December 18, 2012
Manasollasa, just like Lokopakara, is a treasure trove of ancient recipes. While he was particular about the detailed procedures, Somesvara does not specify exact amounts of ingredients in any of his recipes. 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.
One major difference between Manasollasa and Lokopakara is that the author Somesvara, belonging to ruling Kshatriya class, was not a vegetarian. There are various recipes that use meat and seafood in this annabhoga chapter. Following are the recipes for dishes made with rice, wheat, pulses, milk and sugar. Meat dishes, salads, drinks and puddings to follow in the next segment.
The main staple of South India being rice; he starts the chapter on Annabhoga with descriptions of eight varieties of rice, followed by descriptions of cleaning and cooking rice. He instructs that rice should be washed several times before boiling in excess water. This cleaned rice should be cooked in either a copper or earthenware vessel with three times the quantity of water over a slow fire. The pot should be covered with a lid or a piece of cloth. When steam comes out, the lid should be removed and the pot stirred. When the grains are a bit hard in the middle, milk or ghee was added and removed from the fire and the excess water should be drained. This was the prevalent method of cooking rice in those days, a method still used by many home cooks in south India. He adds that rice thus cooked is fit to be eaten by the king.
Although Karnataka is in the south, people consumed almost equal amounts of rice, wheat and ragi (finger millet). Somesvara directs that wheat should be washed well, dried in the sun, and ground into soft flour. Manasollasa describes a variety of wheat-based preparations.
Take the dough with wheat flour, milk, ghee, sugar and powders of cardamom and black pepper. Knead the dough well and shape into small balls. Cook them in ghee.
Soups with Pulses
While cooking various pulses either as whole or split and husked, they should be put into water to remove the dust and then washed in several changes of water. When preparing supa (soups) pulses should be ground into pieces to remove the husk. Then using a winnowing fan remove all the husk and wash the de-husked and split pulses. For making soups these cleaned pulses should be slow cooked in water. While cooking, water should be added again and again and stirred. After the pulses are well cooked asafoetida water and turmeric should be added. Salt, according to taste, should be added always at the end. “Pleasant smell, color, smoothness, good taste, and lightness are all added to the soup by cooking thus” says Somesvara. When cooking whole pulses wash them several times and cook with equal amount of water on slow fire. Neither asafoetida water nor turmeric should be stirred in at the beginning. After it is well cooked add asafoetida water, salt and garnish with ginger.
He also gives directions for cooking pulses with meat: Bits of flesh or fat or liver of sheep should be added to pulses when it is almost cooked; and then season with powdered black pepper. He instructs to add powder of ginger after removing the cooking pot from the fire. Then it should be mixed with a variety of fragrant rice called gandhasai or any type of millet before serving.
Snacks with Pulses
Hulled and split Indian chickpeas are ground along with water into a soft dough like consistency. Salt, sugar, black pepper, cardamom and asafoetida are added to this and shaped into balls. They are then spread using the hands and cooked. This is called purika.
Vestika and Dosaka
Crushed Indian chickpeas are mixed with cumin, asafoetida, ginger, salt, and turmeric and made into a thick mixture. Make small balls from this mix and cook in a pan. This is called vestika. When more water is added to the above mixture and the batter is spread on a hot pan along with oil. This is called dosaka. Dosaka can also be made with pulses such as urad dal, red beans and dried green peas.
Chickpeas are powdered and mixed with salt, water, ghee, and powder of hyacinth bean (lablab purpureus). This mix when deep fried in hot oil is katakarna.
Split urad dal is soaked in water and washed with plenty of water till the skin is removed. Then it is removed from water and ground into a smooth batter. Keep it in a vessel for a full day till it ferments. Then the batter is kept in a cloth and tied and a hole is made in the cloth. This will let the batter slowly drip down. Keep the cloth bundle above heated oil and let the batter slowly fall into the oil. Deep fry and remove from oil. When it is cooled season it with a mixture black pepper powder, asafoetida fried in ghee and cumin powder. This is called vatika.
Vatikas are also served after soaking them in liquids. Dip the vatikas in water mixed with powdered black pepper and cardamom and take it out. Another method is to soak them in water drained from cooked rice or in yogurt sprinkled with black pepper, salt, ginger, cumin, dried ginger and coriander and cooked until it is thick. Soak vatikas in this yogurt mixture, take them out and season with asafoetida and black pepper powders before serving. This recipe appears to be a predecessor to today’s dahi vada.
The same urad batter is spread into lumps and cooked to make tender white idarikas. Omission of rice in the recipes for idli, the south Indian breakfast staple, is quite noticeable. Idli 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. The recipe for idli in Lokopakara also does not include rice. Both Manasollasa and Lokopakara also do not mention if it was fried or steam cooked.
The same urad dal batter is shaped into round cakes with five or seven holes and cooked in hot oil till they are golden brown in color. Gharikas made without holes are soaked in sugar syrup to make sweet gharikas. This recipe appears to be a predecessor to today’s jangiri/south Indian jilebi.
Although the methods of preparation are described, no name is mentioned for some of these sweets.
Add buttermilk to slightly warm milk and then the whole separated milk is poured into a cloth, tided and hung so that all the water drips down. And the residue of fresh cheese remains in the cloth. Mix it with rice flour and made into a dough. Shape into small balls and cook in ghee and soaked in sugar syrup. A copper vessel should be used to make the sugar syrup. When the syrup is half done, add some butter milk and any dirt in the sugar will float up. Remove this and filter the syrup through a piece of cloth again and again. When such cleaned syrup is cooked it is called peya. It looks like honey. This syrup should be used to soak the fried balls. Garnish with powdered cardamom. This is easily digested and very tasty. This recipe appears to be a predecessor to today’s gulab jamun, although no name is mentioned.
Purified sugar is added to milk and cooked until it thickens. Mix powders of saffron, green camphor, cardamom and dried ginger to this and knead it like dough. Make small pieces of the dough into different shapes. It is called varshalaka. This recipe appears to be a predecessor to today’s paalkova.
Variations and adaptations of several of these recipes are still popular all over south India.
Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. Oxford University Press 1994
Arundhati, P. Royal Life in Manasollasa. Sundeep Prakashan, Delhi 1994
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
Joshi, Mahadev N. and Hebbai B.S. Manasollasa and Ayurveda. Sharade Publishing House Delhi 2004