Tuesday, September 9, 2008
My 60th Birthday and Obbatina Oota
It was my birthday eve last month – my 60th birthday. Mother was narrating the story about how father had specially ordered for coconut-sized laddoos for my first birthday, and how the palace was incidentally illuminated on that evening, and how the house was bustling with relatives, and how excited they were when they remarked that the palace was illuminated for the Maharani’s (meaning myself!) birthday and the story went on and on and on. Though we had heard this story a thousand times, we listened to her with rapt attention as we gazed at the star lit sky to see if we could spot a satellite or an U.F.O, just as we did decades ago. We sat around the circular cement fish pond in the large garden, chatting, laughing and remembering those good old days. We were pulling each other’s legs and shared our stories with our next generation. The white egrets looked like a string of pearls as they flew in the dusky sky. There was a ripple in the pond as the fish swished by. A friendly owl hooted from the nearby Ashoka tree. The fragrance of the Jaji flower filled the cool breeze. Nothing had changed at my mother’s place except that father was no more, and my kid brothers had taken up the reins of the household. Though the four of us siblings have branched off into four different families, the same old pranks, and our togetherness resurfaced with the same excitement, just the way it did whenever we got together. This time we got together at mother’s place since my brothers decided to perform a mammoth homam for the welfare of the clan on my 60th birthday.
The poojas started very early in the morning. It took about an
hour for the vaadyars (priests) to prepare the Homa Kundam (The altar where ghee and rice was to be offered to the deity through Agni or the Fire God), and get the other articles in place. One of them drew the Lalitha Yantram using coloured rangoli powder. Lailta is the cosmic power or the Goddess who creates, sustains and finally engulfs the universe. Yantram is a geometric diagram which represents the deity. The diagram, especially its angles, is supposed to attract positive energy. The vibrations produced by the sound of the mantras, drive away all negativity and fill the space again with positive energy. The fumes arising from the Homam purifies the home and the entire atmosphere, since specific medicinal dry twigs (Sammith) are used for the purpose. All in all Homam is said to purify and heal the body, the soul and the mind.
“OM SREE MATAYAI NAMAHA”. “OM” - the seed word representing the cosmic energy… “SALUTATIONS TO THEE MOTHER “… Thus started the homam and went on and on and on till each one of the thousand
and eight names of The Goddess were recited, as the vaadyars made offerings to the fire. My brothers and my husband joined them in the offering while the rest of us assisted them. Mother at 78 years, was running around with great zest and cheer. The youngsters clicked away photos and also managed to run on errands. The clanging of the vessels and the aroma of food cooking in the courtyard competed with the sound of the Mantras and the aroma of the fumes arising from the Homam.
Finally the pooja was over and all of us felt blessed. We felt even more blessed when we sat in
front of rows of banana leaves awaiting the grand feast to be served. It was indeed a lavish feast, the feast being an obbattina oota! The cook served the sago payasam (a sweet porridge) first. This was followed by beans curry, ladies finger fry, sweet kosumalli, salt kosumalli, mixed vegetable koottu, cucumber pachadi, ama vadais (some vadais were even soaked in mor kuzambu), mor kuzambu, lime rice with capsicum and peas, ash gourd sambhar, sweet pongal (prasadam offered to the Goddess),
I remembered my mother-in –law who loved this sweet. She prepared it on all occasions as long as she lived. I used to assist her by cooking it on the tava as she patted out one after another obbattu on a banana leaf.
After returning from my mother’s place I could not resist my urge to prepare obbattu all by myself at least once. It was not a bad try and this is how I prepared it.
OBBATTU - Sweet bread filled with coconut lentil filling
Ingredients for the filling or Poornam
Bengal gram dal – 1 cup
Jaggery – ¾ cup
Fresh coconut gratings- 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Method for the filling or Poornam
1. Soak dal for half an hour
2. Cook it in just enough water till tender but not mushy.
3. Throw away excess water if any left , and allow it to cool.
4. Grind dal, coconut gratings and jaggery adding the cardamom powder.
5. It will become like chapatti dough.
6. Keep this Poornam aside.
Ingredients for the Obbattu dough
Maida or plain flour – 1 to 1 ½ cups
Turmeric powder- 1 pinch
Salt – 1 pinch
Cooking oil – 3 to 4 tbsps
Method to make Obbattu dough
Mix all ingredients and knead into a dough using little water. The dough should not stick to your hands. Allow it to stand for half an hour. The more it is allowed to soak the more elastic the dough will be.
Method to make Obbattu
1. Take a lump of dough and roll it into a lemon sized ball.
2. Flatten the ball and place a ball of the sweet filling in it.
3. Bring the edges together and make a ball again so that the ball of poornam is inside the dough ball.
4. Grease a banana leaf and your fingers too.
5. Place the prepared ball on the leaf and pat it evenly on the leaf giving it a round shape as thin as possible.
My husband relished it with milk while I savored it with ghee. Bless the obbattu hang over!