"There is nothing better on a cold wintry day than a properly made pot pie." — Craig Claiborne, American restaurant critic, food journalist and author
Doesn't it feel heavenly to relax and sip a refreshing chilled drink on a summer afternoon or snack on piping hot fritters on a rainy day? We all love specific foods during certain seasons. But did you know that consuming foods that are in-season is better for us, in every way? Scientific research across the world has shown that seasonal foods are the most nutritious. In fact, Japanese researchers have found that spinach harvested in winter varies nutritionally from a crop harvested in summer.
So, let's extend the appropriate-food-for-the-season mantra to every member of the family. Getting children to eat what is local and available in a specific season is extremely beneficial for their health. Eating seasonal, means eating fruits and vegetables that are fresh, not preserved or kept in cold storage. Also, eating the right food in the right season can uplift our mood and spirit. And for children, this can be especially important — the nutrients in locally-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables can help them fight off illnesses (colds, coughs, fevers) prevalent during that time of the year. Meaning, the entire family stays healthier and happier.
Here are five such seasonal recipes to boost your mood:
Best time to have this: December, January and February
Feel-good factor: This spicy Gujarati dish announces the arrival of winter, as ingredients like surti papdi are harvested during this time. A bowl of hot undhiyo complements the cooler weather perfectly.
For the methi muthia:
- 150g surti papdi or green flat beans
- 50g vaal papdi seeds(also known as Vellore beans)
- 75g tuvar dane or green pigeon peas (You can use toor dal instead)
- 75g small brinjal
- 75g baby potatoes
- 1 medium-sized sweet potato
- 75g purple yam
- 50g raw banana
- ½ cup gram flour (besan)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp coriander-cumin powder (dhania-jeera powder)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- A pinch baking soda
- 5g ginger
- 5g chilli
- ½ cup methi (fenugreek) leaves (finely chopped)
- 1/2 tbsp refined oil
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp water
For the green masala:
- 100g grated coconut
- 3 tbsp coriander (chopped)
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 3 tsp ginger and garlic paste
- 2 tsp green chilli paste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
- 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin
- 1/2 tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp refined oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- Clean all the vegetables, remove the stem from the brinjals.
- Peel the baby potatoes, yam, sweet potatoes, and banana.
- Keep the vegetables in a bowl filled with water.
How to prepare methi muthia:
- Mix all the ingredients and make a sticky dough to make small muthia.
- Let it rest for 10–15 minutes.
- Apply oil on your palm and shape them in a small cigar shape about two inches long. Keep aside.
How to prepare green masala:
- Put all the ingredients for the masala into a food processor or mixer and blend to a smooth paste.
- Keep aside.
Stuffing the veggies:
- Slit the brinjals horizontally, stuff with the green masala mixture. And cover the remaining ingredients with the same.
- Keep the leftover masala aside.
Tempering and cooking:
- Add oil in a cooker, add carom seeds, cumin seeds and after they change colour, add hing, tuvar dane, vaal papdi seeds. Also, add the leftover paste. Saute for three minutes on a medium flame. Add sugar.
- Layer the cooker with vegetables except for brinjal. Sprinkle some of the coconut masala evenly on vegetables. Add the stuffed brinjal along with half a cup of water from the sides.
- Do not stir. Gently place the muthias on the prepared layer. Add salt all over. Cover the cooker and let it cook on medium to high heat for two whistles or for 8–10 minutes.
- Once cooked, gently mix without breaking the stuffed veggies.
- Garnish with coriander leaves and grated coconut. Serve hot with pooris.
2. Jackfruit Payasam
Best time to have this: March, April and May
Feel-good factor: Jackfruit is a summer-time fruit and loaded with vitamins and minerals. You can savour the richness of the fruit in the payasam during the summer months when it is abundantly available.
- 10g fresh coconut (roughly chopped)
- 55g jaggery
- 110 ml water (To dissolve the jaggery)
- 225 ml coconut milk
- 2 tsp ghee
- 10g cashew nuts
- 5–6 raisins
- Pinch of cumin powder
- 5g cardamom powder
- Mix jaggery with ½ cup water and heat on low flame to a syrup consistency.
- Strain the syrup and remove all the impurities. Keep aside.
- Chop the jackfruit into pieces and grind to a fine paste.
- Heat ghee in a pan, then add the jackfruit paste and mix well.
- Pour jaggery syrup into this pan and combine well with jackfruit paste. Then add cumin powder.
- Cook until the jackfruit paste is evenly coated with jaggery.
- Let the mixture become thick, then add coconut milk and give it a stir. Don’t let it boil after adding coconut milk. Sprinkle cardamom powder and remove from heat.
- In another pan, heat a little ghee and fry coconut, cashew nuts and raisins till golden brown.
- Garnish the payasam with the coconut and dried fruits, serve hot.
3. Mambhaza Pulissery
Best time to have this: March, April, May
Feel-good factor: Enjoy the short mango season with this flavoursome preparation. The combination of mangoes and a host of other spices in this dish make it apt for a family holiday lunch in the summertime. This dish is ideal to celebrate Vishu or the Malayalee New Year festival, which falls in mid-April.
- 2 medium-sized raw mangoes (1 cup chopped)
- 1 cup of thick curd
- Salt to taste
- Water as required
- 1 green chilli (chopped)
- A pinch of turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
- ¼ tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek powder
- 1 long red chilli
- 4–5 curry leaves
- Wash, peel and cut mangoes into medium-sized pieces.
- Cook the mango pieces in enough water along with green chilli, turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.
- Finely grind the grated coconut with cumin seeds, add this into the boiling mango mixture.
- When the mango pieces are cooked well, remove the pan from the flame and keep aside.
- Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds. Add dried red chillies, curry leaves and fry for few seconds.
- Pour this into the curry. Then add the fenugreek powder into the curry and mix well.
- Serve hot.
4. Taler Bora (Palm fruit fritters)
Best time to have this: June, July, August
Feel-good factor: Palm fruit or tal is full of vitamins and minerals which is good for you during monsoons and can boost your immunity during this season. What's more, the natural sugar present in the fruit will perk you up instantly.
- 1 big or 2 cups pulp of tal/palm fruit
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup semolina
- 1 ½ cup grated coconut
- 3 bananas
- 1 cup sugar
- Refined oil for frying.
To take out the pulp:
- First, separate the kernels from the palm fruit. You have to remove the top portion of the palm fruit (tal) and then tear out the fibrous portion.
- The kernels will be easily visible and can be removed. Pour a little water on the kernels and squash out all the pulp from the palm kernels using a strainer.
- Keep pressing or scrubbing on the strainer till all the juice is squeezed out.
- Take a mixing bowl.
- Add the flour, semolina, and coconut. Mix it well.
- Add palm fruit pulp and sugar. Mix well into a smooth batter-like consistency.
- Now heat the oil and deep fry the taler bora or palm fruit fritters.
- Let cool and serve.
5. Khubani Biryani
Best time to have this: September, October and November
Feel-good factor: This is a wholesome dish to satiate your appetite with its healthy mix of nuts and spices along with the rice. This is a complete meal in itself. What better time to savour its spicy warmth and fragrant goodness, than the cool winter months?
To make biryani:
- 2 cups long grain basmati rice
- ½ cup of curd
- 5 onions, sliced for paste
- 1 tbsp ginger chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic chopped
- 1½ tsp fennel powder
- 2 green chillies slit
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- pinch of saffron soaked in ¼ cup of warm milk
- 1 ½ cups of milk
- 2 cups water
- Salt as per taste
- 250g ghee
- 15g mint
- 15g coriander
- 5-6 drops kewra (or rose water)
- 20g cashew nuts, roughly broken
- 1 ½ cup apricot
- 10g almonds chopped for garnish
- 20g pineapple, diced into small pieces
Whole spices for rice:
- 1 teaspoon shahi jeera
- 2-inch stick of cinnamon
- 2 black cardamom
- 4–5 green cardamom
- 6 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons fried onions for garnish
To prepare rice:
- First, clean and wash the rice well. Then, soak it in enough water for at least 45 minutes.
- Add milk and water to a saucepan, bring it to a boil. Take off the flame and add saffron-infused milk. Add the rice and keep it for 15 minutes.
- Heat two tablespoons of ghee in a deep vessel, when the ghee heats up well, add half the whole spices and fry until aromatic Add these fried whole spices in the saucepan.
- Keep the rice saucepan on the flame and start the boiling process.
- Add salt and mix well. Cook until the water dries up and the rice is 80 per cent cooked.
- While rice is cooking, start preparing the golden fried onions.
- In another pan, heat ghee and fry onion till light brown. Keep aside half the onion for layering and make a fine paste with the rest.
- Heat another tablespoon of ghee in the pan and roast the dried fruits until light golden brown. Keep aside.
- Once the rice is cooked, strain and cool.
- In a deep vessel, heat ghee, add the remaining whole spices (shahi jeera, cinnamon, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves and bay leaves), fry for a few seconds till aromatic.
- Add ginger and garlic along with pineapple pieces. Once water starts evaporating from this, add fried onion paste and keep stirring for two minutes.
- Then add curd, keep the flame low. Add all the powdered spices, a little water and stir well.
- Take half of the rice, layer it on top of the masala. Sprinkle the dried fruits and the remaining golden fried onions.
- Again, repeat the layering and sprinkle saffron-soaked milk on top of the rice, with mint, coriander, nuts, kewra and the fried onions. Cover and simmer on low flame for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
- Let the fragrance and flavours seep in. Serve hot.
Nutritionists now believe it is healthier for us and better for the environment to eat fruits and vegetables that are abundant in a specific season. This involves respecting and embracing natural diversity. So, let us all make a conscious choice to eat fresh and local produce, and prepare seasonal delicacies.
The author is a food stylist, restaurant consultant and founder of The Next Ingredient.
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