Ancient Indian Cookery, Part 7

BY: SUN STAFF - 17.10 2017

A study of ancient texts on Vedic cookery and foodstuffs, in Sanskrit and Kannada.

Today we return to our discussion of the Supa Sastra, written by King Mangarasa III in 1508 A.D., which deals with the Vedic science of cooking. His six-chapter tome draws upon the earliest known Vedic cookbook -- Nala Pandava's Pakadarpanam.

King Mangarasa III ruled in the early 16th Century in the Hosavritti area of Mysore district, which was the center of the Hoysala kingdom. His Supa (Soopa) Sastra was produced as a palm-leaf manuscript, composed in a poetic meter called vardhak shatpadi, a metrical form having six lines.

In the first chapter, Mangarasa deals with the subject of wheat and breads. The chapter title is Pisthakadhyaya, and the main ingredient of all the preparations included here is wheat flour. He begins by explaining how the wheat granules themselves are prepared. Like rice, first the wheat is cleaned, all mud, stones and debris removed. It is then dipped in water, dried and pounded to remove the wheat husks.

After 'separating the wheat from the chaff', the remaining hearts or 'middlins' are pounded to get the various desired grades or sizes of granules. Each has its own particular use. Fien granules are set aside for making bread and cakes, of which Mangarasa describes many amazing varieties. There are breads that have been roasted, pierced, closed, grouped, crushed and dry. There is milk bread, 'whitened on the tongue' bread, and 'nectar on the tongue'. There are also countless cakes and sweet preparations made of wheat, which we'll discuss another day.

Pierced Bread

Taking fine wheat granules (sooji), mix them with hot water and ghee. Let the mixture set for an hour or two, then knead it well to a soft dough. Make small balls and flatten them, as you would with roti. Bake both sides on a hot pan and pile them together. Pierce them with a sharp spear made of bamboo.

Next, make a mixture of sugar, ghee, mustard and edible camphor. Put palmyra flowers in between for a while, then remove them before serving the Pierced Bread.

Palmyra Palm Leaves

Roasted Bread

Using fine wheat granules (pounded flour), add some salt and water, and let it set for some time. (Don't mix or knead, just let the water soften the flour as it is.)

Next, begin to pound the dough. While doing so, make a mixture of two parts butter, one part cream, and mix it into the flour. Pound it out to a dough. Make small balls, an flatten them.

Arrange coals for burning, and lay green twigs and young bamboo over top. [Your choice of wood will affect the flavour; fruit and nut tree woods are good choices.]

Roast the pieces of bread on top, turning often. When the ghee starts dripping out onto the wood, it will create a charming aroma.

Smear ghee on both sides, sprinkle with sugar, and serve warm.