I recently enjoyed a stay at Bashla, a quiet little village in Himachal, dotted with houses in wood and concrete and hugged by fruits trees — apple, walnut and persimmon or Japani phal — as well as medicinal shrubs. However, it was the locally grown food that made my retreat complete.
It’s difficult to put in words, but here are lessons from my stay that I would like to share.
When you come to the mountains, even for a short stay, come like a local and not a tourist. You will enjoy adjusting to the pace. Unlike metros, where everything is available all through the year, I realised how something as simple as corn is procured, dried and saved for winters, when the weather turns harsh and roads to the local markets disappear under snow in no time.
I also learnt that nature is your biggest caretaker in the mountains. When climatic humdrums may seem too harsh, you are still blessed with all the necessary resources within that small periphery you have decided to spend your life in.
From medicinal herbs to rarest of cereals, from fruits to vegetables growing wild, the abundance here is the best gift one can receive. And I wonder, do we really need anything else? What are we striving for, except trying to make ends meet in a metropolis?
I was amazed with the abundance of homegrown stuff, living examples of farm-to-table stories I had heard, in my short one-week stay. And some half-cooked stories travelled back home with me.
Things I received as goodbye gifts included Mixed Millets, Dried Apples, Persimmons, Tree Tomatoes, Bicchu booti (Nettle leaves), Green Garlic, Labhora (unable to find the English name but a sort of sour grass wildly grown), Walnuts and some yummy Galgal (mountain lemon) pickle made by my mother-in-law.
I was clearly instructed on handling of the Bicchu booti — touching its leaf equals a scorpion bite. Although painful, it’s not at all poisonous. A lot of things can be prepared with these leaves. I took baby steps with its awesome chutney, manually prepared on a grinding stone or Sil Batta.
And the Mixed Millets majorly consisted of Kodo Millet (called Kodra in Himachal), along with some other traditional grains and corn. My family grinds it to a flour for mixed grain rotis. However, I tried to par boil them, added some spices, other millet flours and baked them to interesting looking discs. I clubbed it with Nettle leaves chutney and the experiment turned out to be a hit with my family.
Read more for the step-by-step recipe and health benefits of Kodo Millet and Bicchu Booti leaves.
Kodo Millets Spicy Baked Discs (serves 4)
1 cup – Kodo Millet Mix
1 inch – Finely chopped Ginger
2 tbsp – Finely chopped Green Garlic
1 tsp – Finely chopped dried red Chilli
¼ cup – Barley flour (pre-roasted)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp – Cow ghee to grease the discs
1. Thoroughly wash the millets and soak them for good 1-2 hours.
2. In an open vessel, boil them with water and a bit of salt. Once a little tender, sieve the millets and keep them aside.
3. Now pre-roast Barley flour and let the raw smell evaporate.
4. In the boiled and sieved millets, add Barley flour, ginger, green garlic, dried red chilli and salt. Please note instead of Barley flour you can use Gram Flour (Besan), Barley Sattu or even Chana Sattu.
5. Make small flattened discs.
6. Grease a baking tray with Cow ghee.
7. Place these discs with adequate spacing in between.
8. In a preheated oven, bake these discs at 200C for 8-10 minutes.
9. Make sure you handle them gently as they tend to break easily. Keep flipping for even cooking.
10. Serve hot with Nettle leaves chutney or any of your favourite homemade dip.
Nettle Leaves Chutney (Serves 4-5)
1 cup – Nettle leaves washed (using a tong or forceps)
½ cup – Mix of Labhora and Green Garlic Leaves washed
2 inch – Ginger
½ tsp – Red chilli Powder
Salt to taste
(Please note you can substitute Labhora leaves with 1 tbsp of Tamarind Pulp)
To make this chutney, you can use a traditional grinding stone. If you are short of time, try grinding it in a mixer grinder with very less water. Try to keep it a little coarser and dry to have the taste and textures intact.
Health benefits of Kodo Millet and Nettle leaves
Kodo millets vary in colour from light red to dark grey, and like most millets the fibre content is very high. Kodo millet helps in sugar control and makes a great substitute for polished white rice. Gluten free, rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, Kodo millet is a good source of Vitamin B6, Niacin, Folic acid and many minerals. Very beneficial for postmenopausal women with signs of cardio vascular diseases and high cholesterol levels.
The stinging Nettle Leaves are high in nutrients for healthy bones. They prevent and help in combating seasonal allergies. Reduce menstrual cramps and support prostate health too. If consumed as green tea, it improves energy levels throughout the day.
Shalini Rajani is the founder of Crazy Kadchi and holds innovative and healthy cooking workshops for all age groups.