Just as seasons work their changes on nature, so, too, do they on the human body.
The monsoon month of Karkadakam has always been associated with lack and privation, when food supplies run low, work comes in trickles and life goes into slow motion. But the one saving grace of the season is people's proclivity for nurturing their bodies and keeping themselves rejuvenated for another year by treating themselves to special gruels, herbal and medicinal concoctions. The mother of all such gruels is the marunnu kanji, or rice gruel with medicinal plants and herbs.
Karkidakam is the time when the body prepares itself for a shift from the summer heat to the cold and damp of the wet season. It’s during this time that the marunnu kanji assumes importance. Therefore, a dish of the Karkadaka special kanji consists of a mix of njavara (red rice), medicinal extracts, spices and coconut. All these ingredients are cooked together to make one of the tastiest dishes ever turned by Malayalis during Karkadakam. Though the basic ingredients are the same, time has brought about changes in the way the bowl of health is cooked.
Njavara is the basic ingredient. It’s in fact, sweet, but with a tinge of astringency to it. It’s easy on the tummy and digests easily. A fine body-builder, njavara boots teeth and bone health and helps retain a youthful frame. Its rich bran content is high on fiber. Whatever one adds to njavara, like for example, methi (uluva), jeera and muthira (horse gram) only enhances its health potential.
The benefits of oushadha (medicinal) kanji:
• Boosts energy and rejuvenates the body
• Helps promote digestion
• Good for bowel movement
• Removes fatigue and weariness
Njavara recipe and measure for five:
300 gm njavara rice
50 gm methi (uluva)
50 gm horsegram
50 gm green gram
20 gm aasali (water cress)
Inthuppu or rock salt (as required)
Half a coconut
1 kakkinu kaya (organic African Dream herb)
10 gm jeera
2 tsp ghee
Ingredients for medicinal extract:
2 stalks mukkutti (little tree plant)
2 stalks cherula (mountain knot grass)
2 stalks kaiyunni (bhringa)
The leaves are to be washed well, mashed well and their juice extracted
If the leaves are not accessible to those outside the state, the kanji can be prepared without them
For medicinal powder
Aasali (water cress)
Kurunthotti or sida root
Uzhinja (balloon vine)
Equal quantities of all the herbal plants are to be dried and powdered. One spoonful of the powder is to be mixed in coconut milk and added to the kanji. All the herbs named can be bought from shops selling ayurveda products.
How to prepare the kanji:
Soak kakkinu kaya overnight. Take out the white kernel the next morning and grind it along with the coconut or pulp it along with water and use the clear juice.
Thoroughly wash the njavara, aasali (water cress), methi, horse gram and green gram and keep them soaked in clean water. Unlike the usual rice, njavara takes longer to cook and hence it is to be kept soaked for at least six hours. The soaked mix can then be cooked in an earthen pot or pressure-cooked. Add rock salt once the rice is cooked thoroughly. Extract coconut milk and mix in the medicinal powders. Add in the kakkinu kaya mix and keep the rice boiling. Now it’s time to mix in a teaspoon of the extract from mukkutti, cherula and kaiyunni.
Heat the ghee in a pan and add in jeera and shallots and a few curry leaves. Season them well and add to the kanji. While treating yourself to the medicinal gruel, it's vital to keep away from meat, fish and eggs. The medicinal kanji can be had on alternate days like for example on these days 1...3…5…7...21.
Treat yourself to this medicinal potion and watch out for its benefits.
However, here's a word of caution: Pregnant women are advised not to have this medicinal kanji.