Saturday, August 8, 2009
Finger Millet or Ragi, two ways
Finger Millet, or Ragi is a nutritious cereal grain. It is, or rather, was a staple in Indian diet. Though ragi flour is still in good use in some parts of India to make quick pancakes, I find that people here have moved on to ingredients that don't require as much work.
At one time, in the not so recent past, ragi and other millets were consumed everyday- rice was a rarity. My grandparents grew up on such nutritious fare, which (as they used to say) is why they were solid healthy people who lived long lives. But even people in the villages don't use it much anymore. What a shame.
So this recipe is an age old method of preparation- in honor of the past :)
This is a flour based preparation that yields a jelly/stiff porridge like cooked dough called Kali in Tamil. It is a wonderful healthy base to be had with any curry- Indian curries, American gravy, Thai curries....whatever you like.
1 cup Ragi or Finger millet flour
3.75 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
Wash your hands well. Place the ragi flour in a bowl. Add 1.25 cups water to it. With one hand, mix the flour in, breaking and smoothing out the lumps that form until you get a smooth batter. (You can do this first step 12 to 24 hrs before and cover with a cloth. Slight fermentation yields a tastier end result. Its optional.)
Place another vessel on the stove. Pour in the remaining water (2.50 cups). As the water heats up well (do not allow the water to boil), pour in the flour mixture. Immediately, on a high flame, use a broad metal spoon and start mixing vigorously- churning would be a better word. Scrape the sides of the vessel as you churn.
Within three of four minutes, the mixture will have thickened. Lower the flame- lumps will not form after this point. If any lumps have formed, break them up against the sides of the vessel with the spoon. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Stir twice in between. Keep it closed after you remove from heat for another 15 minutes. Serve with curry.
Ragi Drink/ Kool
Another way to serve Ragi kali is to make a simple refreshing and nutritious drink with it. This is called 'Kool' and was (sometimes is) a popular summer street food drink as well as a temple charity offering.
1 cup Kali/cooked Ragi dough (from recipe above)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup water
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 green chilly, finely chopped
salt, to taste
A handful of cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
Place the Kali along with the yogurt and water in a blender and blend thoroughly. Remove to a pouring jug. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Chill before serving in tall glasses. You can serve some spicy pickles alongside for extra bite.