Celebrating our kitchen and farms

Published: Saturday 20 April 2013


During March and April, the sweet smell of drying mahua flowers hangs in the air in the forest villages of western Odisha. There is festivity all round and merry making reaches its crescendo in the evening with men and women dancing, high on brew made from mahuli flowers... The mahua tree (Madhuca indica) is a source of staple in the area. Fruits are munched raw and the seed kernels are crushed to produce edible oil. Mahua flowers are sweet and mouth-watering. The mahua tree blooms between February and April...

laddooRasputuka A Mahua Laddoo

Mahua flowers - 500 gm
Sesame seeds - 50 gm
Groundnut - 100 gm
Horse gram - 50 gm
Salt - to taste

Soak flowers in water for 4 hours and boil for 15 minutes. Strain out the water. Fry sesame seeds, groundnuts and horse gram. Grind all ingredients together along with salt. Roll the mixture into laddoos...

pachidiNeem Pachidi

Neem pachidi is specially prepared on south Indian new year between March and April. The chutney is a mixture of all tastes possible—bitter from the neem flowers, sour from the tamarind and sweet from jaggery...

Dried neem flowers - 1 tablespoon
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli - 1
Vegetable oil - 2 tablespoons
Tamarind juice - to taste
Jaggery - to taste

Heat oil in a wok. Put mustard seeds, red chilli and neem flowers. Add thick tamarind juice and powdered jaggery and cook for two minutes...


In everyday life, sattu is the lifeline of the poor. Rich in protein, it leaves one satiated for a long time. Small wonder then, doctors advise longer hours of physical work after eating sattu.

sattuDid they learn that from farmers who do exactly that? The elderly in Bihar say sattu is the buffer between people dying of malnutrition and the apathy of the state’s political class...

Sattu Parantha

Take some wheat dough and fill with sattu and spice mixture. Roll and make the parantha on the griddle...


For a poet, it is all colour and no fragrance, and for the common man, it is a mere flower. Palash, or the Flame of the Forest, which is abundantly available in central parts of the country, has long been considered virtually useless...

palashTribal areas of Maharashtra and adjoining Chhattisgarh, however, once valued palash (Butea monosperma) as the best coolant, with nutritional and healing qualities... While in most areas the tradition of consuming the extract of the flower has died out, it is surviving in small pockets. During summer, cold infusion of the dried flower is consumed as sherbet, while a tea prepared with dried flower leaves can be consumed all year long...

Palash Sherbet

Dry palash flowers - a large handful
Sugar/jaggery/rock sugar - to taste
Fennel seeds, cumin powder, pepper powder, mint leaves, lemon juice - optional

Soak all the ingredients with five glasses of water for four to six hours or till the flowers lose colour. Stir well, strain and serve chilled. To improve taste, soak fennel seeds along with the ingredients. Add lemon juice, black salt, cumin powder, pepper powder or fresh mint leaves before serving.

Authors: Sunita Narain & Vibha Varshney |  Rs. 950.00 (US $60)
This collection of around 100 recipes from different parts of the country brings to life the magic that takes place once biodiversity is combined with culinary dexterity. The book takes us to tribal pockets of the country; reminds us of meals shared with our families; helps us relish the simple meals that farmers eat everyday.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.