Read full article By Nasrin Modak Siddiqi @ Mid-Day Photo Credit: Atul Kamble
It’s the time of the year when chef Vanshika Bhatia’s Kanpur home fills with the divine aroma of kheer as it simmers on the stove. At the Bhatia family residence, the kheer isn’t made from rice, but barnyard millet. The samakechawalki kheer is seasonal and made only in winters. “My mother would allow the sugars in the milk to caramelise well, giving the kheer its dense pink colour. Somehow, I haven’t been able to replicate that, but every time I make this kheer, I am transported to the fasting days of Navratri when my mother, chachi and dadi would get together to make this,” she says.
Her mother’s recipe is simple: A cup of barnyard millet soaked for four hours makes its way into a kadhai with two teaspoon ghee-roasted makhana, chironji and split cardamom. Five cups of milk are added with half a cup of sugar and slow cooked for hours till that beautiful pink glow is achieved. This is topped with slivers of dry coconut and makhana. Barnyard millet is a wild plant grown in the hilly regions of Uttaranchal and is high in iron. It is used to make khichdi, dosa and upma. “It’s just what the body needs at this time of the year to fight disease and cold. Farmers favour it because it takes lesser water to grow [than other grains], making it ideal for the region in autumn,” Bhatia adds.
Millets belong to the family of grasses, develop slender stems and are known to make nutritious carb-free food. The fruit of the plant is what we eat as grain. Lifestyle coach and nutritionist Raksha Lulla explains, “Millets are seasonal-their power lies in the fact that every season has a different millet that is harvested. They have diverse micronutrients and a different response of cooling and heating effect on the body which makes them special to eat at a particular time of the year, with a unique pairing of vegetable or dal and pickle.”