Tuesday, January 20, 2009
"Jackfruit" called "halasu" in Kannada conjures up a whole world of culinary adventure. The tree falls next in place to the Coconut tree which is called as the "kalpavruksha"(wishtree). Just like the coconut tree almost every part of the Jackfruit has some or the other use. The wood from the tree is used in making furniture and the musical instrument, Veena. The leaves are used in cooking a kind of dumpling called as the "koTTe kaDubu" where koTTe = packet and kaDubu = dumpling. Four leaves are pinned together using thin wooden srtips to form a packet. Batter made of black gram and rice is poured into these packets which are then steamed. The leaves impart a delicate aroma to the dumpling which is a cherished delicacy in many families in Southern/coastal Karnataka. The fruits, both raw and ripe are used in the preparation of an insane variety of dishes, ranging from chips to savoury sides to desserts. Even the seeds don't go waste. Popped into burning coal, or used in huLi(sambar, a kind of curry) along with ash gourd, it add a whole different dimension to taste. This is the extent of my knowledge. I am sure there are others out there who can add a lot more to this.
This spiky giant of a fruit poses quite a task when it comes to trimming and extracting the edible part. Used newspapers are spread out, coconut oil is kept handy, a big bowl is kept in the centre to collect the edible fruit. Someone(usually the men in the house) cuts up the big jackfruit into halves, quarters and then 1/8ths which is then handed out to everyone gathered around. Everyone then rubs coconut oil onto their palms to keep the sap from sticking and sets about separating the flesh from the sheaths, and the seeds from the fruit. The fruit goes into the bowl in the centre, if it manages to escape one's mouth ;-) . The seeds are kept aside. The peel and the non edible parts are then chopped up to bite sized pieces and set aside to treat the cows in the barn or the stray cows that come to the gate, attracted by the smell.
It is a whole ritual in itself. I can't help but remember the summer holidays of my childhood days when mangoes and jackfruit were an integral part. Funny anecdotes, laughter and great conversations flowed freely around the jackfruit. Now, it gets as difficult as opening a can. Jackfruit was one of the things I missed after marriage and moving to Bangalore. Once, near Commercial street in Bangalore, I saw a vendor selling what looked like juicy pieces of the fruit. But I did not feeling like buying any when I heard his ridiculous price of 5 Rs. per piece. After moving to US I had totally forgotten about this fruit. I always passed by the aisle of canned fruits as if they did not exist. But then my curiosity got better of me and I could not help buying a can. The taste of the fruit immersed in a sugary syrup came nowhere near to the fresh ones. After taking it out of the syrup it should be consumed immediately. Else, it becomes this fibrous mass, which gets very difficult to swallow. My lil one liked it a lot, and I couldn't help pitying him for what he is missing. :-( . I could not bring myself to eat it all, and hence thought of this halwa....
4 cups ripe Bananas, mashed(About 8 big bananas)
2 cups sweet ripe Jackfruit, chopped into small pieces(I used canned fruit)
2 cups Sugar
2 tablespoons Ghee
1. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel.
2. Add the mashed banana and the jackfruit pieces.
3. Mix well and close the lid on the vessel. Let it cook well on low flame. Stir once or twice in between so that the mixture doesn't stick to the vessel.
4. Once the mixture is cooked, add the sugar. Mit it in. Keep stirring the mixture, until it becomes a thick mass.
5. Add the remaining ghee and stir well once again.
6. Once the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan, and forms one thick mass, transfer it to a greased plate. Flatten and let it cool. Then, cut it into desired shapes and enjoy!