Don’t leaf it alone!
Winter greens become a staple across kitchens in India. We look at some innovative and regional twists to try
Winter is here, carrying along with it a whole smorgasbord of seasonal leafy veggies. Kale, spinach, mustard, turnip and carrot greens and even bathua and methi — markets and grocers are awash in different hues of greens. These veggies not only pack an array of health benefits — they are loved also for the distinct flavours they possess and the diverse ways in which they can be cooked and eaten.
Beyond the everyday
Winter greens feature in some particularly tempting, timeless staples, from sarson ka saag, palak paneer, methi matar malai and aloo methi to parathas made with bathua and mooli leaves and the like. But one needn’t remain limited to these.
“In addition to pesto with spinach and coriander leaves, I’ve tried twists to traditional recipes such as baked spinach karanji and sarson ke saag ke pakode,” shares chef Reetu Uday Kugaji, who has also reimagined the French spinach gratin with mustard greens, methi and bathua. “One must also try chane ka saag. It just melts in the mouth,” she adds.
Evidently, winter greens lend themselves to innovation very well, and Shaurya Veer Kapoor, chef at Sambar Soul, concurs. “ I have created palak dosa, palak corn dosa and palak vada. To add an extra twist to these dishes, serve them with home-made tangy green chilli pickle: a delightful mix of green chillies, tamarind, and jaggery,” he says.
Similarly, Suriya Vikrant Sharma, senior sous chef at ITC Maurya, has come up with eclectic spins to winter greens. “I have made fresh mustard and lentil soup, kale and butternut squash purée and baked undhiyu (a casserole dish from Gujarat featuring multiple veggies) with fenugreek,” Sharma tells us, adding, “You can also blend kale with water, add some honey or chia seeds to the water and drink it. It acts as an antioxidant and immunity booster.”
Beloved staples, comfort fixes
Bathua, known as cheel in Gujarat, has inspired the cheel ni bhaji (bathua leaves cooked in spicy, sour yoghurt), cheel ne tuver na lilva ni kadhi (bathua and fresh pigeon peas in a yoghurt soup), cheel na muthia (a winter snack). In Haryana, the smoked dhungari bathua raita is relished with makki/bajre ki roti. Tikkis and kachoris made with bathua, too, are popular across the state.
These veggies also find a place in a rich variety of comfort food. Take the sagpaita, for instance, which is a traditional lentil dish made with bathua across Uttar Pradesh, and tempered liberally with garlic and a dash of asafoetida. In Chhattisgarh, bathua ki dal is eaten with steamed rice in winter. In Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, nettle leaves (bichhu booti) — a powerhouse of nutrition (immersed in boiling water before cooking) to soften their sting — are used to prepare a flavourful saag that goes very well with mandua rotis.