Here we have our Himalayan retreat breakfast of choice; filling, warming and packed with monkey flavas!!! There are monkeys galore up here in Kasar Devi (Uttarakand) and they bother our banana stash daily. We are looking out towards Nanda Devi (India’s highest mountain) and the giant massif’s of the Great Himalayas. Spring is just about settling in, meaning chilly nights and generally bright and warm days. Clouds have obscured the mountains most days, but even the most occasional of glimpses, is more than enough. We have hired small red brick cottage with a simple kitchen from a lovely local family. The cottage has quickly become a home away from home and we have been doing a little cooking and plenty of tea making.
Monkeys flock around our little garden, the mischievous macak variety, desperate to liberate you of any stray snacks that may be lurking around half opened windows and doors. There are also flocks of little and large birds, woodpeckers, small owls, vultures and eagles soar regularly overhead and a three local leopards pay regular visits to the village. They make a sound like sawing wood, an excited pant. This makes the evening trip to the outdoor toilet a bracing affair.
We have found a slice of beauty, a place where many hippies used to flock; folk like Herman Hesse, Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, to name a few, have graced this thin ridge in the 60’s and bar a few houses, not much has changed really. There are a couple of restaurants (the Rainbow Restaurant especially is brilliant, Hari makes the best pasta in India!) and a little cafe known as ‘Baba Cake‘ which is set in a corrugated metal shed and serves awesome South Indian coffee, local organic herbal infusions and lip smacking Indian nibbles.
We have met many like minded folk in this secluded corner and the local people are all exceptionally warm and full of smiles. Five days has just not been enough, but we have had time to do plenty of thinking and dreaming, way up here in the clouds and rare airs there is little else to occupy time.
It has been wonderful to take control over our diets again, and porridge, of course, plays a major role. We are British after all! We picked up a 2kg bag in Delhi of these precious grains and carted them all the way up here to find that a small local shop sells crates of healthy muesli and porridge oats. Who knew? All the way up here, close to the wild expanses of Nepal there would be such good western breakfast options!
One morning, watching the monkeys reek havoc on the neighbours in their own immutably comical way, I thought I’d dedicate a dish to them and stick as many of their favourite foods in it. The ones they like to pinch anyway (a monkey once stole the banana out of my sandwich one morning in Rishikesh!)
We would add a handful of flax/linseeds to this at home, but they are hard to come by here. Roasted peanuts are better because the taste is more intense and you can finish is off with coconut flakes or desiccated coconuts if you have some handy. We used green raisins here, but any tasty raisin will do. For richness and even greater nutritional pizazz, why not try a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil, stirred in just before serving. This is India, the cardamom is essential! Like many of the spices used in classic Indian cuisine, cardamom is not just a fragrant delight, but actually acts as medicine for the body; giving it a huge boost, especially needed in the morning. People over here actually chew cardamom pods, they are an acquired taste to most, but act as a super charged breath freshener and have been known to help smokers quit. Everytime you fancy a ciggy, pop in a pod instead. We even like to pop the crushed, black seeds into a pot of tea to jazz things up a little. So please chew your cardamom pods with gusto, don’t spit them out!
The Bits – For 2
Let’s keep it simple, handfuls only here
5 big handfuls porridge oats
2 big, ripe bananas (mashed with a fork)
1/2 tin coconut milk (or 200 ml non-dairy milk of choice)
4-6 green cardamom cloves (crushed a little, until cracked, in a pestle and mortar)
2 big handfuls roasted peanuts
1 big handful green raisins (or normal ones will do)
Sweetener of your choice (nothing white or processed please!)
Roughly 1/2 handful of grated coconut, more bananas, raisins and peanuts
(sprinkled over both bowls for an extra special touch)
Check which porridge oats you’re using and cook accordingly, as per the packet. It doesn’t really matter which ones you use, this monkey madness will be a delight. Take it easy, rushing porridge leads to a stick pan bottom, a gentle simmer is good.
Add all the ingredients to the pan, cover the oats with around 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a slow and gentle simmer, stirring regularly. Add more hot water to get your desired consistency, we like it thick and yet pourable. Not too gluey sticky. In less than ten minutes, you’ll have a yummy breakfast.
Piping hot, straight from the pan (using a spatula or something like it, to scrape out all that porridge goodness). Sprinkle over your toppings and munch way like happymonkeys!
Why Cardamom is a must!
Cardamom (or Elaichi) is native to Southern India and is well regarded for its medicinal properties, especially in the Indian holistic system of Ayurveda. There are such a huge list, I’ll summarise. Cardamom has many anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. They contain a long list of volatile essential oils and help greatly with digestion. They are a good source of minerals like manganese, iron and potassium, as well as copper. They are also high in vitamin C and riboflavin. A true gift from nature.