Its amazing how smells are associated with memories, sometimes pleasant and sometimes unpleasant. I am sitting under a fan whirring at full speed in the heat of North Karnataka when I smell Rasna and Kissan squashes. The smell of new books and chalk dust transport me to school, the smell of Johnson's baby powder brings back memories of my kids as babies. The smell of mangoes and jasmine remind me of festivals, specially Ramanavami.
During festivals and on auspicious occasions, its common tradition to invite married women for arishina-kunkuma or haldi-kumkum. Fruit, kosambari, kumkum, betel leaves and betel nuts, glass bangles, blouse pieces, coconut, flowers, coins are commonly given, the entire set of things called as a tambula or ele adike. A glass of cold panaka or juice is also offered along with a hand made fan. When refrigerators weren't yet a common household appliance, the panaka would be kept cold, with a wet cloth wrapped around the vessel of juice. The dripping wet cloth dries in no time in the heat, making it necessary to wet it all over again. Offering panaka and the hand fan symbolize soothing people during the hot summer, thereby symbolizing a deed of punya.
Kosambari is a kind of salad usually made of soaked moong dal, or chana dal or sprouts, seasoned with green chillies, hing, salt, oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves and lemon juice garnished with the quintessential grated fresh coconut and chopped fresh coriander. Chopped cucumber or grated carrot are sometimes added. This salad is a very essential part of a traditional South Indian meal, makes a very tasty, nutritious and filling snack when eaten on its own. When offered as part of tambula, its served on betel or badam leaves or a donne (a kind of container made of dried leaves). Of course its now served most of the times in plastic containers for ease and convenience.
One kind of kosambari popular in North Karnataka is Putanipudi Kosambari. Roasted Bengal gram is called as putani in some parts of North Karnataka. Its also called as hurigadale. Pudi means powder. In this particular preparation, its coarsely powdered, mixed with fresh coconut, cucumber and seasoned. This again can be eaten by itself and also as an accompaniment to hot rice and ghee.
This kosambari is very easy to prepare and does not need any prior planning. A few simple and common ingredients come together to make this tasty and spicy salad.The below given proportions make enough to serve 3-4 people. You could make more altering the proportions suitably. Do remember, a generous addition of hing, a good amount of heat from the green chillies and enough lemon juice or raw mango are absolutely needed to make this salad. Otherwise it will be very bland and may not taste very good. This salad is meant to be dry with a little moisture from the coconut and the cucumber.
Roasted Bengal Gram - 1/2 cup, coarsely powdered.
Cucumber - chopped very fine, 2 tablespoons (refer note)
Grated fresh coconut - 1/2 cup
Green chillies, chopped very fine - 2-3
Lemon juice or grated raw mango to taste
Asafoetida / Hing- A generous pinch
Salt to taste
For the tempering
Oil - 2 teaspoons
Mustard seeds - 3/4 teaspoon
Urad dal - 1/2 teaspoon
Hing - A pinch
Curry leaves, a few
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped fine for garnish
Procedure: In a bowl, mix the Roasted Bengal gram powder, salt, hing, fresh coconut and green chillies. Add the lemon juice or grated raw mango. Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, let it sputter. Add the urad dal, hing and curry leaves. Add to the rest of the mixture and mix well.
Add the chopped cucumber just before serving. If you add it earlier, the kosambari will become soggy as the cucumber will leave out water. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and serve.
Note: Use English cucumber and not the variety used for making salads as it has a lot of water content. If you add too much cucumber, you will end up with a soggy salad.