Fennel flavoured corn and peas rice : or how NOT to buy books for kids!


“Appa, you’re a baggurl (bad girl), baggurl appa, baggurl appa,” and the normally placid five year old hurls herself at the dad, hitting him with her small arms, sobbing as she does so!

We are shocked – Appa (her dad), is her favourite and she has just greeted him with many hugs and kisses as he came back from a trip out of town. Arch (that’s the little girl in question) has just learnt to read and is devouring books like they’re going out of fashion (she still is , by the way!). Her Appa has bought her a fairy tale book at the airport and as soon as the effusive greeting is done, she runs off to her room with the book.

Two hours later and we see a little tornado coming out of the room and hurling herself at her dad! We are shocked but manage to calm her down in a while. The book that her dad has picked up for her is Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Brave Tin Soldier”. Having always been a fan of  schoolboy adventure stories and later, of Westerns, my poor husband had no idea of how gory fairy tales could actually be and picked up a book that had pretty pictures for the daughter!

But as with a lot of Anderson’s stories of horror (just think of Hansel and Gretel being abandoned by the dad in the forest!), this one has a horrible ending – the tin soldier falls into the fire and melts into a lump of tin at the end. This was Arch’s first introduction to death/destruction in her little life and she was devastated – and angry with the dad for buying her a horrible book!

Much coaxing and cajoling and re-inventing of the story (the writer was telling lies, baby!) happened before she was pacified! Till she learned to read, all of us used to read out aloud to her and always changed sad endings to happy endings. Learning how to read and actually getting all of this firsthand, as it were, without the buffer of a parent “re-inventing” the story, the tender-hearted creature had to go through her first rites of passage…

There was another little story that we used to read out to her – about a girl called Pippa and a little fish – the baby of another big one which is caught. Obviously, we couldn’t leave it at that so the story was always modified to the baby fish pleading with the fisherman to let his “amma” go and has a happy ending with the fish swimming away with the mummy fish and wagging its tail to say bye to our heroine on the shore!

Also, I took good care to hide the book away as soon as she learnt to read – she would have been broken hearted if she’d ever read the real story on her own!

And thus I rest my case for banning most of Anderson’s work and a whole load of other “fairy” (really???!) tales in the interests of our gentle readers!

Instead, I recommend a dose good, “healthy”, happy ending stories like our dish for today… guaranteed to make you happy in ten minutes flat (that’s how much time it takes to cook it!!

 FENNEL FLAVOURED CORN AND PEAS RICE/rice with peas and corn flavoured with saunf

  • Leftover cooked rice – 2 cups
  • Boiled peas – 1/2 cup
  • Boiled sweet corn – 1/2 cup
  • Capsicum/bell pepper – chopped – 1/2 cup
  • Sliced onions – 1/2 cup
  • Garlic – minced – 2 cloves – optional
  • Green chilies  – minced – 1 or 2
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tsp – crushed slightly
  • Peppercorns – crushed – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Mint and sliced tomatoes – to garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the saunf/fennel seeds and saute for a few seconds.

Add onions, garlic and green chilies and fry till onions are pink.

Add the peas, corn, salt, jeera powder, pepper and garam masala. Mix well.

Cover and cook on a low flame for 3-4  minutes. Add rice, stir through and take off the heat. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Mix again, garnish with mint and sliced tomatoes and serve.

No one is going to beat you up! And even your five-year old may take to cooking!