Chef Usha Sheshadri’s laddoos are healthy, delicious and very easy to make.
If you’re a yoga regular visitor to Mysore, especially to Gokulam, you’ve probably been to Anokhi Garden. The guest house and cafe is a favourite among yogis. In July 2018, Canadian Werner Arnold took over the management of Anokhi Garden when he came to Mysore to study yoga, but after spending time at Anokhi Garden, and running its in-house cafe, Arnold felt that the privacy and exclusivity at Anokhi Garden limited his options. “Before moving to India, I was a book designer and actually did many different things. I lived in Montreal and then in Europe for 20 years, and even had a farm. I didn’t come here with the aim to start a cafe. Even at Anokhi Garden, it was a guest house, a cafe and I even curated three art shows there and used it as a gallery,” says Werner.
But, doing so many things in one place meant his attention was being divided in many ways, so when he had access to a rooftop space in Gokulam, Werner started Anokhi Rooftop, Gokulam’s newest cafe, and focused all his attention on his new space. The head chef at this cafe is Usha Sheshadri, who was the cook at Anokhi Garden. “Usha was cooking at Anokhi Garden. We were doing Western breakfasts like omelettes, pancakes, vegan crepes, juices, etc., and it was always very clear to me that Usha is a very intelligent person, and I felt her capabilities weren’t being explored to their full potential at Anokhi Garden,” says Werner. He was inspired to start Anokhi Rooftop when he visited a friend’s home in Mysore and tasted his mother’s cooking. “I was always amazed by how delicious her food was and one can never find such food in a restaurant. It’s Karnataka home cooking. I thought it would be really nice to have this kind of food available at a restaurant. My friend’s mother gave me a copy of a recipe book from 1954 — an old-style Karnataka cookbook. I gave this book to Usha, and she scanned this book, and then started cooking all this amazing Karnataka-style food.”
It was obvious to Werner that Usha was going to be the head chef at Anokhi Rooftop and she decides what’s made at the cafe everyday. “I don’t dictate what is cooked at Anokhi Rooftop at all. I ask Usha what she’s cooking. We have a new vegetarian meal and a non-vegetarian meal every day. Each has five items. A dal, a vegetable palya, rice or chapati or dosa, a salad and a sweet. The non-vegetarian meal usually has chicken curry instead of dal. We also serve sandwiches and some crepes, juices, etc.,” says Werner.
To Werner, Anokhi Rooftop is more than a cafe. He wants to turn it into a cultural community and celebrate the city. “Mysore is one of the sweetest places I’ve lived in. I have no desire to live anywhere else on the planet. The people here are very nice. The place looks good, it’s full of parks, it has a huge lake in the middle of the town that is surrounded by a lush forest. I walk around there on a daily basis. The scale of the city is nice, there is no traffic problem but mostly, the people are so wonderful. We can’t do much at the moment because of the virus but our intention for the future is to have music and different events at Anokhi Rooftop. I want to include the city in the space on a cultural level. There is so much culture in Mysore and so many good artists and musicians. I want Anokhi Rooftop to be an outlet for these artists to express themselves,” states Werner.
One of the things we enjoy eating most at Anokhi Rooftop are Usha’s Beetroot Laddoos, and we just had to have the recipe. Usha shared it with us and with her permission, we’re sharing it here. They’re a must-try!
Ingredients (Makes 6)
- 2 large beetroots
- 3 tbsp jaggery
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 6-7 cashews
- 6-7 raisins
- 2 pieces of powdered cardamom
- 5 tbsp fresh grated coconut
- A pinch of salt
You can follow Usha’s delicious food preparations on @anokhi.rooftop