For chef Jaydeep Mukherjee, his mother remains the ultimate muse. “Few things in her kitchen ever see a garbage bin! Whether it’s peels of vegetables or seeds, leaves of tender vegetables or flowers, squeezed out limes or oranges, there is always something stunning she can conjure up with them!” Each stalk, stem, bulb, root, peel, tender green shoot and leaf of every aromatic vegetable—carrots, leek, celery or parsnip—that passes through her kitchen is used imaginatively. Watching his mum, who had no formal culinary training, the Indigo Delicatessen’s Mumbai-based chef learnt his most important lesson—cooking intelligently.
Sadly, smart cooking is missing in contemporary kitchens today. With so much at our disposal, and the seasons playing very little part in what we eat, our cooking habits have become lazy and unimaginative. The problem, says Sandhya Gugnani, nutritionist at Ozone Fitness N Spa, New Delhi, is that “people these days are so unfamiliar with vegetables in their natural state they don’t even know that a broccoli stalk is just as edible as the florets”. It’s really just a simple matter of reconfiguring what should go into the pot, and what into the trash. The results could be fried tangy green tomatoes, candied mango peel or even pickled watermelon and citrus fruit rinds.
The fundamentals aren’t rocket science.
Different parts of a plant have different nutrients and tastes—something we keep forgetting. “Seeds have protein, stems have minerals and fibre, the fruit, energy, and the leaf, vitamins,” says Kavita Mukhi, an eco-nutritionist and founder of the natural and organic food company Conscious Foods, who organizes the Farmer’s Market in Mumbai.
But this is not the only way to look at food, because each food contains a wide variety of known and unknown nutrients. And it’s this life force in food that matters, says Mukhi, not just separate isolated nutrients. Peels make flavourful stocks and garnishes. The green leaves may be added to salads, or sautéed in olive oil or butter to make a healthy accompaniment to entrées, or batter-fried to create interesting appetizers or garnishes. The seeds of fruits and certain vegetables such as pumpkin and courgettes are dried in kitchens like Mukherjee’s. These are then peeled and toasted and added to salads or sprinkled over pasta.
The list of which parts of a plant are usable is endless, and smart cooking practices to use every last scrap and trimming are adopted even in the fanciest gourmet kitchens. “In a professional kitchen, since nothing comes free, therefore nothing should go waste,” says Vikram Khatri, chef at the ai restaurant, New Delhi. And it isn’t limited to vegetables. “Even chicken and fish bones, head carcasses, gizzards, liver, skin and fat are used in different ways to enrich flavours,” says Khatri.
Radish magic: (clockwise from extreme left) Mooli Ka Paratha; Aloo-Mooli Ki Subzi and Radish Salad.
While traditional Indian cooking might not be as experimental with non-vegetarian foods, sustainable practices are easy to implement in every household. Here, we bring culinary secrets from nutritionists and chefs to help you discover the hidden facets of some plants, fruits and vegetables that pass through your kitchen.
Radish (mooli) is a root low in calories. It can be used raw, steamed, stir-fried, pickled or as stuffing. The leaves, which are sometimes thrown away, can be used raw or stir-fried. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and high in fibre.
Tossing it up: Chef Pankaj Sharma of the Aman New Delhi (Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint)
Radish root in three ways
Mooli Ka Paratha
• 500g radish, grated
• 1 tsp green chillies, chopped
• 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
• 1/2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
• 2 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
• Salt to taste
• 200g wholewheat flour
• 50g ghee (clarified butter)
Wash and grate the radish. Mix with salt and leave aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess water and then mix well with chopped ginger, coriander leaves, green chillies and cumin powder. Make a normal dough with the flour and make small balls. Stuff each ball with a spoonful of the radish mixture. Roll out into a paratha and cook with a little ghee on medium flame.
Cut batons of radish and keep aside. Mix half a cup of water, half a cup of vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, salt to taste and 1 tsp chopped green chillies. Steep the radish in the mixture, store in a medium-size jar and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Serve as a side dish.
• 150g radish root
• 50g iceberg lettuce
• 70g rucola or rocket leaves
• 100g tomatoes
• 30ml extra virgin olive oil
• 30g tender radish leaves
• Sea salt to taste
Cut thin slices of the root and steep in ice-chilled water for 15 minutes. Drain all the water, mix torn lettuce and leaves, tomatoes, add salt and drizzle extra virgin olive oil for a delicious salad.
Radish leaves in two ways
Radish Leaves Salad
Pick young and tender leaves of radish and add them to any salad along with other regular salad leaves. Give a nice “peppery” lift to the whole dish.
Aloo-Mooli Ki Subzi
• 250g radish root, diced
• 250g radish leaves, chopped
• 250g potatoes, diced
• 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
• 1/2tsp red chilli powder
• 1 tsp turmeric powder
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• Salt to taste
• 2 green chillies
• 10ml vegetable oil
Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan and add mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, put slit green chillies, diced potatoes and diced radish. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add red chilli powder, coriander powder, salt and turmeric powder. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add about 1/2 a cup of water and leave to simmer till the potatoes and radish are cooked. Add the leaves, cook for a couple of minutes, and then roughly mash the entire thing with a ladle. Check the seasoning, and serve hot with steamed rice.
-Recipes courtesy sous chef Pankaj Sharma at the Aman New Delhi.
You can make this simple recipe in batches and serve it after meals, or chop the candied peels and add them to sauces or while baking cakes.
Candied Alphonso Peels
Makes a small jar
• 3 ripe mangoes, preferably
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed in mortar and pestle
With a sharp paring knife, slice off the ends of the mangoes, and following the curve of the fruit, peel the skin, leaving most of the pulp on the fruit. Slice the peels lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. In a medium pot of boiling water, cook the peels for about 10 minutes, until tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peels on to a wire-rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; spread in a single layer, for about 15 minutes, to dry slightly.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil over high flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peels and boil until they turn translucent and the syrup thickens—this should take 8-10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peels on to a wire rack, separating the pieces as needed. Let the peels dry for about an hour. Toss with 1/4 cup powdered sugar to coat.
-Recipe courtesy chef Vikas Khanna, MasterChef India host and executive chef of the Junoon restaurant in New York.
Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and is excellent for your skin. Both green peas and their pods are a storehouse of fibre and other nutrients required to keep cholesterol at bay.
Makes 2 small glasses
• 1/2 medium-sized pineapple with the skin (slice off the thorny parts), diced
• 10-15 sprigs coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 1/2 inch ginger piece
• Crushed ice, for serving
Put all the ingredients in a juicer. Put some crushed ice in two glasses and pour the juice over it. Serve immediately. Or blend all the ingredients using a little water (if required) till smooth. Strain the juice using a strainer or a muslin cloth. Add some crushed ice in 2 glasses and pour the juice over it. Serve immediately.
Green Peas Skin Soup
• 3 cups tender green pea pods
• 1 tbsp green peas
• 1/2 cup onions, chopped
• 2 cups low-fat milk
• 1/2cup vegetable stock
• 2 tsp oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 tbsp chopped mint, for garnish
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, and fry the onions for 1 minute. Add the green pea pods and green peas and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the milk and cook in a pressure cooker for one whistle. Cool the mixture and grind to a smooth purée in a blender. Strain and pour the purée back into the pressure cooker. Add salt, pepper and vegetable stock, and simmer for a few minutes. Add a little water, if required. Garnish with mint. Serve hot.
-Tarla Dalal, chef and author.
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