I have always wondered what is it in rajgira that makes it such a favourite on days of fasting? Well, it is botanically a ‘non-cereal’. So that is one qualification. Secondly, it has enormous nutrition that few know about.
Another thing that intrigues me is the name. I have found that it is not known how and when this grain came to exist in India but in times gone, hard working farmers took to this grain immensely for its great powers and felt grateful to God for its benefits. They named it ramdana (God’s grain) and rajgira (royal grain). The English word is amaranth grain. The origin of the word amaranth is Sanskrit and believe it or not, it means, ‘deathless’. So, now as you read on, believe that rajgira will never fade into oblivion!
It is easy to buy rajgira in grain form and flour form. The grains are very light both in colour and weight! Once puffed these are best made into kheer or chikki. The flour is versatile and can be kneaded and made into paranthas, puris, or converted into sheera (halwa). I also like to substitute besan with rajgira in a kadhi once in a while, just for the sake of variety in taste and flavour.
It is no surprise that rajgira chikki is counted as one of the tastiest and healthiest of chikkis. I like it in a flat form rather than laddoos as they are a little messy to eat. So the next time you just bite into a simple light rajgira chikki know that besides protein, you are also getting a good source of dietary fibre and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and especially manganese. Rajgira is rich in lysine, the one essential amino acid that is hard to find in vegetable protein sources. What is good too is that when you combine rajgira with another grain like corn you end up with an amino acid balance which is richer than even meat and milk. It makes enormous nutritional sense therefore to use this super non-cereal on fasting days. Especially since they make a low calorie snack far better than the puris and halwas. Try it in a lovely idli recipe given here.
Rajgira aur Sama ki Idli: Soak one cup sifted rajgira atta, half cup kuttu and half cup sama in six cups of buttermilk for four to five hours. Add one teaspoon of green chilli paste, four to five crushed black peppercorns, rock salt to taste and mix well. Boil sufficient water in an idli steamer. Grease the dents in the idli stand, pour the batter into each dent till half full. Place the stand in the steamer and steam for fifteen minutes. Serve hot with coconut chutney.