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Showing posts from May, 2017

Summer Special: Fried Brinjal With Neem Leaves (Neem Begun)

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There is a neem tree outside my home in Delhi. Many a time I have watched people break off whole twigs and branches from it and take them away. The tree doesn’t mind. In a matter of days it throws up fresh shoots. Its masses of slim, elegant leaves remain as dense as ever.
Neem or margosa is quite a wonder plant. It’s got anti-bacterial properties and is said to be good for you in dozens of ways. It’s good for your skin, eye, teeth and hair. It’s supposed to offset diabetes too. Indeed, Ayurvedic medicine has been using neem for millennia. Every part of the tree — leaf, flower, seed, stem, bark — is supposed to be beneficial. 
Neem has an exceptionally bitter taste — which is kind of fitting since its use is chiefly medicinal! Cooking with neem seems like a culinary stretch, but in Bengal stir-fried neem leaves with brinjals, or Neem Begun as it is called in the local lingo, is quite a delicacy. The neem flower is also a prime ingredient of veppam poo rasam, a slightly bitter rasam, whi…

An Ode To Ghee

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Is ghee a superfood?
That’s what the wise folks who issue food diktats from time to time say. (Too much salt’s bad for you! No dammit, it couldbe good for you!) They say that far from being a lethal, artery-clogging, adipose-adding substance, ghee is actually great for your health. In fact, ghee’s place is now up there amongst such allegedly miraculous superfoods as quinoa, a├žai berries, chia seeds, kale and so on.
Now, I don’t know if ghee is a superfood. What I do know is that I have always considered it to be a SUPER food. Super as in yummy. Super as in oh-please-I-want-some-more!
So I like to have a little ghee with my steamed rice once or twice a week. Indeed, one of my all-time favourite comfort foods is plain ghee-bhaat — piping hot steamed basmati rice with a bit of good quality ghee and a pinch of salt. I’ve always felt guilty about this little indulgence of mine. But thanks to ghee’s recent elevation as a nutritional rockstar, I feel much better about it now.
And yes, I do add a…

Raw Mango Chutney

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An eternal delight of Indian summers is the raw mango. Its piquant, sweet-sour taste makes it the perfect addition to an array of dishes, turning them mouthwateringly delicious. Foods with an astringent, sour flavour are particularly appetising in hot weather. Our forebears — the nameless generations of women (and a few men) who experimented with food and matched this foodstuff to that — understood this. So they have left us with a rich culinary tradition of dishes made with raw mango.
In Bengal the raw mango chutney is a summer staple. It’s one of my great favourites too. I like it the way my mother makes it — a light, cooling concoction, a perfect blend of sweet and sour with just that hint of sharpness of ginger and mustard seeds.
It’s a simple dish and cooks in a jiffy. The devil is in the details, or as we say in Bengali — andaaj (the best translation of that word is “judgement”). Each raw mango has a different level of sourness so you have to keep tasting the brew as you cook it a…