I have mentioned before on my blog that one of the great joys of living in Delhi is the changes the different seasons ring in, in terms of what is available to eat. The summers bring in an abundance of fruit - lush mangoes, juicy plums, succulent peaches and the cool sweetness of watermelon and melon. Winter is when the vegetables come into their own and it's the joy of my life to go to the nearest sabzi mandi and shop for all kinds of veggies - sharply astringent amla or gooseberries, whacking big daikon (mooli), fresh green peas and crisp lettuce, red, yellow and orange bell peppers half the price they command in summer, pak choy and purple cabbage, red 'halwa' carrots and orange salad carrots and little plum tomatoes, green garlic shoots, spring onions, leeks and white onions. And of course all manner of green leafies, from plain old cabbage to savoy cabbage, haak, sarson ka saag, methi - one of my favourites and much missed in summer, popeye's favourite spinach, dantina soppu ( a red veiny leaf vegetable), bathua, Kalmi with with its beautifully serrated leaves, fresh dill and parsley...I always spend more and buy more than I plan to. Yesterday I went down to Munirka and came home laden with four large and bulging bags of veggies - for the princely sum of $ 13!
Naturally, then, we had to OD on veggies all weekend. By a peculiar coincidence, we ended up with a Kashmiri slant to much of the food. I only wish it had been a planned slant so I could have added kashmiri dum aloo, which I much prefer over its Punjabi cousin. We had Haak on one night and Khatte Baingan ( sour eggplant) on another.
Haak is also called kashmiri spinach. It looks similar, with rounded leaves and a thick, watery stem, but is a different vegetable, with a slightly soapy texture when cooked. Delhi's well-known Kashmiri restaurant, Chor bizarre, serves up a wonderfully simple dish with haak that I have always loved and we often have it in winter, served simply over hot rice. You can substitute it with Spinach if it's not easily found.
1 bunch Haak, roughly chopped
2-3 green chillies
Yellow mustard seeds
1 litre water
Pinch asafoetida ( heeng)
Salt to taste
2 tsp plain vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard oil
Put the vegetable oil on to heat. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter.
Add the cloves and green chillies and stir for a few seconds.
Add the heeng.
Add the haak and the water and salt. Let it come to a boil and then simmer until the water reduces to half.
Add the mustard oil and turn off the heat. Serve hot with plain rice.
Kashmiri Khatte Baingan goes well with either chapattis or rice. I used to have a purely kashmiri recipe for this, but over the years, it has become a bit bastardized, added to by me or my mom. Either way, it tastes great.
10 baby eggplants with stems attached, slit into quarters till the stem
1 lime sized ball of tamarind, soaked in 1 cup hot water
Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tsp saunf (fennel/ ani seeds)
Small lump of jaggery ( lime sized)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp kalonji ( nigella) seeds
Put the oil on to heat in a wok. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter.
Add the saunf and nigella seeds and the cloves.
Put in the eggplants and cook them, stirring periodically, until more than half done.
Strain the tamarind water and add it to the wok. Add another large cup of water and the jaggery, salt and chilli powder.
Let it come to a boil and then simmer until the eggplants turn soft and are cooked all the way through.
What we do with the green vegetables, including the leaves of the mooli ( daikon) is to add them to whatever is being cooked - the daal, a soup or even lightly cooked and kneaded into the chapatti dough, even for phulkas. They add a nice flavour and of course, loads of nutrition.