In the generally carb-rich Indian diet, namkeen (savoury) mixes occupy a special place. Nearly every part of the country I’ve lived in has its own set of these. In many homes across India, these are homemade at regular intervals and stored in steel dabbas (boxes) to be consumed as snacks at teatime or whenever the hunger pangs get the better of you. In my childhood days in Bombay, for instance, chivda was de rigueur in Maharashtrian homes, a tasty mixture of deep fried flattened rice with coconut slivers and peanuts garnished with curry leaves and red chillies. When we moved to Lucknow, lahiya chana, a quickly rustled up mix of roasted puffed rice and gram was commonly eaten as a healthy snack. Come Diwali and kheel, another type of puffed rice, used for the Lakshmi puja is consumed as freshly roasted mixes for days to come, till stocks last.
In urban Indian households like ours, homemade snacks are fading away and it’s a real pity. There isn’t any time to make them and a variety of snacks, including ‘diet’ items are easily available at the superstore. What’s more, with online ordering, the superstore comes home, so it’s no effort to have a stash of munchies ready at home.
I find that stash does not satisfy me. It’s got too much salt, too much oil and trans fat and I certainly don’t trust the ‘diet’ labels. What’s more, they don’t taste fresh. I find myself craving for the simple namkeens of my childhood. Hence, the Sunday morning frenzy to rustle up these two simple snacks. Neither of these are deep fried, nor are they ‘diet’. They are just normal food, so don’t think too much. Just make them and eat them!
Put a tablespoon of cooking oil in a heated kadhai (anything you can roast stuff in will do, wok like!). To the heated oil, add green chillies (slit don the middle), rai or black sesame seeds and curry leaves, heeng (asafoetida), turmeric powder, red chilli powder, dry pudina powder. Wait till the rai splutters. Add puffed rice and roasted peanuts (you will have to dry roast them before) and mix well. I added to this mix some leftover namkeen that had been bought for a party- sev, moong dal and bhuna chanaa, but this is optional and sicne these are deep fried it does add some serious calories! Add salt as desired. Let this cool and store in air tight boxes, preferably the traditional shiny steel ones for the real desi effect 🙂
Can be stored for a week or two easily.
To a teaspoon of heated oil, add thinly sliced onion and garlic, turmeric powder, whole red chillies, heeng (asafoetida) and dry pudina powder. Let the onions turn brown. Add the kheel and pre-roasted peanuts and stir for 5 minutes. Add salt as desired.
Best eaten fresh, but can be stored for a few days in an air tight container.
A quick trip to the supermarket with both kids in tow was the highlight of the day. I hadn’t been too chirpy all day and was on the verge of copping out, but Aadyaa insisted we go and Udai tagged along as well. Busybees that they are, both of them wanted to actively participate. Aadyaa clambered onto the shopping cart and I was supposed to pick stuff off the shelf and hand it to her and then she put things into the cart. We didn’t have a shopping list today, so Udai was running around finding the stuff I needed as and when I remembered it.
Fortunately, we know the layout of Needs Gourmet in Vatika City by now. So we know the cereals come first, then the jams and peanut butter stuff, then the namkeens, then the biscuits, then the boring stuff (aata, sugar, besan, dals, oil, etc), then soaps and cosmetics (which we never buy from here), then the noodles and pasta, then the drinks and finally the refrigerated stuff like cheese and butter. I was amazed to find Udai remembered where to get what from, even though he isn’t a regular on this jaunt since we shop mostly while he is in school.
What I love about shopping with the kids is how much they observe and their unending curiosity! Do we need this mumma, do we need that? Why can’t we buy that? Do you have enough money? Why have they packed so many packs in a bigger pack? When something is free with something else, what does it mean? Do we have this at home? Yes? then we don’t need to pick this up, right? And so on and so forth. (All those questions were actually asked today, not making this up!)
It is absolutely thrilling to pick stuff from the cart and put it on the billing counter. Aadyaa did all of that for me today. I keep wondering how excited they would be to see a standard Walmart type of set up where the moving conveyor belt system operates!
Udai also commented on how expensive he thought things are. He was genuinely shocked at the total and much amused by the length of the piece of paper that the little machine spat out, the bill! It set the stage for a discussion on food costs, why food must not be wasted, how processed food costs more and why it is good to buy as much as we need, not stock months and months ahead. On the ride back, he read every item on the bill aloud. His tone made it clear which were his favorites and which were of no interest to him.
Helping with the shopping means the kids know roughly what’s in stock, what ingredients are needed for what, etc. It also means they’ve picked up what they sort of like (the no junk food rule is sacrosanct at our place though, and exceptions can only be picked up by parents!). Consequently, they have a healthy interest in cooking and make good little sous chefs! Aadyaa helped out with the chicken tonight, for instance. To top it all, they love to eat what they bought and cooked, so mealtimes are effortless too 🙂 I wish I had taken a pic of Aadyaa gobbling up the chicken….