How 58-year-old Powai homemaker is trying to make millets cool for her grandkids
A 58-year-old Powai homemaker is trying to make millets cool for her grandkids, and, you can take a leaf out of her book too
In the grain scale, millets are known to occupy a modest spot, with rice and wheat typically seen as the king of grains. Millets are traditionally associated with peasant food, something farmers have as breakfast, before they leave their homes early morning. "That is because the complex carbohydrates that millets contain are a great source of energy, and therefore, help you take on more laborious jobs," says Anjali Aruldas, a homemaker and founder of healthy batter brand, Vannakam Foods. The 58-year-old has been experimenting with millets for five years, and wonders why she did not start earlier. "As a kid, and later, after I got married, I would hear my mother, mother-in-law and grandmother talk of the health benefits of millets. I didn't pay attention then. Now I am a grandparent, and things have changed. I have more time on my hands and I am more well-versed with the Internet, so I have started doing my research on millets and discovered just how versatile and healthy they are."
Bajra cake. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
While their nutritional benefits cannot be argued with, making millets 'cool' was certainly a challenge for Aruldas. Therefore, she created a series of appetisers using millets as the base ingredients. When we meet her at her Powai home, she offers us a plate of foxtail seekh kebabs, bajra cake and ragi momos. "Appetisers are the best way to make people try something new. They are bite-sized, so people tend to be adventurous, not intimidated by the quantity. In the kebabs, I thought of using millets as filling. Boil it like rice, add potatoes, onion and mash them together, with masalas. Bind it up, then grill it or shallow fry. It takes less than an hour to prepare, and packs a punch of nutrients in one bite.
The kids love it." Even though it's called a starter, it's a wholesome snack, that leaves little room for anything else. The bajra cake is as interesting, in that, it is completely vegan — without eggs, butter, sugar or milk. "I use dates as sweetener, and almond milk as binding agent, instead of egg. It takes more than double the time a normal cake takes to bake. You don't get a porous, spongy texture of a regular cake. It's more like a firm brownie but a treat for health enthusiasts," Aruldas tells us. The ragi momos are like regular momos, except that the dough is a ragi dough.
She enlightens us further about the types of millets. "There's kodo, little millet, foxtail which I use for the kebabs, finger millets or nachni, used for khichdi and momos as well. Sourcing pure millets, the kinds I use, is almost impossible in Mumbai; here you only get the polished kinds," says Aruldas, who sources them from the farms in Coimbatore. Explaining to us the health benefits, she adds, "Since they are rich in complex carbohydrates, they digest gradually. The body gets nutrition, but in phases. Millets don't result in a spike in sugar levels, thereby making it good for weight loss. We have a wealth of grains in our country that we need to tap into. Also, it's time we looked beyond rice and wheat. If cooked the right way, there's no reason to dismiss millets as boring."