Lessons I’m Learning from my Mother….Sihi Kootu & More

“My mother is my best friend”….the old chestnut holds true with me as well…
Admittedly, I can go on for ages about how her children received immense priority ultimately leading up to her sacrificing her best career years in order to render us all a warm home. With a husband whose job entails touring the country half the month & three children, two of whom are really hooligans disguised as chubby little boys, the cacophony & chaos can prove challenging and not just in terms of time. I can write about how her face beams with a blend of pride and satisfaction when people notice me as her mirror image and how the same face cringes when some mistakenly mention otherwise! I can write about how she thoughtfully scribes the sweetest( and longest!) messages that prompt me to effortlessly tear up 10,000 miles away and how she indefatigably listens to me blather for hours about the most inane topics. I can write about how she instilled the love of God in our hearts at a tender age thereby guiding us to live a life saturated with faith. I can also write about how she perpetually corrects our lapses and how she relentlessly eludes us from the poisons of revenge.
However,  I won’t.
Today I want to share with you the lessons I am LEARNING from her….
To say she is the epitome of patience is practically an understatement and this can be vouched for by any soul that’s crossed paths with her. The worst of agitations don’t trigger her to bring the roof down. She is the icy water that douses fiery hot heads! As a teen, I learnt the rewards patience can bestow upon one….the learning continues…

Her calm demeanor culminates as her biggest strength. Recalling the pandemonium that joint families can be subjected to, it dawns on me that her serene silence and smile nonchalantly answered most circumstances. My learning continues….

Trying times bizarrely are directly proportional with her degrees of optimism. Needless to say, much needed. Hope is never a dearth at home and that’s saying something.
When life hands lemons, she musters up courage and emerges a winner. She protectively continues to stand up for us in our toughest times and is indubitably my pillar of strength. I continue to learn and if only I can soak in one drop in that ocean of optimism…..

Among the many feathers in a mother’s cap, she also transpires as a long distance constant cooking coach, guiding me gently and indulgently through the complications of it all, awaiting reviews from a hungry son in law. Although I picked up the the basics of Madhwa Cuisine under my mother in law’s unremitting tutelage, there are some recipes that I continue to learn from my mother….Sihi Kootu is one such. How can I possibly forget devouring bowl after bowl of Sihi Kootu with warm rice as I rushed back home from school? Or when I visited the same home with a husband by my side,  15 years later?

We now arrive at the kitchen of my mother’s home, wafting with  aromas of a simmering Sihi Kootu!

IMG_9523

IMG_9535
The recipe has flawlessly been passed down the many generations: what my mom learnt from my great grandmother, I learn from my mom. While my great grandmother laboriously and painstakingly ground the spices and coconut in a mammoth stone mortar & pestle, we get away with a turn of a knob! “It doesn’t taste the same”, my mom says.
IMG_9542
Sihi means sweet in Kannada & Kootu basically belongs to the sambar/stew family which means it is rich in dal, coconut & vegetables. I feel the need to clarify that it’s not necessarily sweet but mainly called so to ensure that it’s not confused with another Kootu, the ‘Kharaddu’ meaning Spicy.
The addition of pepper & dry chillies impart a subtle heat to the dish. Byadgi (mildly spicy but adds colour) & Guntoor (very spicy but doesn’t add much colour) are the two types of dry chillies used and together they create a balanced combination. There’s jaggery, which is a mandatory in Madhwa cuisine that lends a sweet note to the dish that when mixed with ghee(clarified butter) and rice can easily become a feast for the Gods! Dal i.e. Toor Dal is added in a slightly generous quantity than regular sambars to give a thicker, creamier consistency. With a whole lot of Dal(lentils), Veggies, & a medley of spices, this authentic South Indian Vegan dish is a bowl of warmth & comfort.

The learning continues….

I hope you try this recipe and I would love me a feedback:) Also, I’m trying my hand at food photography and styling these days….I do hope you like these pictures!

RECIPE FOR SIHI KOOTU

INGREDIENTS
3/4th cup Toor Dal
Roughly 3 cups of chopped vegetables like Beans, Carrots, Chayote, Potatoes & legumes like pigeon peas & Padpi lilva
1.5 tbsp jaggery
10 curry leaves
Salt to taste
For the masala paste –
1.5 tbsp urad dal
3 Guntoor dry red chilles(very spicy)
5 Byadgi Dry Red chillies( a little less spicy)
3/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
For tempering –
1 tsp of oil
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
A good pinch of Hing/AsafoetidaMETHOD
1. Pressure cook toor dal with 2.5-3 times the water
2. Cook the veggies in boiling water & a little bit of salt. Alternatively, it can be pressure cooked along with the dal itself but there is a chance they may become a little mushy.
3. In the meanwhile, make the masala paste.In a kadai, take a teaspoon of oil and fry Urad dal, chillies, peppercorn in medium heat until the dal is golden brown in colour. Allow them to cool.
4. Once it’s cooled, grind it with fresh grated coconut and some water to get a paste of medium coarse consistency.
5. Add this to the cooked dal & veggies along with jaggery,curry leaves & salt. Let it come to a boil.
6. To temper, in a smaller kadai/tadka pan, add oil and once it heats up,  add urad dal & mustard seeds. Let the mustard crackle and then add Hing.
7. Add this to the Kootu. Serve hot with rice & ghee

#Bisibelebath

Amidst cakes, candles, balloons & an untuned rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ by aunties & uncles, the true star of the show was a delicacy close to my heart, bisibelebath. I travel back many years to a simpler time as I remember going to my cousins birthdays and we were served many helpings of this dish compulsorily glorified with oodles of ghee( clarified butter) and a side of crispy, spicy potato chips. My maternal aunt, who learnt this from her sister in law taught me to make it from scratch and since then, a lot of occasions, festivities & simple rainy Sundays even, have been made memorable. Standing first among the traditional dishes of Karnataka, there are obviously several versions and cheats that make the rounds. I swear by this recipe because it promises authenticity by imparting a perfect balance between the spicy, the sweet & the tangy.
If you can spare time & a little patience, I urge you to try this recipe. Not because it’s in the blog, not because it’s a family treasure but mainly because it’s a glimpse into the world of traditional Bangalorean cuisine. Continue reading “#Bisibelebath”

#Rice with Coconut & Mustard/ Kayi Sasive Chitranna

Before I go into the details about this delectable recipe, I have to acknowledge a person who is the sole reason behind my intense love for the dish . She was Sita Kaki, my grand aunt and my dad’s paternal aunt. One of the strongest people I have come across , she was a picture of elegance, immaculate neatness and an expert in the kitchen. Her patience and optimism was something I constantly admired.
Amma ( my mom) would take us to her place now and then to spend the day & she would lovingly treat us with a delicious juice made with cooked raw mango every single time. Being passionate about gardening, she had a florid garden around the house bounteous with roses & the chinese fireball. Her backyard was brimming with lemon grass and she was responsible for introducing  lemon grass tea to my mom who is an ardent tea lover. Continue reading “#Rice with Coconut & Mustard/ Kayi Sasive Chitranna”

#Soup with Cream of Rice and Yogurt / Hulinuch

There are days when all you want is some no-fuss comfort food that can satiate the tummy & the soul. Hulnuch is one such dish. Made with Idli Rava or Cream of Rice and curds, it’s ideal for  winter mornings. This recipe takes me back to a simpler time a.k.a childhood when my grandma would make this for us. A few days back, bored of the usual upma, poha, idli & dosa, I was in a dilemma as to what to make for breakfast. It suddenly dawned on me that it’s been more than 6 years since I had/made Hulnuch. A quick call to my mom & I was more than ready to face the morning.
Continue reading “#Soup with Cream of Rice and Yogurt / Hulinuch”

#Amma’s Green Pulao

It was my 16th birthday. My friends had come over for a pyjama party/sleepover. I remember vividly, Amma(Mom) had made her ‘Green Pulao’, with French Fries as a garnish for dinner & I had loved it. She probably gave it the name ‘Green Pulao’ for ease with her three children, my brothers & me. That was the first time I ate this dish and since then most special occasions at home are incomplete without it. Continue reading “#Amma’s Green Pulao”

#raita with cherry tomatoes

‘Raita’ is a curd/yogurt based Indian side dish and this one is particular is one of the simplest foods I’ve whipped up in my kitchen. It takes hardly any time but don’t mistake it’s simplicity for a meagre tasting dish. Like Julia Child says, “Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy”. The luscious cherry tomatoes marry perfectly with the mint & curd and is a perfect side for any rice pilaf/pulao. Continue reading “#raita with cherry tomatoes”

#Dal with KALE

Dal is an Indian delicacy made with dried pulses. The pulses are cooked with spices, vegetables with a generous tempering made with ghee(clarified butter). Plainly done, cooked with some salt, mixed with a good serving of ghee & hot white rice is my “go-to” comfort food. I remember having this packed for lunch every single day during my internship at college despite all the delicacies my mom & grandma used to lay at the table. As you can imagine, dal & it’s variations are a regular affair in my kitchen, my husband being a big fan as well. Continue reading “#Dal with KALE”