September 22, 2012
Lokopakara is a treasure trove of ancient recipes. Chavundaraya does not specify exact amounts of ingredients in any of the recipes. While he was particular about the detailed procedures, he has not included obvious ingredients such as salt in every single recipe. Probably he wanted the cooks to exercise their own judgment based on individual tastes and preferences. Ingenious methods of preparing fruit juices, flavored yogurts, and healthy vegetable dishes were all popular in Karnataka even during the eleventh century.
Omission of rice in the recipe for idli, the south Indian breakfast staple, is quite noticeable. This is one of the dishes that evolved over the centuries. According to K.T.Achaya the very first time idli is mentioned in 920 AD in the Vaddaradhane of Sivakotiacharya, a Kannada work. It was considered one of the eighteen dishes a lady should serve her guests. Chavundaraya’s recipe for idli also does not include rice. He also does not mention if it was fried or steam cooked. The earlier idlis were made with urad dal, spices and yogurt water which also lengthened the shelf life of idli. At the Varadharaja Perumal Temple (built in 1053 AD) in Tamil Nadu giant idlis, weighing close to two or three pounds, made with two types of dals and flavored with various spices are prepared as offering. These idlis are said to last several days even without refrigeration. A century later another Sanskrit work describes iddarika made with similar batter as a fried dish.
Since ancient times, maritime trade existed between South Indian kingdoms and Southeast Asia. With the settlement of Indian traders by the sixth century ad, Southeast Asia underwent a gradual period of Indianization. Peacefully and gradually, the Hindu religion spread throughout the archipelago. These Hindu kingdoms had religious, cultural, trade, and diplomatic relations with South India. K.T. Achaya writes that it is believed that from the eighth through the twelfth century ad, some of the Indonesian Hindu kings often visited India in search of suitable brides. A contingent of cooks accompanied them, and they are believed to have introduced new fermentation technique of combining legumes with rice, and steam cooking the batter to south Indian cuisine. By the fifteenth century, it was common to use rice in the preparation of idli and it was steam cooked. Once rice was incorporated in the batter, spicing was eliminated and the batter was steam cooked. In spite of modifications in ingredients and cooking method, idli seems to have retained its name.
Variations and adaptations of several of these recipes are still popular all over south India. An interesting recipe that has evolved over the years is of sikharini; it is very similar to shrikhand. The recipe for sajjappa is another that has remained with minor changes.
The final garnish of spices and curry leaves fried in a little oil or ghee is an ancient technique that has survived over the centuries with minor alteration; mainly the inclusion of red chili pepper to the spice mix came after the sixteenth century. The techniques of using yogurt, salt and jaggery to preserve food have survied and are still used in many parts of India. In Kerala ripe plantains, ripe jackfruit and ripe mangoes are all preserved by cooking them with jaggery and ghee. They remain fresh for months without refrigeration. Similarly unripe mango pieces are dried with a mix of spices, salt and jaggery. Immature tiny mangoes are preserved in brine as well as in a spice mix of mustard seeds, red chili peppers and salt. These methods are also used in preserving vegetables and fruits that arrived in India through trade routes. Green chili peppers are preserved by piercing holes in them and soaking in salted yogurt and drying in the sun.
Rice continues to be the staple food of the people of the south; and the very first recipe in Supa sastra is for cooking rice. He instructs that rice should be washed three times before boiling in excess water and when it is cooked, the excess water was drained. This was the prevalent method of cooking rice in those days. This a method still used by many home cooks in south India. Cooked rice was served with huli (soups or broths), yogurt and various vegetable dishes.
Dishes prepared with dals
Soak and wash split black gram (urad dal). Grind into a thick batter along with the clear liquid that remains at the top of yogurt. Stir in asafetida, cumin seeds, coriander and black pepper. Idli prepared from this batter would be very delicious.
Huli was prepared with mung dal (split and hulled mung beans), urad dal (split and hulled black gram) or chana dal (split and hulled Indian brown chick peas). They are first cooked in water until they reach the consistency of gruel. Cardamom, cumin, coriander, black pepper and mustard seeds are ground into a paste and stirred into the cooked dal. This mixture is later flavored with souring agents such as tamarind and lemon juice and garnished with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafetida and curry leaves fried in small quantity of ghee or oil.
Grind cinnamon, cumin, mustard, black pepper, cardamom, and coriander seeds along with water. Boil any type of dal until it reaches the consistency of gruel. Stir in the ground spice mix to the gruel and stir well. Cook and garnish with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafetida, and curry leaves fried in small quantity of ghee or oil. It will make a delicious soup.
Vegetable, leaf and fruit Preparations
A wide variety of vegetables and leaves were used in this cuisine. Raw fruits like plantains and jackfruit, tubers and roots such as suran (elephant foot yam), lotus root, bamboo shoots and radishes, flowers of pumpkin and plantain, varieties of leaves and beans were cooked either individually or two or three of them together, along with spices or by seasoning with spices fried in oil or ghee. Instructions for preparing various leaves and shoots as vegetable dishes are as follows.
Leaves of bitter melon, tamarind shoots, castor shoots and flowers of Palasha tree (butea monosperma, commonly called Flame of the Forest) are cooked separately in lime water. Then they are washed in cold water and any vegetable dish may be prepared with them.
Mix the cut pieces of the roots of Sessile joyweed (alternanthera sessilis also called dwarf copperleaf) and lime with the tender core of edible banana plant and cook this mixture properly. Add required spices and it will be a soft and tasty palya (cooked vegetable dish).
Soak the shoots of pipal tree (ficus religiosa) in buttermilk. Add tender leaves of bael fruits (aegle marmelos) and salt. Add water, milk, Indian gooseberry, and mango and cook. The final product will be a soft and savory dish.
Wash the leaves or sprouts of field beans in water mixed with turmeric powder. Cook them along with roots of amaranth. Grind in a stone mortar and add required spices and salt. It will be a delicious chutney.
Grind small cut pieces of leaves of cupped coral-berry tree (breynia retusa) with salt and lime juice. Grind red hibiscus (hibiscus rosa-sinensis) flowers in buttermilk. Mix them together. It will be a light coral colored savory dish.
Soak crushed thorn apple (datura stramonium) in lime water for one day. The next day wash it in water. Boil the washed crushed thorn apple along with leaves of jequirity (abrus precatorius), Indian white oleander and Indian lotus plant and lime water. Roast the boiled thorn apple with ghee. Any recipe made from this would be very delicious.
In addition to the staple rice both barley and wheat were popular grains in this cuisine. To prepare a nutritious dish, barley is soaked in milk and dried in the sun. Dried barley is then dry roasted and made into fine flour using a stone mortar. Spice powder made with saffron, cinnamon, cinnamon leaves, and cardamom is mixed with this flour. It is then mixed with sugar and ghee to make a tasty and nutritious dish.
Another barley recipe calls for soaking cleaned barley in hot milk and grind it into a paste. It is then shaped into small balls and fried in ghee. It is called ghrta pureta.
Wheat flour or all-purpose flour is mixed with water to make a dough and it is used make various dishes.
Soak the dough in a mixture of hot milk and ghee. Powder cardamom, cinnamon, saffron cinnamon leaves and sugar and mix with tender coconut water. Add this spiced water to the dough and knead. Place it in an urn and seal the urn with thick mud coating. Place the closed urn in the middle of hot embers in a wood burning stove. When it is fully cooked, take out. This dish is called Khandaghrta pura in the Kannada language.
Prepare a mix of grated coconut, dates and sugar. Roll out small circles of the wheat dough and place a small ball of this mix in the middle. Close it well and fry in ghee. It is called sajjappa in Kannada and Tamil. This sweet dish made in the same manner even today.
Sweets made with rice flour
Add yogurt culture to boiled milk and allow it to ferment. Add hot ghee to it and stir well. Then stir in hand pounded brown rice flour to it and cook until it has dough like consistency. Using a hand press make fine thin noodles with this dough. Make sugar syrup and stir in milk and the noodles. Shape it into small balls.
Another way of making this sweet dish is to add juice of jujube fruits or tamarind roots to the above dough and make thin fine noodles by pressing the dough through a hand press. Make sugar syrup and stir in milk and the noodles. Shape it into small balls.
Make dough with rice flour, fermented milk, and ghee as in the recipe above. Roll out into thin flat breads and cook them on a griddle. Pound them and make a fine powder. Mix finely chopped dates or grapes or jujube fruit pulp to this powder. Add required quantity of sugar syrup and knead into a dough. Add powder of saffron, cinnamon, cinnamon leaves and edible camphor to this mix and knead again. Shape the dough into small balls. It is called khanda ladduge.
Yogurt, flavored yogurt and Cheese
Smear the inside of an urn with juice of Indian gooseberry (phyllanthus emblica) or pulp of wood apple. Pour boiled milk into the urn and set aside. After fermentation it will become thick yogurt.
Fill the hollow of a bamboo pole with boiled milk and seal it tightly. Bury it in the ground for three days. The yogurt formed in the bamboo pole will be thick and in the shape of a bamboo.
Smear the inside of a clay pot with mango juice. Add hot milk to the pot. When it ferments, the yogurt will have the fragrance of mango.
Smear the inside of a pot with ground paste of the roots of chitraka (plumbago zeylanica) and add boiled milk to it. When the milk is fermented it will have the fragrance of champak flowers (magnolia champaca).
Add Indian lotus powder or saffron to boiled milk and allow it to ferment. The yogurt made this way would be savory with a taste of mango.
Combine powders of black pepper, cumin, dry ginger, and sugar and mix it with citron juice. Add this mixture to yogurt and strain. Add powdered mix of asafetida, clove, cinnamon and ironwood flowers or buds to the strained juice. Mix with jaggery to cleanse. It will be delicious buttermilk.
Combine powders of cinnamon, dry ginger, black pepper, rock salt, sugarcane jaggery, nutmeg, white turmeric (curcuma zedoaria), and ironwood flowers and mix with yogurt. Purify this with honey, sugarcane juice, yellow myrobalan (terminalia chebula). Stir in edible camphor. This is called sikharini.
Smear a hot frying pan with roots of amaranth plant or the leaves of marsh barbel (hygrophila auriculata) and cook buffalo milk in the pan. The soft cheese made this way is called haluvuga.
Reduce buffalo milk to half the quantity by boiling it. Stir in powders of Indian mallow (abutilon indicum) or country mallow (sida cordifolia). Add ghee, sugar, and powders of cinnamon, cinnamon leaves, and cardamom to this hot liquid and mix well. The milk will coagulate. Make balls with coagulated milk.
To extract the juice of jackfruit, combine jackfruit pods, edible camphor, sesame oil and shoots of Jambul (eugenia jambolana) and keep it in sunlight.
To extract juice of rose apple fruits smear them with sugarcane juice and keep it in sunlight.
Grind together tamarind flowers, root of chitraka (plumbago zeylanica) black pepper, tender banana, and tender leaves of Bermuda grass or rose apple leaves. Mix with pulp of ripe bananas and keep it in sunlight.
Samarang rose apple (myrtus samarangense) exudes with juice when kept in sunlight after smearing it with a mixture of borax, edible camphor, thorn apple seeds (datura stramonium) and common jasmine leaves.
Several cold drinks prepared with fruits such as jujube, myrobalan, pomegranate, tamarind and citron are recommended to quench thirst. Firs the juices are extracted and boiled separately. Sugar or jaggery is stirred in and the juices are strained into separate containers. They are purified with white agar (a natural vegetable gelatin) nut grass (cyperus rotundus) and camphor. A spice mix of black pepper, iron wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom powders are stirred in before serving.
Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. Oxford University Press 1994
Ayangara, Valmiki Sreenivasa (translator) Lokopakara,Agri-History Bulletin 6. Asian Agri-History Foundation 2006 Chattopadhyaya, D.P. (general editor) History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization Volume V, Part I History of Agriculture in India up to c.1200 A.D. (edited by Lallanji Gopal and V.C. Srivastava) Center for Studies in civilizations, New Delhi 2008
Kamat, Jyotsna. Social Life in Medieval Karnataka. Abhinav Publications 1980