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Jagdeep Gupta recounts the years spent in grandma’s kitchen eating bajra delicacies and the lessons on the nutritional importance of the millet from grandpa
Winter reminds me of the innumerable lessons grandpa would give us cousins on the crops growing in our fields in Ambala. We would go there each year, but more than the lessons we were keen on eating delicacies grandma cooked for us. Bajra would intrigue me because it is a sturdy crop; it can grow in sandy soil, high temperatures, and can make do with little water.
Every night, we felt extremely important as we organized a bonfire out of dry straw collected from the fields. And then it was left to grandma to make bajre ki bhakri and other delicacies on the bonfire.
My personal favourite was bajre ki kheer.
Nobody in my family has been able to recreate that taste, partly because there is no bonfire any more; nor is granny’s warm and loving touch.
City life and job stress are to blame for changed food habits. Most families now have just about enough time for ready-mix recipes and instant food. Bajra’s uses though have diversified: from being a poor man’s food it is part of rich man’s health diet.
The other day, as I was basking under the winter sun at home, I had this epiphany. It came with a sense of guilt: like us, our children must know what it is to eat nutritious food such as bajra kheer, khichdi and bhakri.
I called my mother and brushed up on the bajre ki bhakri recipe. To my delight, my children loved it.
A la carte
Whole bajra (pearl millet) – Two cups, soaked overnight
Moong dal (green lentil) – Half cup, soaked overnight
Kali mirch (peppercorns) – Five
Laung (cloves) – Three to four
Jeera (cumin seeds) – One teaspoon
Hing (asafoetida) – A pinch
Haldi (turmeric powder) – One-fourth of a teaspoon
Pure ghee – One teaspoon
Water – Five cups
Salt to taste
Grind bajra into a coarse mixture
Wash the dal
Heat ghee; add peppercorns, cloves and cumin seeds
When cumin seeds crackle, add hing, haldi, salt, water, dal and bajra. Cook on medium flame
Stir when the mixture begins to boil. Cook until the bajra is soft
Add more water to get the consistency you prefer
Serve hot with ghee or yoghurt, pickles and papad
Bajri bhaakari (Millet Skillet Bread)
Bajra flour – Two cups, some more for dusting
Salt to taste
Water as required (lukewarm gives better results)
Sieve bajra flour on a flat surface
Knead till the dough is smooth and pliable, adding water as required
Roll the dough into round chapatis (flatbread)
Put the chapati on a tava (flat skillet) and roast both sides. To prevent dryness, sprinkle water on the portion not exposed to heat. Dampened fingers or a wet kitchen towel could be used for this.
Serve hot with dry chilli-garlic pickle, a bean dish
(To make sweet bhaakari, called meetha mann, add jaggery syrup while kneading the dough)
Whole bajra – Two cups, soaked overnight
Milk – Six cups
Water – Four cups
Sugar to taste
Almond, cardamom to garnish
Soak bajra overnight
Coarse grind it and remove the husk
Boil or pressure cook, till half cooked
Add milk; cook till it thickens and the bajra is soft
Add sugar to taste
Garnish with cardamom, almond. Serve hot or cold