Besides candies, chocolates, ice cream, ice pops, and other sugary snacks there were healthy snacks like boiled peanuts & Palmyra sprouts, roasted corncobs, and locally grown fresh berries & fruits sold in our school canteen. We all children relished them as much as any other snacks like puffs, samosa, or chips during intervals or at the time of dispersal.
It was a delightful experience for most of the children to savor the delicious treats shown above, but amla was so special that it makes the water sweet when we drink a glass of water immediately after chewing amla. It would make anyone salivate while chewing amla with salt & idli powder.
Amla (Indian gooseberry) has a specific reference in our school text books. It was mentioned as the fruit of immortality in our ancient literature and history. Here I like to share the brief history of an old woman, Avvaiyar, lived in south India during the third century BC cited in our text books. She was a nomadic who traveled the length & breadth of south India, an unpretentious peacemaker earned the respects of Chera, Chola & Pandya kings, and an outstanding poetess narrated events & emotions with no exaggeration. This worldly-wise poetess and the munificent king Adhiyamaan were notable friends mentioned in Sangam Tamil literature. When she was invited to visit the armory of neighboring king Tondaimaan, she rendered a song praising his weaponry as well as Adhiyamaan’s gallantry, thereby she precluded a war between them. So Adhiyamaan offered the fruit of immortality, nellikani (amla) the rarest fruit at that time, to Avvaiyar instead of partaking it by himself, as he wanted her to live longer and contribute to peace in the entire region through her poems. Eventually she lived longer and wrote several poems, but the mighty king Adhiyamaan died unexpectedly in a battle field. Unable to bear the loss of her patron she wrote heart-wrenching verses (Purananuru: 231, 232 & 235) which we could very well relate even today. It is so exciting to read the poems written by such a versatile woman lived 2200 years ago.
Nowadays children don’t enjoy the blend of sweet, sour & astringent flavors of amla fruit. Hence parents used to give their children a spoonful of Chyawanprash, an Ayurvedic preparatory made of amla, to boost their immunity particularly during monsoon. Now I have prepared a simple sweet relish as good as Chyawanprash with commonly used spices at home. It is preferred to take a spoonful of amla relish every morning to enjoy the benefits of amla. You may read the benefits of amla here and also find out how amla helps fight against cancer here.
The recipe for amla relish (aka nellikai legiyam) is as below:
- 19 amla (nellikai)
- 1 cup of powdered jaggery*
- ½ tsp of red chilli powder*
- 2″ dried ginger
- 1″ cinnamon
- 2 cardamom
* You may adjust the quantity of jaggery & chilli powder according to the tartness of amla, for some extremely tangy amla you may have to use 2 cups of jaggery also.
Mise en place:
- Wash & steam amla for 5 minutes.
- Remove the seeds when they cooled down.
- Grind them into a smooth paste and leave aside.
- Meanwhile prepare the spice powder as shown below.
Amla relish preparation:
- Heat a non-stick pan in medium flame.
- Add amla paste, jaggery powder & chilli powder into the pan.
- Mix them well using a wooden spatula and keep stirring until coagulated.
- Now add spice powder and mix well.
- Remove from flame and amla relish is ready now.
- Transfer it to a clean glass or ceramic container when cooled down.
- Amla relish can be refrigerated for up to 15 days.
- Serve with chappathi, poori, bread as shown below.
- You can even make paratha, poli or modhagam using this relish as filling.