The cold makes me very grumpy. For the past month, I've been surviving on large amounts of caffeine and a steady stream of cussing. This morning was no different. The dog woke me up at six and no amount of pleading or shouting would stop him from barking in my ear. I could've slept through that too, but once his barks hit a certain hysterical note I know I had better get moving. I dressed, attached the leash to his collar, and led him out, all the time cursing inventively. Indeed, the very colourfulness of my tirade gave me a grim sort of satisfaction. Panda danced beside me, quite oblivious while I blistered his ears.
Somewhere after the third block though, I finally ran out of nasty things to say and was forced to look about for inspiration. The street was very foggy; it was like looking through an out-of-focus lens. Strange then, how it made the tar road look blacker, the green of the ferns greener. Panda's whiskers quivered when he spotted a labrador ambling past, while the lab's owner wished me a cheery good morning. And at around that moment, I finally tired of being grumpy.
I came home full of good resolutions and I cemented them with porridge. Now, I've been on a bit of a health kick lately, and it has become my habit to eat some sort of porridge for breakfast. Usually quick-cook oats in milk with a swirl of honey hits the spot, but today, I wanted something more. I dug out Amma's stash of daliya (broken wheat) and soaked a couple of tablespoonfuls in hot water. In half an hour the grains were soft and chewy. I cooked them down with milk, threw in a few chopped almonds and raisins, and added a whole bunch of spice: cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch of cardamom, and a grating of orange peel. I sweetened the whole mixture with jaggery and it was ready.
Now, I'm the first person to admit the stuff is distinctly homely looking. It's clumpy and the jaggery turns it an uninspiring beige. But oh, it smelled so good that the dog stopped worrying the sofa cushions to sit at the kitchen door and whine. And as I finally sat down to my bowlful, wreathed in fragrant steam, winter didn't seem too bad.
Broken wheat (daliya) porridge (1 serving)
Daliya: 1 1/2 tbsp
Water: 1/2 cup
Milk: 3/4 cup
Nutmeg: 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon: 1/4 tsp
Cardamom: 1/4 tsp
Jaggery: 1-2 tbsp
Almonds (blanched) : 5-6
Raisins: a small handful
Boil the water and pour it over the daliya. You can also cannily use the same water to blanch your almonds in. After a half-hour of soaking, transfer to a thick-bottomed pot and pour in the milk. Boil on medium-high heat, while stirring continuously till the mixture thickens. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Once it is sufficiently thick (remember, it will continue thickening even after it's been taken off the heat) turn off the stove and stir in the spices, jaggery, raisins and almonds. Grate a little orange peel over the porridge and serve, steaming.
Note: I used jaggery because that was what I had on hand. I'm trying to stay away from processed sugars these days and I was out of honey. But I imagine honey, or molasses, or even maple syrup will be very good too.