Dasara is a ten day festival of dolls that is celebrated in the months of September/October in India (lunar calendar). It is a Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Each of the 10 days is dedicated to a different God/type of prayer. As part of the celebration, most homes in South India erect a temporary staircase indoors. The staircase has odd numbers of stairs (from 3 upto 11), is covered with a white cloth and idols of Hindu Gods and dolls that recreate many tales from Hindu mythology are places on the stairs. The putting up of stairs was my favourite annual project with dad. Dad being a mechanical engineer had metal stairs custom made to fit our home and the dolls that my mum had collected over 2 decades. I was in charge of passing dad the tools, nuts and bolts to put this framework of stairs together. Fun days!
The other part of the ceremony is for little kids is to visit every home in the street to see their display of dolls and to collect the day’s offering which was usually a snack of some kind and a piece of fruit. More often than not, the snack would be a little bowl of “usli”. This recipe is dedicated to my “usli” collection days and the fun days of Dasara.
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3 green chillies
2-3 knobs of ginger (1″ or 2.5cm each)
1 and 1/2 cups of skinned peanuts cooked until soft in salty water
For the tempering:
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 springs of curry leaves
1. I used a pressure cooker to cook the peanuts (picture 3). If you don’t have one, cook them in a pot on a low heat for an hour or so. The peanuts should hold their shape at the end of the cooking process but you should be able to bite right through them with ease. The skins are a great source of nutrition so buy peanuts with skins on.
2. Grind the coconut, chillies and ginger to a paste using some water to aid the process (pictures 1 & 2).
3. In a large pan, heat the oil and add all the tempering ingredients to the oil.
4. When the mustard starts to splutter, add the spice paste and sauté until the raw smell of ginger no longer lingers (picture 4).
5. Add the cooked peanuts to the paste and mix well (picture 5). Boil the mixture until all the moisture evaporates (picture 6).
6. Serve hot or cold as a snack, or with unleavened flat bread.
1. You can use mung beans, channa dal, peas, dried peas, chickpeas, black chickpeas as alternatives to peanuts.
2. If you don’t have a grinder, you can use the spice mix ingredients as they are. Grate, crush or chop the ginger until fine. Chop chillies into small pieces. Add the ginger and chillies to the tempering once the mustard has crackled. Then add the coconut and mix. Then add the peanuts and mix. The taste is still going to be great.
Dasara = The + sah + rah
Usli = “U” as in glue + “sli” as in sleet