One of the most versatile items that can be found in most Indian kitchens is poha or beaten/flattened rice. At least all the states where rice is a staple uses poha extensively as breakfast food. It is not only used for cooking quick meals, but also for making crunchy snacks and delicious sweets. It can be prepared in literally two minutes and is healthy to boot, unlike the now discredited brand of noodles, with its harmful additives and preservatives.
Poha is the preferred breakfast in many states, especially Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and parts of Uttar Pradesh, not to speak of the southern states. Generations of men and women have grown up on a breakfast of kande pohe and aloo pohe and swear by it. No matter what the recipe is, it can be whipped up in a jiffy as it only requires minimal cooking.
Poha is a form of rice without the hassle of cooking. While still in the paddy stage, it is parboiled and then pounded into flakes before being de-husked. It is in no way inferior to the packed cereals that cost a bomb and are loaded with sugar and additives. Though convenient, the breakfast cereals remain positively unhealthy despite claims to the contrary by the MNCs marketing them.
In fact, poha can be eaten much like cornflakes. Just dry roast the thick variety of poha till it turns crisp and store it after cooling. A handful of this added to milk with some honey, fruits or raisins and nuts makes a nutritious and delicious breakfast.
Or to make another variant, you can wash and soak it in milk, add some jaggery and cardamom, mix it well with hand to blend everything. No cooking!
I make mixed poha, much like mixed rice of lemon, tamarind or coconut. Just replace cooked rice with soaked and drained poha.
And chiwda! That great low calorie snack that graces the table during Diwali just as much as it is the lifesaver to a hungry teen! You can make instant bhel with roasted poha, by adding chopped onions, tomatoes, chillies, chutneys and coriander. I remember this roadside snack during a visit to Bhagalpur.
Oh, there are so many wonderful recipes that can be made with this magic ingredient.
For now, I am sharing the recipe for Lemon Poha.
Poha 1 ½ cup (thick variety/jada poha)
Groundnuts – 2 tbsp
Cashews – 5-6 broken
Green chillies – 2 (cut into small pieces)
Grated ginger – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
Urad dal – ½ tsp
Chana dal 1 tsp
Hing 1 large pinch
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp (Preferably sesame/til oil, but any oil is fine)
Wash poha and soak it for a few minutes. Drain well and let it remain in a colander*.
In the meanwhile prepare the tempering. Heat oil in a kadhai, first roast cashews and remove. Then add groundnuts and fry till they change colour slightly.
Add mustard and the dals. By the time the mustard crackles, the groundnuts would be fried and the dals would have turned golden brown. Now add hing, turmeric, green chillies, grated ginger and curry leaves in this order. Stir for a minute and switch off stove.
Let it cool down. Now add salt and lemon juice and mix with the tempering. This makes for even mixing of spices.
Finally mix the poha and adjust salt. Garnish with cashews. Enjoy!
*Note: The poha should be just well soaked and moist. Squeeze out the water after soaking for five minutes and leave it to become soft but not soggy or lumpy.
The columnist is your regular granny next door. She loves cooking, feeding friends and family, reading, writing and telling tales. Children’s stories are her favourites. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp and has adapted herself well to the changing times. In fact, you could call her Gadget Granny Seeta.
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