Summer. A season not many appreciate or look forward to. Especially if it is anything like the summer one experiences in many parts of India. I, on the other hand, have a different story to tell.
For as far back as I can remember, I always looked forward to summer. The heat didn’t dampen my spirits. The train journey to my grandparents home, the love of mangoes and lychees, the day and night fun with cousins, the self-declared little or no studying just made it my favorite season of the year!
Every summer vacation started with a long train journey to visit my grandparents. A journey where getting the window seat was of utmost importance, almost like my life in the next 24 hours depended on it. Well, it almost was. With a constant gaze outside the window at surroundings that kept changing every kilometer or less, I soaked in the countryside of India. A journey where I could peek into the daily lives of many, often left wondering what their story was… Where little children played fearlessly beside the train tracks.. Where hawkers that came every few minutes made the journey seem worthwhile.
Mom always prepared meals for the train, so we never got to eat the meals sold onboard. I wasn’t too happy about it then. It was not until recently that I ate the meals served on the train. The verdict: A deep appreciation of my Mom’s efforts in preparing food for the entire family!
Summer vacation was synonymous to abundance of mangoes followed by lychees, all from my grandparents’ orchard. We would get boxes (or petis as they are called in the local dialect) of mangoes and lychees as they came in season – sheer bliss!
Apart from the freshest seasonal produce, we were privileged to have some of the best home cooked meals. My grandmother (or Mai as we called her) was one of the best cooks I have ever known. Her cooking philosophy involved using different types of spices but in the right balance. Every spice in her spice box came with a purpose and it was through the magic in her fingers that she would use them in the right place and the right proportion to transform something extremely simple to exemplary.
One of my favorite things that Mai prepared was “Teesi”. Teesi is traditionally had in Bihar. It is prepared by dry-roasting brown flax seeds together with some spices and stored as a powder. It is usually prepared and stored in airtight bottles to prevent moisture from coming in. We always packed Teesi on the way back home and enjoyed it for the next 2-3 months.
Indian Spiced Flaxseed Powder or Teesi:
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Flax seeds: 1 cup
Dried bay leaves: 3 small
Dry red chillies: 4 (Use more if you like)
Coriander seeds: 2 tablespoons
Salt: 1/3 tsp (adjust to taste)
How I Did it:
Heat a pan. On slow heat, Dry roast each of the ingredients above (except salt) separately. The ingredients should be roasted separately as the roasting time for each ingredient varies. In order to avoid any burning, make sure you stir continuously during the roasting process.
Flax seeds when done start to sputter. Be careful and make sure the heat is slow and the flax seeds don’t get burnt.
Once all the ingredients are roasted, allow them to cool.
When the ingredients have cooled off, combine all the ingredients together with the salt and dry grind it to a coarse powder using the dry grinder / miller attachment of your food processor.
Store in an air tight jar at room temperature. Teesi is usually had as a condiment with your regular meal or added to natural yoghurt (dahi) to make it more flavorful. You can simply add it to your regular Dal and Rice for adding flavor to an otherwise regular meal. The usual serving of Teesi is about 2 tablespoons. Having said that, food is a personal experience and has to be had in the way that one enjoys it. So, go on and enjoy this simple, healthy and flavorful condiment in the way you like it.