Here’s an excerpt from our recent interview with Shalini Rajani of Crazy Kadchi fame.
Copy writer to culinary expert is quite a journey, tell us about the key moment which led to who you are today – A millet culinary expert.
I still remember the days when I used to work for an Ad agency and while I always had tight deadlines, I had these food blogs, recipe videos and interesting food write ups (minimized) on my Desktop PC. Somehow reading and knowing about interesting food was never an effort. Cooking has always been my first love and this realization got stronger when I participated in MasterChef India in 2012. After clearing four difficult rounds I could proudly tell the world that I might be a copywriter by profession but I am a Chef by heart. Of course, without any professional culinary degree, I was all set to dive deep and plunge in this ocean of the culinary world.
Millets came into the picture when I started reading and experimenting more with healthy ingredients.
What’s the meaning of Crazy Kadchi and when did the shift to millets happen?
Crazy Kadchi is not the complete word. Crazy Kadchi- Stirring Surprises, is. It precisely means a ladle that experiments with food and stirs up some yummy surprises.
I started with cooking workshops that focused on taste and presentation. From then on, I started experimenting and reading more about locally available ingredients, our ancient grains, seasonal foods. I stumbled upon many interesting food blogs and websites that were already bombarded with so much knowledge about millets. I found them to be promising ingredients. Since then, healthy eating, good food, good lifestyle, Smart Foods, millets and seeds became my keywords before developing any new recipe. The shift to millets was gradual and I enjoyed learning about them as much as I enjoyed experimenting with them.
We understand that you introduce a couple of millet dishes in all your master classes for both adults and kids. Tell us why it is important to learn to cook millets and how has the response been so far?
Today millets are perched on the cusp of revival. These tiny grains, which once adorned the Indian kitchens disappeared from our menus as our preference for rice, wheat and even refined flour took over. When I attempted to reintroduce these tiny grains back as staples, I explain to my workshop participants how nutritious and environmentally sustainable millets are. The interesting thing is, even kids as young as 10 years of age understand the importance and the need to bring in more millets to our menus.
Adults on the other hand are a little apprehensive initially, but when they see me completely replace rice and wheat with millet without compromising on the taste, they are tempted to try the same recipes back home. My greatest joy begins when they start sharing pictures with me. My happiness simply multiplies looking at their lovely food pictures, their successful attempts, confidence and promise to bring more millets into their lives.
Tell us about your potato-free Navratri and other recipes where you have successfully replaced less nutritious ingredients with sorghum, pearl millet and other millets.
Potato-free Navratri because those who observe fasts during Navratri find it difficult to move their menu beyond potatoes. It has to be either potato chaat, potato fritters, potato wadas, potato raita, etc. It is here at Crazy Kadchi that we came up with recipes which were completely potato-free, fast-friendly and the icing on the cake was, they were all super healthy and tasty. The menu had Falahari Fried Rice with Barnyard Millet, Millet Sushi, Singhara Salad (a healthy salad with water chestnut), Rajgira Crackers, Buckwheat Canapes and many Navratri friendly desserts and mocktails. Every year the menu has evolved with better and healthier ingredients.
What is your favourite choice of millet and why?
Every millet is unique in its own way. When it comes to salads, I love to experiment with hard millets like Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl millet (Bajra) and Finger millet (Ragi). But when it comes to replacing rice dishes and try some biryanis and curd rice, Foxtail millet (Kangni) and Barnyard Millet (Samak) comes handy. I also love preparing desserts like Payasam with Little millet. On the other hand, for Idlis and Uttapams, I feel Kodo millets gel really well with Urad dal (split black gram lentil). So, it’s difficult to pick a favourite. But out of all, I believe Finger millet (Ragi) is one millet which has proven to be the most versatile for me.
How was the experience of introducing millets through corporate cooking sessions? How was the response?
Initially, I thought that a millet menu won’t work with corporate employees. But when I introduced them to healthy eating habits, our ancient grains and how rice and wheat have taken over, they were all ears for more! After demonstrating a few millet recipes, they were all beautifully churning out the millet dishes one by one. It never felt that they were cooking with millets for the first time.
Also, I must tell you, a lot of these employees I trained were men and, they enjoyed cooking like no other sport. It was a very rewarding experience for me.
What is your future plan for Crazy Kadchi?
I see Crazy Kadchi growing as a one-stop solution for innovative healthy food. Be it through workshops (online and offline), YouTube videos, corporate cooking sessions, recipe books or just food pop-ups.
Right now, I am
planning to collaborate with brands with shared vision to execute some
out-of-the-box ideas I am dreaming about.
Here is one of the signature dish Millet Sushi from Krazy kadchi