Wednesday, December 12, 2018 | ePaper

Secret ingredients

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It’s something I have two-three glasses of in a day and it keeps the stomach in check,” says Mita Kapur, founder and CEO, Siyahi, and author of the food memoir, F-Word (HarperCollins, 2013). Found widely across the country, the tree is considered sacred among Hindus, and lends itself to a variety of preparations including the bela pana from Odisha, prepared on the Odia New Year. A mix of the fruit's pulp, milk, fresh cheese, sugar, cardamom and pepper, and sometimes a small amount of camphor, the ambrosia is diluted with water and offered to the gods before downing.
Aam panna, a raw mango cooler, is well-regarded for the stout defence it puts up against the intense Indian summer. Relished across India, raw mango which makes its way into chutneys and raitas, is not only heat-resistant but is also believed to have medicinal properties. But aam panna leads to a twist in the otherwise uncomplicated tale of cold foods: Why is raw mango a cooling agent when it is considered heat-inducing when ripe? "The nature and effect of the food change by the way it is treated," says Ayurveda expert BN Sinha.
Food changes its properties according to the way it is cooked and has differing effects on the body at different times of the day. Further, each body type as distinguished in Ayurveda - vata (wind), kapha (water) and pitta (fire) - will react differently to the food," he adds. "Almonds soaked overnight develop a thandi taseer or cooler properties but if you eat them dry, as we do in the winter, they are considered to have the opposite effect on the body. The technique of using the ingredient and the stage at which it is added to the dish need to be kept in mind," says Goela, adding, "My mother would order chaar magaz ke beej - essentially seeds of muskmelon, watermelon, cucumber and pumpkin and would grind them with almonds, khus khus (poppy seeds) and black pepper to make thandai, which is a summer cooler. The same ingredients, barring the seeds, were fried in ghee and given to us in winter for the opposite reason."
This theory extends to spices as well. While cinnamon, mustard and coriander seeds are avoided in summer, cardamom, fennel and cumin seeds are infused into drinks and dishes. Another spice, that can be found in most well-stocked department stores, is the tart sumac - ground drupes of the rhus tree, used extensively in the Middle East. Irani cafe SodaBottleOpenerWala's chef, Anahita Dhondy, first encountered the spice while in Dubai a few years ago. The spice is prescribed to those suffering from fluid loss. "It is used extensively in Iranian food so we thought of introducing a salad of vegetables stir-fried in garlic and sumac with a dash of lemon juice," she says.
Rice too, like many other ingredients, needs to be treated with caution. Uncooked rice is considered to be heat-inducing, while cooked rice is endorsed as cold food. High in minerals and easily digestible, rice is fermented into a kanji or gruel and consumed in the southern and eastern regions of India. In West Bengal, and its neighbours, Assam and Odisha, panta bhaat or fermented rice congee - cooked rice soaked overnight and flavoured with mustard oil, green chillies and lemon juice - is a popular dish. The residual water acquires a slight piquantness and is often mixed with salt before drinking to prevent heat strokes and stomach ulcers.
It is argued by some that fermented foods such as yoghurt, pickles and cheese should be avoided during the summer months. "This is a myth. Summer kills our appetite so it is essential that we eat foods that have high nutritional value. Fermentation enables the production of good bacteria and enzymes which further help absorb the nutrients we get from the food that we eat," says Devgan. Kurush Dalal recalls how his mother, Mumbai-based caterer, food writer and nutritionist Dr Katy Dalal would serve "brinjal that was heated on a fire, peeled, mashed and cooked with onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander and mixed with curd."
Down south, curd rice gains in popularity in summer. Made across homes in the region, Tamil Nadu's thayir sadam becomes Karnataka's mosaranna and Andhra Pradesh's dadyodanam. A simple mix of rice and yoghurt, it acquires its zing from a temper of urad dal, cumin seeds, curry leaves, green chillies and asafoetida. Sometimes, ginger is added.
Milk's offerings lend themselves to varied culinary uses across regions. Even the humble coagulated malai is a coolant and an indispensable component of many Indian desserts - ras malai, kulfi, malai pedha, among others. In some homes, like in Goela's, "malai was the prasad offered to the gods. Once the puja was over, the malai would either be added to the food cooked that day, or, sometimes, she would add khaand or bananas to it and keep it aside for the family. She rarely got a chance to distribute it as my sisters and I would polish it off," she says, with a laugh.
RECIPES
Kulkil Sarbath
Ingredients
4 tbsp - Basil seeds (soaked in water for 1 hour)
12 pieces - Lemon slices
60 ml - Lemon juice
120 ml - Sugar syrup
1 Green chilli, split
600 ml - Water and ice
Method:
* Shake all the ingredients and serve over ice. Serves two.

Kalai or Biuli Daal

Ingredients
200g - Urad dal
750 ml - Water
1 tsp - Salt
2 green chillies
1 tsp - Fennel seeds
8g - Ginger
1/2 tbsp - Ghee
1/2 tsp - Paanch phoran
1 dry red chilli
A pinch of hing
2 - Bay leaves
Method
* Wash the dal well, and set it aside. In a large pan, warm the water, add the dal, bay leaves, salt and green chillies.
* Boil till the dal is cooked. Before removing it from heat, add the fennel seeds and ginger. In a separate pan, heat ghee. When it melts, add the paanch phoran, dry red chilli and a pinch of hing. Then add the aromatic concoction to the dal. Serve hot.  n
(Paanch phoran: Equal parts fenugreek, nigella or kalonji, mustard and fennel seeds. Traditionally, a spice called radhuni is the fifth component, but it is difficult to find outside Bengal)

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