Garlic chutney for the soul

Amidst all the newfound food pictures and futuristic ways of serving ‘superfoods’ I see on Instagram these days, there is a room of my own that I want to constantly visit, and that’s my kind of food. Some place where my mum or a sweet neighbour in my native place gets me a warm plate of pear millet roti laden with ghee, radish sabzi, and a wee bit of red garlic chutney. You see, all the new styles of serving and eating food sometimes bewilder me as I find myself stuck to what I ate as a child.

Now, how do we actually create those childhood flavours from your mum’s kitchen alive again? You can’t. But I want to die trying. On hectic days that is most of my days, I’m too tired to cook for myself. When my cravings go unheard, I decide to shut all business and cook my heart out.

This chutney takes me back to my mother, who lives in a different state than mine. My mother did it all for us, but she certainly didn’t make us strong enough to live without her food; it’s our biggest weakness. But unlike my brothers, I don’t get to enjoy it whenever I want, so making her recipes in my kitchen does make me feel better. This is one such recipes that does that to me.

Recipe: Lasan ki chutney/Garlic chutney {Jaisalmer style}

Method: Grind garlic cloves and green chillies (more garlic of course). You can hand-pound it too. And, you can add a piece or two of dried red chilly to this as well (I usually skip it). Now, heat a pan. Add some ghee. Once hot, add in some asafoetida, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, red chilli powder (at least one tsp as you want your chutney to be hot), and coriander powder. Give it a quick mix and add in the ground paste of garlic and green chillies. Now, add in some salt, two tbsp of water (to cook the garlic), kachri powder (a regional ingredient found in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan; but you can skip it if you don’t have it), and a hint of mango powder. Now stir it every few seconds and once the water is all absorbed, switch off the flame. It’s best to be had with Bajri ki roti (pearl millet). Also, this will not go stale so soon; store it in the fridge and reheat it till the ghee melts well.

Next week, I shall be with her, and it’s going to be the best winter week, you guys. Family bliss, winter food and loads of cuddles are on my way. See you soon, Ma.


A herbal tonic for your baby

For the past one year, I have been giving a herbal tonic to my baby, which we Indians like to call as Ghasa/Gutki (different in all regions). Every morning, when my baby’s oil massage is done, I make him have this. Ideally, you should be giving him this tonic in the morning time. Now if you ask any doctor here or anywhere, he will not encourage this. But to many the traditional Indian mothers and grandmothers, it is a usual thing.

So, basically, you have to give a wee bit of almond, turmeric, nutmeg and terminalia chebula to the baby. These are given to the baby right after a few days of when he or she is as it is said to be good for the baby, and at least I didn’t see any side-effect of it on my baby. Which is the reason, I would like to share it with you guys too.

For this tonic, we start rubbing each ingredient on a small stone-like plate mixed with a tbsp of water or mother’s milk (for an infant). Gradually, we increase the amount of the mixture. When my baby was a few days old, we only rubbed a small bit of almond for this tonic, but now that he is an year old, I use two almonds for this. In totality, the tonic was about 1/4 tsp only when he was a few days old, but now, it is 3-4 tsps (there’s a good quantity of water in it now). So, basically, increase the quantity gradually and stop when you like. I’m still planning to give him this homemade tonic for the next few months, and then stop it. One can also give it only when the baby has cold or constipation. But, first, you need to understand the role of each ingredient.

Almond: This is great for baby’s development, and especially for his brain. But you need to avoid going overboard with this as it can cause constipation. When your baby is one-week old, you should start with the smallest amount of each ingredient, so take a single almond, rub it a bit, clean it and store it. This almond can go on till many days. When the baby is three months old, start with 1/4 of an almond, and gradually increase it. When the baby is seven months old or so, start rubbing an entire almond and for that, you can soak it too, as it will be used entirely anyway. In the above video, I’m rubbing a soaked almond without skin. Yes, you will need this stone plate as it’s easy to make this tonic then. I’m using two Mamra almonds for my baby as he’s one year old now, but if your baby is younger, decrease the quantity. We want to give this tonic almost everyday till the baby is one or 1.5 years. Also, almonds add a milky texture to the mixture and it tastes better with this.

Turmeric: This is a known anti-bacterial ingredient that is great for our bodies. I might skip Harad or Nutmeg depending on his health but turmeric is something I don’t skip. When my baby has cold, I rub it a bit more so that this protects him for infections. In the video, I have taken a dried piece of turmeric. This is also called Amba Haldi in Hindi. My mom says any dried version of Haldi is fine that is available at Indian stores (sometimes, we also try those Pooja stores (places where you get supplies relating to religious ceremonies and prayers).

Harad: This herb is known to cure constipation. It’s commonly used in Indian homes. Now, babies have constipation too, so with a wee bit of Harad, I can stay assured that his stools are cleared everyday. For an infant, it’s important that you rub it slightly only. Too much of this ingredient can cause heat in your baby’s body. When your baby is eight months old or more, you can rub the piece of Harad a bit more. But overall, the quantity of this ingredient shouldn’t be changed. Not too much, not to less.

Nutmeg: This ingredient keeps the baby away from cold; well, at least old aunts at home say this. So I go by them. When my baby is under the weather and has a stubborn cold, I make sure I don’t skip this one. Jaiphal, as we commonly call it, doesn’t need to be rubbed too much. This can cause side-effects like the baby might not pass his stools in a day. So, rub a slight bit only when the baby is small, and when he is one, you can slight increase the quantity, but overall, just like Harad, you need to maintain the quantity. May be rub it an extra time if he or she has cold. In the video, I have shown how do to go about it.

Lastly, it’s important that you clean the stone plate everyday and keep the box of these ingredients at an hygienic place. Also, clean each ingredient with water, keep them in sun/open air to make them dry and then store them. You can also store them in the fridge to avoid fungus build up. But always see what colour they are, because sometimes, if done negligently this can overlooked.

Remember, breast milk is the best thing you can give to your baby. Being a newbie mother, you cannot make this tonic everyday and do other things too. Do it if you have someone to help you. And you may skip it entirely too. Your baby will be fine without it as well. I do it because I belong to a traditional Indian family, and my aunts suggested so. And I didn’t find any harm in it. I will stop it though, when my baby is 15-18 months; will check with my mother for guidance, of course.