We often receive emails from our readers, asking doubts about their experiments with sustainable living. So, here’s a section dedicated to you – TBI’s ‘Green Influencers’ where we reach out to influencers and ask them about their sustainable journey.
It’s not often that you hear of people uprooting their city life to become bakers living in simple, rustic Himalayan villages. Namita Tewary, 48, however, is a delightful anomaly. Four years ago, she packed her bags, left Haldwani, and moved to a quaint village called Sasbani near Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand. And she has successfully managed to carve out an eco-conscious and sustainable life there.
“At 44, adapting to life in the hills, being a part of the village community, and learning to grow the crops is adventurous. Nature is calming, nature is healing, nature inspires and motivates. We are attempting to live a life more sustainable and less wasteful. I believe that reverence for nature leads to a peaceful, balanced and fulfilling existence,” says Tewary when we asked her what inspired her to move to the hills.
Tewary has been baking for 20 years now. She says she inherited the love for baking from her father. However, the choice of substituting regular ingredients with healthy ones in her baking was hers alone. It was the infinite possibilities of creating healthy bakes with just a few basic ingredients, the play of tastes and textures, and the happiness of creating edible goodness that spurred her on.
Tell us about your favourite healthy flours for baking and the nutritional value they add to the bakes?
“I love baking with local flours,” answers Tewary.
She says Madua (the local term for Ragi or finger millet) is a staple of the people of the hills. And that their robust health and longevity can be attributed to this super grain, without a doubt. She says Madua is highly nutritious; it is rich in calcium, iron, and protein. It is gluten-free and a non acid-forming food. It is also the least allergenic and most digestible grains available. “I add it to cakes, bread, cookies, brownies and crackers,” she shares.
She also uses amaranth flour – an ancient grain and a pseudocereal that is rich in fibre, protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron as well as truckloads antioxidants. “Amaranth flour, again, is excellent for gluten-free bakes,” she quips.
Another nutrient-dense gluten-free flour that she uses regularly is cornmeal. It is a good source of protein and essential amino acids. It is also a rich source of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin K. She says it lends a great texture to bread, cookies and cakes.
For brownies, pie crusts and cakes, Tewary likes to use buckwheat flour since it is also a nutrient-rich, gluten-free flour with a high fibre content. In case she wants a low fat variant, she opts for water chestnut flour.
Apart from healthy flours, Tewary uses local fruits, berries, herbs, greens, nuts and seeds in her bakes. “I have baked bread with nettle (a kind of herb), cakes with hisaalu (Golden Himalayan Raspberry), crackers with homegrown herbs, brownies with chestnut puree, crackers with seeds and herbs, marmalade and jams with local fruits such as the Himalayan lime, plum, apricot, pear, kiwi and apples. The fresh, seasonal and local ingredients literally create magic without compromising on health,” she shares.
How do people respond to the fact that your products are made of healthy alternatives?
She says that at first they aren’t able to believe how good they taste and then can’t stop applauding and admiring the freshness of the bakes. The fact that what they’re eating is healthy makes a lot of difference. They indulge without an iota of guilt.
Tewary closes the conversation on the note: “To know that a bake is free of additives, artificial flavours, preservatives, and processed ingredients and is made using only pure, fresh and healthy ingredients, is an unrivalled feeling.”
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)