Harvesting good health

Srivardhan and Uma bring the goodness of millets to your table

September 13, 2016 02:53 pm | Updated September 22, 2016 07:04 pm IST

The ingredients that go into the muesli

The ingredients that go into the muesli

The huge room at the Greenlight Foods has a faint flavour of a surgical ward. Gloves and surgical caps are de rigueur. Men and women in overcoats are busily measuring out various items. Two women are slicing almonds. Big machines hug the corners. It’s spick and span; even the floor is clean enough to eat from. Srivardhan Sethuram and his wife Uma do not compromise on hygiene. “We’re working with food,” they exclaim.

Srivardhan and Uma are the people behind the Fable Cookies brand. Each box of Fable Cookies has a Panchatantra tale on it and the cookies inside are shaped like the animal characters of that particular tale. The animal cookies were Uma’s idea and Srivardhan jumped at it. “I remember being brought up on a diet of Panchatantra stories,” he smiles. “So I thought this would be a nice way to tie up the stories and the cookies.” They have specific moulds and machines for the cookies but it is still “a cumbersome process,” says Uma. “The cookies can be made only in small batches.”

Srivardhan’s original idea was to make cold-pressed virgin coconut oil or milk. “The idea was to go with something grown locally. When researching, I found that Coimbatore, Tiruppur and surrounding districts were the largest coconut growing areas in the world. Not Sri Lanka, not Kerala. But eventually I dropped this idea. The next big thing in terms of locally grown is millets. So we started using millets.”

They started with making nutrition bars for the Nilgiris chain but wanted to make something unique and different that could be sold under their own brand. Fable Cookies was the first product. More recently, they launched the Monsoon Harvest brand of millet muesli. Uma had been making her own muesli at home and they decided to test the response at the Gourmet Bazaar in July. “I thought there wouldn’t be too many takers. After all, most people prefer a traditional breakfast. I do myself,” smiles Srivardhan. Many youngsters were hesitant at first, says Uma. But once they tasted it, they loved the burst of flavours. For now, Monsoon Harvest’s Toasted Millet Muesli has two flavours: Cranberry Almond and Cacao Nibs. They hope to introduce another three flavours at least, beginning with a quinoa, blueberries and pecan mix next.

Srivardhan and Uma walk me through the process. First comes the painstaking measurement of all the ingredients: oats, ragi, kambu, palm jaggery syrup, honey, flax seeds, cranberries, cacao nibs, etc. Then the oats, ragi, kambu, flax seeds are all mixed in a something that looks like a heavy-duty grinder. Once well mixed, they are spread in trays — with one tray being reserved for almonds — and sent into an oven that can comfortably hold three people. Every 10 minutes, the trays are taken out and the mix is turned over so that it is roasted evenly. The nuts, fruits and cacao nibs are added separately. “If we mix everything together, we can’t be certain that every packet will get an even share. So we do it this way though it is time consuming,” says Uma.

Murali, a food technologist by training, helps them figure out exactly what needs to go in to each item. Apart from the Nilgiris Store, they also supply energy bars to a Hyderabad-based company that offers diet plans for individuals. They had specific instructions, says Srivardhan. “Each bar must have so much protein, so much sugar, etc. Murali helped break that down into ingredients and quantities.”

Why do they call it toasted millet muesli? Actually, muesli means something uncooked or raw, explains Srivardhan, and granola means baked or roasted. “But here everyone associates granola with the energy bars. So we decided to go with toasted millet muesli.” He offers a bit of millet-related info: A millet (which is basically a seed) has a natural coating of oil. Over a period of time — around three months — this goes rancid. “We use a natural anti-oxidant like oil of rosemary to help preserve the muesli.”

The raw material comes from many places. The millets are sourced locally — “all they need is a good wash,” says Uma — as are the coconut, honey and palm jaggery. The cacao nibs are from Pollachi. The oats come from a wholesaler in Mumbai; the almonds, cranberries and flax seeds from another in Delhi. “Initially we tried to buy almond flakes but the quality was not good. It was simpler to buy the whole almonds and cut it ourselves,” says Srivardhan.

Srivardhan and Uma feel it is time people started knowing millets for the powerhouses that they are. So they like to take stalls in exhibitions, interact with customers, and encourage them to taste the muesli. “Once they taste it, most people love it. And that’s all we want,” they say.

For more information, visit www.greenlightfoods.com

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