“When are you due? Will someone make you the “special food’’?”
These were the questions every single Indian lady asked me in the weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth. Inquiring when I was due was a natural question but the second one always stumped me.
What “special food” were they talking about? What was in it? No one could tell me exactly. “Oh, it’s just some spices…you know, heavy food to fortify you after birth.” That was the extent of the explanation.
I was nervous about not having this “special food,” especially since my mother-in-law lamented she couldn’t be in America to prepare it for me. Thankfully, my friend’s mom made it for me and surprised me with the “special food” after we got home from the hospital with our new bundle of joy.
The instructions were simple: eat some every single day for six weeks.
I peered inside the container. The golden powder had the texture of sand. One taste revealed sweetness with a hint of savory spice. What was in it???
I googled for days to no avail. It was hard to pinpoint the dish without a name. Of course, everyone (and by ‘everyone’ I mean all the Indians in my life) I asked could not remember what it was called.
On a whim I checked YouTube and found a lady making a “Punjabi dish for new moms.” It looked similar to what was inside the container. The name? Panjiri.
So what does Panjiri do and why is it vital in the post partum period? It’s an ancient recipe with roots in Ayurveda, the Indian science of using food as medicine.
Panjiri contains a mix of nuts that provide protein, fat and vitamins and minerals crucial for healing. The spices have anti-inflammatory properties while the whole wheat flour is the vehicle that ties it all together. Panjiri is also said to ward off post part depression and help moms produce more breastmilk. I was skeptical about this but, in my personal experience, panjiri really worked wonders to make me feel stronger and positive.
The mix is tasty, filling and, in my opinion, totally addictive. If you are a mommy-to-be or know someone who is I highly recommend you make this for them:
- 2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup of ghee
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of each:
- fennel seeds
- ajowain seeds
- cantaloupe seeds
- powdered ginger
1. Toast the almonds, cashews and seeds in a dry skillet over slow-medium heat. Let cool and grind in a coffee mill. Blend with powdered ginger and set aside.
2. Put the ghee in a large nonstick skillet and warm it over medium heat. Once it melts add the flour and stir. Continue stirring until the flour changes turns a deeper color. This process takes anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on your stove. The idea is not to make a roux, instead to “toast the flour.”
2. Immediately add brown sugar and stir. Add the mix of ground nuts and spices. Turn off heat, stir well and allow to cool.
3. Store in an airtight container with lid inside the refrigerator. A serving size is a half cup. It’s best enjoyed with a cup of chai tea.