A chef in Milan shares the simple recipe from his Sicilian childhood that he has been craving while in lockdown.
I started cooking when I was 12 years old for a very simple reason – the joy people would share over a good meal was unmatched and I just wanted to add to that emotion. Today, the situation we are in reminds me of why I started to cook before it became my business and my passion changed to my profession.
While we cannot sit and eat together today, in the digitised world we live in we can still cook together and share our meals by having conversations around them. It is important to keep our spirits alive while we are isolated at home and to find joy in our daily lives and meals which otherwise can be monotonous.
Professionally, this is the toughest time I have seen in my life. Like many of us in the hospitality industry, I have realised the only way to cope is to cook endlessly and to connect with friends and other creators to see how they are coping and how food is a part of this journey.
I started an Instagram live series called #MorningsWithGoila which is all about quick kitchen hacks, one-pot meals, cooking with a few basic ingredients and chatting with fellow chefs, friends and creators and figuring out how they are making their days under lockdown happier.
It has been more than two weeks under lockdown and the most rooted discussions have not been about how fancy our plates are or how the food on them looks. The conversations tend to be more like this:
“Did that plate fill your belly?”
“I hope you’re not starving.”
“I hope what’s on your plate is satisfying.”
“Do you need my help in some way?”
Isn’t this what life is all about? To be thankful for what we still have, to have food to fill our bellies and to have our loved ones beside us. We ought to come out of this not broken but more learned. I would urge you to use this time to rewire yourself if you need to, or to take a much-needed pause. Cooking is one way to do just that. It allows you to connect with yourself.
For people cooking at home, I would say it does not matter if you are a first-time cook or an expert, food has always been a necessity but when you start cooking to share meals with your community, it can be like music or mediation, depending on the occasion. There is a certain romance in cooking simple earthy dishes. I have been dishing out a lot of non-fussy, one-pot meals at home – everything from a simple dal khichdi to a rajgira sheera, made from the seeds of the amaranth plant.
Food reminds me of what is good with this world and it has the power to carry memories in a bowl. There is a lot of nostalgia especially when you are cooking at home or following recipes that remind you of home.
Here is a quick and simple recipe of rajgira sheera (a dessert made from amaranth flour, sugar, and milk) with ghee-roasted bananas that you can make in 20 minutes when you are craving a dessert. You can also follow this recipe with ragi (finger millet) or atta (wheat flour).
I had first cooked rajgira sheera for my girlfriend on her birthday while we were away from home and I could not bake a cake for her or find one. I managed to whip up this dessert with the ingredients available to me.
For a special touch, I still remember that I moulded the rajgira sheera like a cake and arranged the bananas on top like icing!
1 cup rajgira atta (amaranth flour) – rajgira atta can be substituted with finger millet or wheat flour
¼ cup mixed and chopped dried fruits and nuts
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar or jaggery + 2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cardamom powder
¼ cup ghee + 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1. Heat ¼ cup of ghee in a pan and then add the rajgira atta. Fry on low heat until it turns brown. Make sure you’re stirring the mixture continuously.
2. Once roasted add milk. Bring the milk to a boil and then simmer it until all the milk is absorbed.
3. Now add ½ a cup of jaggery or sugar and cook it until the halwa (halva) is fully cooked and light brown and it starts to leave ghee.
4. Add 1 tsp of cardamom powder and mix well.
5. Slice the bananas and coat them with 2tbsp of sugar.
6. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a flat pan and add the dried fruits and nuts, roasting them until they are light brown. Add the sugar-coated bananas and grill them on both sides and lightly toss them with the dried fruits.
7. Serve the hot rajgira sheera with a topping of ghee roasted bananas and nuts.
Recipe courtesy of Saransh Goila