A Bangalore Ugadi And My Grandma’s Perfect Hollige
By Pranati Madhav
Grannies are concerned about health and for this reason every Ugadi, grandma cooked what she and we, her family, considered to be the perfect hollige.
For our expat readers, a Hollige or Obbattu is a stuffed, sweet chapati. And Ugadi is New Year’s Day in these parts, determined by cyclical agrarian rhythm.
Grandma’s hollige wasn’t cloying sweet. It had right mix of jaggery and dal (lentils). She ground them up and and cooked and rolled them into a warm ball (called the hoorna) that then gets stuffed into the chapati dough.
Other grandmas made the combination sugary sweet and coloured yellow, with turmeric or food colour. Not grandma. Her flavours were always subtle and not diabetes inducing.
My grandmother was predictably traditional. Ugadi had to have a sweet dish as the main event of the day and rather than sugar up some random edible ball, grannie insisted the day start with the traditional “Bevu Bella” – a combination of neem leaves and jaggery, to signify life: a little sweet sometimes to cut the bitterness out. But soon after taste of the warm Hollige with melted ghee poured on top, quickly became the flavour and the feeling carried into the new year.
Her method to make the Hoorna consistent – read, no lumps – was to soak the dal for at least an hour, and then cook it. She cooked it a little longer than usual to soften the lentils and the hearts of us, her grandchildren. Like she did our baby mash.
She heated the mix with cardamom, cloves, ginger powder, and turmeric. She told us the spices weren’t merely seasoning – they were healthy.
Grandma believed every ailment started with the stomach and made its way to the mind.
The spices used are coolants that settle the stomach. Great because Ugadi falls in the middle of Bangalore’s brief but blistering summer.
Grandma made sure the Hoorna was cooked till the water evaporates. The jaggery, dals and spices tend to expel a little moisture and needed to be cooked on a slow flame till the mix was nicely blended. Her secret was to cool the mixture down, to make sure it didn’t turn out sticky when folded into the dough. And then she dusted the dough with loose flour. She rolled the dough into geometrically defensible circles.
Ugadi morning always had the black kitchen counter turn white with the dusted flour. It soon returned to a shiny black granite.
A good chef is also punctilious about a clean kitchen, she’d tell me.