Monday, April 25, 2016

Jackfruit Muffin - Ponsa Mulik Cake

Like the popular phrase goes "When life gives you lemons make lemonade", I say, "When life gives you jackfruit make mulik". 

Not just mulik, but a healthier version of it, mulik cake or jackfruit muffin!

Yes. Like many other innovations based on traditional dishes/ingredients such as Dumrote Cake, Kashi Halwa Cake, Neyappa Cake, Cucumber Cake and Raw Papaya Cake with semolina, I have also come out with this wonderful baked dish. 

I am fond of jackfruit and its preparations, especially mulik or fried fritters/dumplings. Brahmins have perfected the art of making mulik or as they call it, Mulka. I thought, why not make something more healthy and better looking based on the mulik recipe. So, I formulated this recipe based on my Dumrote Cake recipe and each attempt in making this was a thumping success. Then I thought, why not make muffins that look even better, stay more firm and also can be kept unspoilt more more time at room temperature. Thus born Jackfruit Muffins in my kitchen.

Every ingredient that goes into this healthy tasty cake is natural, except the baking soda and baking powder. I have tried making this at least 10 times before presenting this ultimate version. In earlier versions I have tried making it with regular jaggery, palm jaggery and sometimes with added caramel. This time I used organic honey jaggery(Jenu Bella) from my relative Dr Arun Isloor's farm Sahyadri Greens and achieved the best results. You can add normal jaggery, demerara sugar or even white sugar, but if you add white sugar, you need to add some caramel/orange yellow food colouring for that golden hue. A good Jackfruit Muffin has crisp upper crust, well browned side and bottom and not spongy but soft firm inner. 

These will be liked by modern day kids for sure, as kids love muffins. Seniors maybe remain speechless, and they may just nod their heads in approval!
Bombay Rava(Semolina) - 2 Cups
Salt - 1/2 Tsp
Baking Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 Tsp
Cardamom Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Ghee - 30 Ml
Plain Yogurt - 1/2 Cup
Oil - 2 Tbsp(I used coconut oil)
Powdered Jaggery/Demerara Sugar - 250 Gms
Jack Fruit - 1 Cup coarsely ground/mashed
Tender Coconut Malai - 1/2 cup minced
Honey(Optional) - 1 Tbsp
Raisins(Optional) - 25 Gms chopped/coarsely ground
Cashewnut Bits - 25 Gms preferably roasted with little ghee
White Sesame Seeds - 2 Tsp

Preheat oven to 200 C.
Grease 12 muffin moulds or line with muffin paper and keep ready.
Mix semolina with salt, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom powder, ghee and cashewnut bits.
In a mixing bowl, take yogurt and powdered jaggery/demerara sugar.
Beat well until jaggery/sugar melts.
If you have jaggery syrup, skip this step and directly mix all the wet ingredients.

Add mashed jack fruit, optional honey, oil, optional raisins, mix well.
Now gently fold in semolina ghee mixture, 1/3 portion at a time.
Fill the cake batter into muffin moulds to the brim.
Sprinkle sesame seeds generously over the top.
Bake at 200 C for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170 C, continue to bake for another 20-25 mins, or until a bamboo skewer or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool on the rack at least for 1 hour.
Loosen the  muffins and remove from the moulds.
Once completely cool, store them in a cake box.
These muffins remain good at room temperature for 3 days.
After 3 days transfer into a fridge.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bhirinda Kadi(Kokum Soup) without Coconut Milk - Sirsi Style

I was in Sirsi on April 10. I was just back after witnessing jaggery making at Dr Arun Isloor's Sahyadri Greens, and overnight stay at Sathwik Homestay in Devanalli. Standing in front of their majestic ancestral home in Rayarpet, I was talking to the Isloor brothers Dr Krishna, Dr Arun and Shridhar about the awesome Bhirinda Kadi that they make in Sirsi, and also told them the story about where and when I tasted such a soup.

Shaila, Dr Arun Isloor's sister hosted me lunch at her home. As I gorged on the pathrode and relished tasty veg biryani, she asked me "Would you like to taste Bhirinda Kadi Rajani maam?"

I said I would certainly like to have it, and asked her if it is authentic Sirsi style Kokum Soup. She said she didn't know the origin of that soup, but she follows the age old recipe passed on from her mother! I took a sip of the soup and that taste took me back in time to 1967 May!

A wedding was in progress at Mahaganapathi Temple Rayarpet, Sirsi. Sunitha Isloor, my brother in Law Dr Suresh D Isloor's youngest sister was marrying Mohan Narayan Prabhu from Honnavar. Though it was a simple wedding, for me it was special, because I was witnessing a GSB wedding in typical North Kanara style for the first time. More so, when the snacks and feast consisted of some exotic items. Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup was one, and I remember greedily imbibing at least 4 glasses of that soup that afternoon! I don't know what all ingredients went into that soup, but it was sweet and sour, loaded with flavour! 

I had the chance to taste exactly the same Bhirinda Kadi after 49 years at Shaila's home, and the first thing I asked her in typical stereotype foodie style was "Recipe please!"

Shaila smiled, and she told me in one breath about how to make it, without being able to give exact measurements of ingredients. She also told me "You know how to come out with the right formula, don't you?"

I nodded my head and next thing Shaila did was disappear and reappear after 2 minutes with a carry bag full of fresh and ripe Kokum fruit from her garden! I was overjoyed and thanked her again and again before bidding farewell to her, her husband Ramachandra and her parents.

After reaching Mangaluru late in the night that day, I chucked the carry bag containing the kokum fruit into the fridge and forgot about it!

Bhirinda as they call in Konkani, Bhirunda/Murugala Hannu in Kannada, Punarpuli in Tulu and Kokum/Garcinia Indica in English is a wonderful tropical fruit that is supposed to be a natural cooler full of Vitamin C is a forest plant cultivated in farms and gardens mostly in South India is found in abundance in the West Coast and the interior forest areas of Konkan, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka is densely populated with kokum plants. There are many cottage industries producing Kokum pulp and extract which is used widely in South Indian cuisine. Kokum Juice, Kokum Kadi, Sol Kadi are common uses, while dried skin of Kokum is used as a sour agent in seafood and nonveg preparations. I have grown eating the fresh Kokum and its by-products. During our younger days, we used to visit our aunt's place Rayee near Bantwal where we used to pluck kokum from the huge plant behind their home in a neighbour's property. The ripe fruit is sweet and sour, and its seeds coated with whitish pink pulp are normally gulped as it is, since they discharge a yellow sticky resin which coats the teeth yellow. Even while making juices and soups, seeds along with the core are soaked in water, pulp extracted and seeds are discarded. The taste of cold soup with fresh kokum is unique, compared to the soup obtained from dried skin.

Summer heat is scorching day by day, and the other day I was feeling too exhausted and dehydrated. I asked Meena about the Kokum I had kept in the fridge, and she had a surprise for me! She had mashed the skin of 5-6 kokums to make juice and that pulp was ready in the fridge! I thanked her for making my job easy, started quick work, and after 10 minutes, awesome Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup was ready and all we did was saying cheers, and drinking the soup nonstop. Within 1 hour, the level of soup came down by 50% and the vessel nestled in the fridge. We consumed one glass each today and felt the difference! Chilled kokum soup has its own refreshing charm!

So that's my story and I must say the Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup made following Shaila's recipe was a super hit and the soup tasted exactly like the authentic Sirsi style Bhirinda Kadi. What are you waiting for? It is season for fresh Kokum. Get some and get going! I'm sure, the other ingredients will be always in store with you 24x7x365 and no need to go in search of that.
Fresh Kokum Fruit - 5-6(Approx. 250 Gms)
Sea Salt - 1 Tsp(or 3/4 Tsp table salt)
Jaggery - 50 Gms(Check for sweetness and adjust accordingly)
Green Chillies - 2-3 chopped
Asafotoeda(Hing) - A pinch(Or 1/4 Tsp powder)
Coconut Oil - 2 Tsp
Water - 1 Liter
Coriander Leaves(Optional) - 2-3 sprigs chopped

Break the Kokum fruit into halves, remove the core, squeeze out the pulp and discard the seeds.
Chop the peel and grind with little water in the mixer into a smooth pulp.
Powder the jaggery or grind with little water and sea salt in the mixer.
Mix kokum peel pulp, kokum seed pulp, jaggery and salt in water.
Check for sweetness.
Strain through a sieve.
Heat coconut oil, add chopped green chillies and asafotoeda, fry until the chillies turn golden, pour the seasoning over the kokum soup.
Mix thoroughly.

Garnish with optional chopped coriander leaves and serve cold.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sathwik Homestay – A Nestle Away from Daily Hustle and Bustle

When someone is born in modern times with all the qualities of being an entrepreneur with an option to indulge in commercial activities more than preserving heritage, nature and tradition, I have found someone, who is different. He is much different than others from his own generation. Much different in attitude, passion and love for nature, who has invested and developed his ancestral property for the joy of travelers who would like to indulge in pure bliss of pristine rural atmosphere amidst lush greenery shrouding a resort, planned and commissioned with a traditional title ‘Sathwik Homestay’ in a quiet place, not so distant from the hustle and bustle of the urban commercial hub of Uttara Kannada, Sirsi. 
I am talking about Vivek Divekar, a youngster in his Thirties hailing from this small village called Devanalli(Devanahalli), 21 Kms from Sirsi. Vivek’s family owns 25 Acre farm land in Devanalli situated amidst thick Malnad forest. They have planted mainly arecanut trees along with by-crops like pepper, betel leaf, kokum, cardamom, vanilla, nutmeg, lime, lemon, agarwood, cashew and cocoa. 
Vivek, like any youngsters is well qualified with BCom and MBA in business. He runs a BPO firm in Sirsi town since last 6 years. His interest in travel, tourism and books made him aspirant about developing a piece of land adjoining their farm into home stay. Shankar Divekar, his uncle in Sirsi who is a businessman also gave him idea about how to go about it, and he has always been inspirational to Vivek in developing his entrepreneur skills. Besides, surrounding places like Yana, Vibhuti Falls and Venkatramana Temple at Manjaguni made him think about providing clean neat and safe facility with pure vegetarian homely food to the travelers. Thus Sathwik Homestay came into existence.
Today, Vivek is supported by his entire family in running the place, his father Vittal Divekar being the guiding force and uncle Narasimha Divekar(co-owner) and aunt Sheetal Divekar the main pillars of support, his wife Varsha Divekar and son Vismay Divekar are his inspiration.
Though Vivek is a distant relative of mine who is cousin of Shridhar Isloor of Sirsi, I never had any contact with him before. Shridhar is nephew of my brother in law Dr Suresh D Isloor of Shivamogga hailing from famous Isloor family of Rayarpet Sirsi. I was invited by Dr Arun Isloor, another nephew of Dr Isloor to visit Arun’s farm Sahyadri Greens in Devanahalli on April 9. Arun arranged for my overnight stay at Sathwik Homestay. 
I started by train to Kumta and then on by bus from there to Sirsi. From Sirsi I caught a bus going to Mattighatta which has the picturesque Vibhuti Falls. On the way, after covering the 21 Kms winding up the new State Highway under construction, I reached Devanalli. Devanalli has a few shops and restaurants on the main road. Buses frequent almost hourly from Sirsi towards Mattighatta or Yana. Sathwik Homestay is at a stone’s throw distance from Devanalli bus stop. I met Vivek there, who welcomed me and led me to show the accommodation.
There are in total 5 cottages in Sathwik Homestay with a landscaped garden and an open dining hall cum recreation center. The facility is well designed with ample parking space in front and a veranda with fixed stone benches as well as chairs to relax and watch nature. Tile roofing with false ceiling, self contained rooms with wall fans, coffee table and plush sofa, dressing mirror, soft cotton double beds and pillows, warm and cool blankets and Indo-Western toilets with hot and cold water, hand wash and clean flooring and insect screens and beautiful clean curtains on windows are the main highlights. Surprisingly I didn’t find a single mosquito in Devanalli during my overnight stay!
Tariff is Rs 800/- per person per night, which includes breakfast and dinner, morning and evening coffee/tea. Children below 5 years are accommodated free, and those between 5-12 years are charged Rs.500/- per head. Simple South Indian traditional breakfast with idli, shyavige uppittu, chow chow bhaat or neeru dosa and dinner with chapati curry, rice sambar, playa, sweet and curd are served. Lunch is served on demand as extra, and is charged Rs.100/-. 
Since I was Arun’s guest and it was not high season to visit Devanalli, Vivek offered me whatever they prepared for themselves at their home. The taste of awesome soft rava and rice dosas and rice mumbris with tambuli chutney and baingan bharta still linger on my taste buds! Sachin the friendly room boy attended to me with zeal and made my stay more comfortable and homely. Narasimha and Vivek were very much concerned about my necessities and they monitored from time to time to see if I needed anything. 
After dark, the ambiance turns into a quiet isolated haven with occasional buzz of insects and passing by scooters or pedestrians with torch lights. By 9:00pm, one is into total bliss with silent nature and a romantic feeling!  
Early morning mist welcomes you into the vast farm scientifically planted with arecanut trees and other plants. After morning tea and biscuits followed by breakfast one hour later, Vivek led me into the garden but normally Narasimha takes care of the travelers, as he is much more experienced and knowledgeable about the plants and agriculture. 
Vivek showed me most of the plants that are listed above in this article, and told me, Kokum is a fruit found mostly in all the forests of Uttara Kannada and there are industries extracting Kokum juice for commercial marketing. I saw many Kokum plants in their garden. However, due to scorching summer, the natural spring water stream had dried up. Vivek said, from August until March the water keeps flowing nonstop and travelers may rejoice bathing and playing in the stream. Heritage walk into the farm is part of the home stay package. A drive into the forest or other local village farms is optional, and experienced guide is provided at extra cost.
My quick round in the farm rejuvenated my breathing and blood circulation and I felt good. After spending almost 14 hours at Sathwik Homestay, I started off to Sirsi, while Narasimha, Vivek and Sachin stood at the entrance to bid me farewell.
I appreciate Vivek’s objective about home stay, the clean and neat setup, the pristine beauty of the tastefully decorated landscaped garden and of course the beautiful green farm with hundreds of plants and trees. Of course I was there in off season; otherwise I would have also enjoyed the flow of cool stream of spring water that runs 24x7x365 through the farm from August to March, attracting birds and other lovely creatures. I heartily wish Vivek, Narasimha and their family at Sathwik Homestay, a long mileage in hosting travelers with the same level of enthusiasm, while upholding the rich cultural and traditional heritage of Uttara Kannada.

Watch this video(Kannada Version)
Contact info: 
Sathwik Homestay,
Devanalli 581403
Sirsi Tq
Contact Phone no.: 
Vivek 09481818154
Getting there:
Distance from Sirsi - 21Kms(via Sirsi Mattighatta Road)
From Kumta: 49Kms(via Kumta - Manjaguni on Kumta Sirsi Road) 
From Karwar: 114Kms(via Kumta Manjaguni) 
Best season:
September to February
Further info:
Travel website listing:


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