Keeping Cool This Summer With Kambu Koozhu
The pearl millet or kambu as it is called in Tamil Nadu is made into a simple, no-nonsense, cooling, filling and nutritious porridge with yoghurt, that is just perfect to beat the summers.
Pankaja Srinivasan 28 Feb 2023 8:06 AM GMT
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Outside the ancient Pattiswarar (Shiva) Temple in Perur, Coimbatore, Vijayalakshmi stands behind her cart doing brisk business on a hot day. Pitchers of water, a bowl of lemons, a bottle of sugar syrup and another of nannari (the root of the sarasaparilla herb) concentrate jostle for space on her cart. The nannari sherbat she makes is the perfect way to cool one’s hot self.
But, I am intrigued by the brightly coloured plastic bowls filled to the brim with several kinds of shiny red pickles. I recognise a lemon pickle and a gooseberry one.
I ask Vijayalakshmi what she does with those, and she whips up a tall glass of a concoction that looks like lassi to my untutored eyes with some grains in it. She adds a spoonful of the shiny red pickle to it (I choose the lemon pickle), stirs it in with a flourish, and says, “Try it”.
“It is kambu koozhu,” Vijayalakshmi tells me, and I am in love.
Kambu koozhu is cooked pearl millet or Bajra as it is known in North India, that is mixed with curd. It is the perfect summer fare which is both filling and cooling. I asked Vijayalakshmi for the recipe and she quickly rattled it off, in between serving her other customers.
Recipe of Kambu Koozhu
Wash the pearl millets thoroughly till the water runs clear. Keep it soaked for about a couple of hours (it is a tough millet to cook so soaking softens it).
After it has soaked, drain it and coarsely powder it in the mixer. For one portion of kambu, add five portions of water and cook in a heavy bottomed pan. Vijayalakshmi advised first partially cooking it in a pan before putting it in the pressure cooker if one is in a hurry.
Once it is cooked and cooled, mix well and add curd to it. “If you add curd and keep it overnight and wait till the following day to eat it, that would be sooooper,” Vijayalakshmi said, smacking her lips.
“And, before you serve it, add a spoonful of any pickle you have to it and mix well. You can also chop onions and green chillies finely and add to the koozhu,” she added.
Incidentally, one can garnish the koozhu with ginger, green chillies, raw mango and even groundnuts…Some add grated coconut too, and temper with mustard.
I came home, followed Vijayalakshmi’s recipe to the last word and my husband and I had the most delicious lunch of kambu koozhu. It was soothing, the onions added the crunch to it, and the lemon pickle I put into it just elevated the experience to another level.
Promoting millet farmers
The kambu I cooked with is grown in parts of Pudukottai and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu by farming collectives. It makes it special for me that the pearl millet is from my own state. It is sourced for me from these farming collectives by Sreedevi Lakshmikutty, a steering group member of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). She is also the co-founder of Bio Basics, which curates and markets organically grown grains and other foods.
“The farmers have been growing these millets for years on organic land. When they are not growing pearl millets, they are growing groundnuts and sesame. The pearl millets are drought resistant crops. And, it always makes sense to buy whole millets and not broken ones as the latter tend to carry some grit with them,” Sreedevi advised.
Kambu Koozhu is going to be keeping the Srinivasans cool this summer. How about you?