States of the Nation

The Good of Grain-Rawa Kela Aur Gur ki Mithai


Semolina, Banana  and Jaggery Dessert

It is a little worrying to note that the government does not seem to be paying as much attention to promoting the continued cultivation of grains. Horticulture and other, newer, agricultural initiatives are capturing the subsidies and are invariably the chosen ones in projects promoted by state and central governments.But these are not essential to a poor country. China produced more than twice the amount of food grains we did last year. Even if we take the stipulated minimum of 500 grams of grains a day per person , at present, we do not have enough to sustain our vast population for more than a day in case of any disaster. Because we do not produce enough, one reason being the inadequate management of soil, grain still remains comparatively expensive for those living below the poverty line.

Grains will always form a large part of the main meal in a poor country. It is imperative that India uses its vast land resources by bringing additional land under cultivation.Not only that but if those grains were also rich in minerals and vitamins, grains like jowar, bajra and ragi, we would not see the kind of malnutrition we see  on a large scale in Africa. GM crops have not returned the benefits of better health as was hoped.

Till at least thirty years ago wheat and rice and semolina were used in so many foods. Rawa / Suji or semolina is made by soaking wheat grain in water for several hours .It is then spread out to dry a bit before being ground and winnowed.The coarse grits produced in this manner is called rawa.

Chakki- Stone Grinder

Years ago several houses had their own chakki for grinding.
In a few places wheat is still ground in a chakki,two humungous cylindrical stones, in this case, granite,. The lower cylinder is stationary, while the top one is moved , the wheat being poured into the circle on the side to spread out between the two stone layers and ground.This one may have been used domestically , the women of the house grinding the wheat. A chakki of this size would be handled by two women. Larger chakki's were rotated with the help of cows or a camel.
In Punjab, this type of a chakki , operated with the help of animals is called a kharas. A grinder  run with the aid of a water wheel is called a gharat. The latter is more common in the far north,  in the foothills of the Himalayas.
By the beginning of the twentieth century in India, wheat grinding became more mechanised with oil engines.By the late 1940's one third of all chakkis in Punjab ( the main wheat growing belt ) were power driven. And today most people buy packaged ready ground wheat from commercial mills. Till just a few years ago we bought the whole grain, picked out stones and chaff and other extraneous material , washed and dried it in the sun, and then sent it , a few kilos at a time, to the local flour grinding mill. It meant that each family could decide how much bran to keep in the wheat flour.Chapathies tasted different in each household, with varying textures and thicknesses. In small towns and villages this is still the case.

Rawa is as much used in the South for upma and home made sweets and in the north mainly for halwa.I have a huge, old  collection of rawa recipes,  many of them sweets, which could do with a revival as it is a healthy alternative to expensive milk and refined sugar sweets which have become so popular today. Look out for more rawa recipes soon.

Rawa Kela Aur Gur Ki Mithai/ Semolina, Banana, Jaggery Dessert


1 1/4 cup rawa / semolina
3 bananas
3/4 cup gur / jaggery.
1 1/2 cup coconut milk made from 1/2 fresh coconut , chopped.(you can use ready packaged coconut milk as well, or plain milk with a drop of vanilla if you cannot get coconut milk)
2 tbsp. ghee or butter
A pinch of salt.

Extract the coconut milk by pureeing the pieces in a blender along with 1 and a half cups of hot water. Strain the pulp through a sieve to make thick coconut milk. Make a smooth puree of the bananas and jaggery in a blender. Heat the ghee in a kadhai and fry the semolina, stirring constantly on low heat till it turns an even, light brown.About 8 minutes. Add the banana and jaggery puree and stir a couple of times.Turn off the heat. Now add the coconut milk and mix well.

Pour mixture into steamer

Grease a heat proof shallow dish, plate or steel thali. Pour the mixture into the dish and steam covered for 25 minutes.This can be done in a steamer or a pressure cooker without the weight on. It may take less time in a cooker- probably about 10-15 minutes.The mixture absorbs all the liquid and becomes dry on the surface.

Turn out on to plate

and cut into cubes.

Serve hot or cold.
This will keep for several days if  refrigerated.



Laid Back Balchao at Bob's Inn


It is not even a month since I came back from a short break in Goa and it seems like time to return. To the sun, the sand , the sea and mostly the food.

When in Goa I tend to stick to what they do best...sea food. I ate every variation of prawn and fish dishes that they had to serve.I haven't had time to post all the wonderful things we ate there so here I continue.....

One day was spent in the North near Candolim where we had a pleasant meal at Bob's Inn.


A bit more expensive than the seaside shacks,it has a maze of small tents and huts attached to each other to make up the restaurant.There are several cosy areas, where one can have a private lunch and spend several hours in the welcoming shade, while quaffing Kingfisher beer. Which ,by the way, goes very well with the Prawn Balchao we had there.


Goan Prawn Balchao

Ingredients for a generous 4 helpings:

Make a paste of the following:

1 pod of garlic, peeled.
3 "fresh ginger, cleaned and grated
15 whole dried red chillies
4" dalchini / cinnamon
15 green elaichi/ cardomom
15 lavang / cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp jeera/ cumin seeds
1/2 cup malt vinegar.

1 kg prawns, shell, devein and wash well.
Vegetable Oil
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup tomatoes chopped
1 sprig of fresh curry leaves (or a tbsp dried leaves)
2 tsp sugar

Heat oil and deep fry the prawns for a few minutes...not more than 3 -4 minutes, till they change colour. Take out and set aside.
Remove some of the oil and leaving about three tbsps fry the onions until well browned.
Now add the chopped tomatoes and stir well till softened. Add the paste and saute till the oil seperates from the paste.It gets a light shine.
Return the prawns to the kadhai,/pan add curry leaves and sugar, stirring well. Now add salt to taste.
Serve with steamed rice . This tastes delicious with chapathi or any crusty bread as well.