Monday, 21 January 2013

No flash in the pan

Flaxseed/ Javas Chutney  (जवसाची चटणी) 

“Mum- the Gabriel Method says flaxseeds are great for weightloss …” says the daughter.

“ Rolled oat museli with flaxseed clusters” declaims the box of cereal.

“Nine-grain bread enriched with flaxseed and quinoa” blazoned on the wrap of our daily bread.

“Chew 1 tsp of flaxseed with every meal” reads a dietitian’s advice to the husband. 

Flaxseed is the new super food, staring us in the face all the time, like scores of new foods in the lime light that are actually traditionally common choices.

It’s interesting- and sometimes annoying- how the health benefits of long recognised foods are re-recognised and promoted. We don’t need this commodification and gimmickry. Superfoods like flaxseeds, olive oil, avocado, peanuts and the likes have been part of human diets and cuisines for ages.

Take, flaxseeds for instance. It was a fixture in the pantry for my grandmother and mother and mother-in-law. Known as ‘javas’ or ‘alshi’, it was made into chutneys, added a crunch to nutritious winter laddus, its pods were boiled into a potion for stubborn coughs and…

I jog my memory for more uses - and am stopped short by an epiphany. The fact that I am struggling to recall indicates the disuse. I haven’t really thought of, or cooked with flaxseeds in years.  So why am I disparaging the attention and recognition they are receiving as ‘flash in the pan’ fads!

We do need these re-discoveries - for those, like me, that have forgotten them, for those who need to be re-educated, for those who never knew about them, for the younger generations and for posterity. As for whether the corporates will take advantage of these trends to fill their coffers, that’s a small trade-off for re-embracing and re-introducing these foods in our lives.

The grand dames in the family told us that flaxseeds are beneficial. Internet explicates further that flaxseeds are the highest plant source with omega 3 fatty acids and they are very high in lignans and mucilages (soluble fibre). It helps promote bone and cardio-vascular health, lowers cholesterol like statin drugs and helps maintain hormonal balance in women.

Here is a simple way to introduce flaxseeds into your diet. Make this simple chutney that goes with any staple like rice, bhakri (jowar or bajra), roti, phulkas, dosas, idlis or even bread. Pour a drop of olive oil if you must. You can even dust it over a cut salad, or mix it into a yoghurt raita.

The other day, I successfully used it as a substitute for eggs in a cake. Will post the recipe soon!

Flaxseed Chutney

1 cup flaxseeds
2-3 dry red chilies – or more
1-2 big cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp roasted peanuts (don’t bother skinning them)
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Salt to taste


Pick and clean the flaxseeds. Heat a pan and lightly dry roast the seeds and the chillies for a minute or so. Add the cumin and sesame seeds and roast for another few seconds. Remove from heat and add the desiccated coconut and mix well. Let the mixture cool.

Blitz the roasted mixture, peanuts, garlic and salt in a spice grinder.  Check the salt and the heat factor and adjust to taste.

Cool again as the mixture can get hot in the mixer. Store in an airtight jar. 

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