as dementia stripped her bare of her memories and other senses makes it a teeny bit easier. We all have our ways of dealing with life, and this is mine. I didn't mean to make this post blue and gray with personal grief, I hope this helps someone in a similar situation.

Here is my mother's day recipe for today, it couldn't have been anything outside nammamma's kitchen, right? This is a special dish she had totally mastered and dished out just perfect every single time she made it. Once while washing clothes in the backyard in Mysore, she fell down on the slippery floor and fractured her right arm. Her primary concern was whether she would ever be able to make halbayi and mysore pak again (as they need constant stirring), talk about priorities :-). I like to think that this is a Kannadiga dish because I haven't seen anything similar in other cuisines. I had posted a quick (cheat) version of it a while ago here but nothing beats the real deal as you can imagine. Let me know if any of you are familiar with a similar dessert, I would love to learn the details.
Halubayi or halbai (as it is called in colloquial Kannada) is a coveted sweet dish made with humble ingredients. It is a labor of love as there is no way you can hurry it up but have to just let it take its natural course and end up on that deliciousness. For the minimalistic ingredients used, there is just one cardinal rule while making this recipe, do not use dessicated coconut, if you don't have access to fresh or atleast frozen coconut, please put off making this recipe until you can get some :-). There is really not much to the actual process except to let the liquid content evaporate and get to that non sticky mass consistency. I give the details of the consistency in the steps below as well as in the cheat version, this is soft, malleable and unlike the more solidified, harder fudgy burfis from India and that is the specialty of this dish too. We called it 'emme naalige (~translated as buffalo's tongue)' but I have no idea why since I have never touched a buffalo's tongue to see how it feels, it must have been one of those childhood idiosyncrasies is all I can say :-)

I made this twice in the last month, once when a cousin visited home and the second time when we went to visit DD. I can confidently say that the recipe works perfectly and whether you have previously been a Halbai fan or not, it will satisfy your sweet tooth and give you that very homely feeling. I have a feeling my mom would have approved this one herself.

Go ahead and try this recipe and let me know how it turned out. Love to hear from you all as always.

What do you need for making Halbai? 
1/4 cup rice (I use sona masoori)
1 tightly packed cup grated coconut (fresh is best, if using frozen thaw it before using)
1 loosely filled cup grated jaggery (See notes below)
3-4 green cardamoms
6 cups water
1 Tsp ghee (clarified butter)

Thick bottom wide pan
a sturdy flat mouthed spoon for stirring
A fine mesh/sieve for straining melted jaggery
A steel plate or a baking sheet to spread halbai

How do you make Halbai? 
  • Wash rice twice and soak it in 1/2 cup of water for 6 hours (soak it overnight if you have time)
  • Take soaked rice along with coconut and cardamoms (I put whole cardamoms as they get ground fine) into a blender jar and grind into a very fine paste. 
  • Add water from the 6cup reserve as needed for grinding.
  • The paste should feel smooth when you run it between fingers with no trace of rice, cardamom pods or the coconut gratings. 
  • Mix all the reserved water to the ground paste and keep it ready.
  • Optional:  
  • Take grated jaggery into the pan, add 1/4 cup water and let it melt. 
  • Switch off the stove, sieve the melted jaggery through a fine mesh and discard any dirt that is found in some store bought jaggery. 
  • Smear the plate/sheet with a little bit ghee all over the surface including the side edges if any. 
  • Clean the pan and return it to the stove. 
  • Add the ground mixture, cleaned jaggery into the pan and bring it to boil on medium high flame taking care to stir frequently. 
  • Once it starts to bubble gently, reduce the flame to low and keep stirring the mixture until it thickens. 
  • It took me 70mins to get the thick mass in the pan with the quantity I started. 
  • When you see a glob in the pan, add ghee to it and continue stirring until it stops the bubbles completely (an indication that all the water content is gone) and gets a nice shiny top coating.
  • Wet your fingers and hold a small amount of the mixture between them, if it is not sticking to the fingers, you are ready to pour it in the plate. 
  • At this stage, transfer the contents to the prepared plate/sheet and immediately flatten it to the desired thickness. 
  • Take a butter knife and draw marking lines to your desired shape/size and let it cool. 
  • Cut the pieces with a knife and enjoy. 
  • Do not hurry this dish, it needs to be done with patience
  • I use Indian jaggery and have not made it with brown sugar, so cannot vouch for its replacement confidence.
  • Adjust jaggery to required sweetness by tasting the mixture after adding the ground paste together. 
  • Soft, light colored jaggery is best but any good quality jaggery works too.
  • Color and quality of the jaggery determines the ultimate color of the finished halbai, it is generally between light golden and dark golden. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

mothers day wishes to all Sattvaa readers. nice recipe .mouth watering. picture is very sweet.....protected child and proud mom.

sashi said...

Nagashree, no words or actions can fill that gaping hole and the wound never heals. Pray that God gives you strength to bear that loss.
Thanks for sharing the halubai recipe. My mom makes it with wheat and though the process is laborious, the outcome is a heavenly delight. Nothing comes closer to halubai in terms of softness or taste. Its velvety, smooth,jiggly and melts in your mouth.
Very few things were prepared in our house in that quantity. she had to pack for my grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends. So the whole family were involuntarily or voluntarily signed in to assist. It was puzzling as to how she determined when it was done and when to pour it into the plates. We would eagerly wait as she cut them into diamond shapes and we get to eat those remnants which didn't fit the shape and clean out the vessel.
I will get you the wheat recipe when she visits this time.

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Sashi - Thank you! I will look forward to trying the godhi halbai recipe from aunty.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nagashree,

Thank you for your wonderful blog, I am inspired to cook every day because of it.
I have a request, can you bring back the recipe index page. Perusing it to decide what I wanted to cook, is my favorite activity in the evening, it was very helpful.

Thank you!

Sneha Prasad

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Sneha, You are very sweet, thanks for the lovely note and thank you for the tip on the missing recipe index page :-). I republished it, must have done something during one of my clean ups and never noticed it. Here is to continued cooking and spreading food love.