Monday, 28 January 2013

ANZAC Kheer!

Barley Kheer

Photos by Amruta Nargundkar

26th January 2013

Australia Day, Indian Republic Day

As I settle down to watch the morning news with a cup of tea, the hot topic for discussion on TV is the rising incidence of drinking and alcohol related violence on Australia Day in Australia.

If Australia Day is a celebration of our patriotism and national identity, the latest evidence suggests that we have a major problem on our hands. Research shows that more Australians get drunk and violent on Australia Day than on any other day of the year, says the panel.

Having a drink is often associated with being inherently Australian. You are un-Australian if you don’t drink. While most people celebrate in a safe and respectful way - many with a drink or two, it’s unfortunate that so many people think it is fashionable to binge drink on Australia Day.  Many get caught up in drunken aggressive behaviour and yet many get involved in accidents.
Others spend their Australia Day dealing with drunken idiots in hospitals or police lock-ups, or drunk drivers on our roads.

Is it just because the Australia Day weekend is the last long weekend before summer ends and people would like to let down their hair? And letting down one’s hair is always associated with drinking binges for many? Is the traditional barbecue inconceivable without the drinking? Is drinking an indispensable part of celebrations? Is it something that we can blame on the companies that manufacture alcohol and those that promote it so vigorously?
A public holiday on a festival or national day is meant to give you time to remember the reason for celebration, meet with like minded people and remember, redefine and relate the significance of these special occasions to our lives today…

Then we change channels and watch the Indian President address to the nation. Our rascally, irreverent hoots at his accented English gradually slowly dissipated, replaced by keen attention as the Rashtrapati candidly spoke about the recent tragedy in Delhi. His words made impact.

“It is time for the nation to reset its moral compass.”

 “The anxiety and restlessness of youth has to be channelized towards change with speed, dignity and order.”

And I remember Mother, who may well have spoken so.

When we were kids, Mother, a proud daughter of freedom fighter parents, always made something nice (and sweet) on national holidays.

“But this is not a festival like Diwali and Dasera”, we would say.  Mother would tell us these days were as significant, or perhaps more, as our traditional festivals, for they are more current and related to our immediate lives.

She would liken Dasera, celebrated to commemorate Ram’s victory over Ravan, the triumph of good over evil to the Indian Independence Day. Diwali marked the return of Ram and Sita to their kingdom, signifying the return of peace and sovereignty, quite like the Indian Republic Day.  In a few hundred years from now, Independence Day and Republic Day would also be observed like these two days. They will symbolise freedom from bondage of whatever is troubling the society at that time. They will entail a celebration of the establishment of the supreme law and governance of the land for the happiness and well being of the people of those times.

Some of this wisdom is recreated from memory and experience, for it must have been lost on us young kids.

Wow! We would think, as we fantasised how festivals would be celebrated in a futuristic society. Will they make sweets? Will they perform a puja? Will they buy new clothes and crackers?

As we settle down to watch the spectacular, larger than life celebrations at the Republic Day Parade on TV, the family asked “So what’s for lunch, Mum?”

I try to come up with a dish that would have elements of celebration and significance for both the countries so dear to us, one our 'janmabhoomi' and the other our 'karmabhoomi'. 

I think oats, coconut and brown sugar of the ANZAC biscuits that sustained diggers (troops) during the Great Wars. 

I remember the gavachi kheer, the wholesome sweet gruel made with wheat pearls and jaggery, a feast food in Marathwada.

I see oats or barley, coconut and jaggery. 

I say,  “ANZAC kheer!”

Barley Kheer

1 cup pearl barley
1 cup dates, chopped
½ cup chopped almonds
¾ cup fresh grated coconut (desiccated will do)
½ cup jaggery, grated (or sweetener)
1 tbsp poppy seeds, dry roasted
½ ts fennel seeds
½ tsp powdered cardamom
¼ tsp powdered nutmeg
Handful of chopped almonds to garnish
Handful of chopped dates to garnish
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp whole-wheat flour (atta)
2 cups full cream milk
Ghee to serve (optional)

Grind the coconut, roasted poppy seeds and fennel seeds together. Keep aside.

Wash and cook the pearl barley really soft with plenty of water. I pressure cooked it.

In a suitable heavy bottomed pan, melt the ghee and add the wheat flour and roast it well.  Remove into a small dish. Then to the same pot, add the cooked barley and some water to adjust the consistency. Add the coconut and poppy and fennel seeds ground together, the chopped dates, chopped almonds and some jaggery or sweetener to adjust the sweetness. When it comes to a boil, slowly mix in the roux or roasted atta. Add the milk and bring it back to a simmer. Adjust the consistency. Add the cardamom and nutmeg. Keep on adjusting the consistency till you get a thick creamy gruel.

Serve warm, garnished with some almonds and chopped dates and topped  with some melted ghee.

This kheer is like the gavhachi kheer made in Maharashtra and Karnataka. 


  1. That looks delicious and so healthy too. I don't know how the future generation will celebrate festivals and national holidays, I sure do hope that they change the way we think, ethically and morally.

    1. Thank you Anshie! Yes, I hope so to- and that's why we bloggers need to blog to spread the awareness! :)


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