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Seasonal vegetables

By Shawkat Osman

Seasons form the natural backdrop for eating. Changes in growing conditions from winter to summer or rainy to dry seasons are essential for balancing the earth's resources and its life forms. To enjoy the full nourishment of food, you must make your menu a seasonal one.

In the cooler season, turn to exclusively warming foods and seasonings like cilantro, ginger, capsicums, mustard seeds, carrot, sweet potato, onions, and garlic. All foods from the animal kingdom fall into the 'warm' category including fish, chicken, beef, and lamb. Eggs also fit in here, as do beans and nuts.

Pea shoots stir-fry
Pea shoots or Motorsak are the tips of the vines and the top set of leaves of the pea plant. Pea shoots are considered a "sak". Green leafy vegetables are typically nutrient-dense. Look for pea shoots at your local vegetable market in winter. Pea shoots can be eaten raw in your salad or lightly cooked. Besides Potassium, Folate, Vitamin, C Thiamine, Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin K and Fibre, pea shoots are packed full of carotenes strong antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help prevent certain diseases.

Ingredients:
4 cups or 1 bunch of pea shoots (motorsak)
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
10 dry red chillies, charred and crushed
1 tbsp mustard oil
1½ tsp salt

Method:
Heat oil in a wok; lob in the onions and sauté until translucent, and add the garlic and pea shoots. Toss lightly about 20 seconds, and then add salt. Cover and heat just until wilted. The water clinging to the damp shoots is enough to steam them. Sprinkle the crushed red chilli on top. Serve with steamed rice.

Nutrition Facts: Per 100g pea shoot (motorsak). Energy: 19 kcal.

Bitter gourd stir-fry
Bitter gourd (Korolla, a.k.a. Karela, Uchchey, Memordica Charantia) is the quintessential starter for nearly every informal Bengali lunch. Bitter dishes are avoided at breakfast and dinner. Korolla is a rich source of phosphorous. It purifies blood, activates spleen and liver, and is highly beneficial in diabetes. Bitter gourd is also highly beneficial in the treatment of blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, itching, psoriasis, and ringworm.

Ingredients:
½ tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp onions, sliced
5 green chillies, slit
250g bitter gourd (Korolla), sliced
½ tsp salt

Method:
Heat oil in a wok; lob in sliced onions, green chilli, sauté until onion turns translucent. Add bitter gourd and salt; sauté for 2-mins, turning frequently. The bitter gourd will turn brilliant green in colour, slightly tender and remain crunchy to the bite. Serve immediately.

NOTE: By varying the amount of cooking done to the onions, you can vary the taste of this dish from a mild flavoured one to a robust one. By all means avoid over cooking the gourd.

Sautéed neem leaves
The neem tree (Azadirachta Indica), a member of the mahogany family, is the 'village pharmacy', because its bark, leaves, sap, fruit, seeds and twigs are used since primordial times. Such diverse use in the traditional medicine earned its just designation: 'Sorvo Rog Nivaroni' - The One That Can Cure All Ailments.

Neem's traditional use is based on its detoxifying benefits that help maintain healthy circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems. Neem is one of the most powerful blood purifiers and detoxifiers in Ayurvedic medical usage today.

Ingredients:
2 cups of tender neem leaves
½ tbsp mustard oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric powder

Method:
Heat oil to a smoking point, toss in the salt and stir until they dissolve. Chuck in the turmeric powder and mix up. Immediately throw in the leaves - sauté stirring all the time for few seconds. Transfer leaves to a serving dish. Longer cooking time will strip the leaves of its therapeutic values.

TIP: Dry fry the neem leaves, crumple them between your palms, and sprinkle them over any vegetable item, like fried aubergine; you get an instant bitter (teeta) dish.

Malarial prevention. Drinking neem teas or chewing a couple of leaves every day reduces the possibility of contracting malaria. For malarial treatment boil 30g of neem leaves in 3 litres of water for 20 minutes and take one glass of this leaf extract three times a day for one week. Kerosene lamps containing 0.01-1% of neem oil, also reduce mosquito-biting activity.

Pennywort stir-fry
Thankuni (Centella Asiatica) a.k.a. Aadagunguni, Indian Pennywort, Brahmi, Brahamamanduki, Divya, Jalneem, Mandukparni, and also as Nandukparni is a prostrate, faintly aromatic, perennial herb, up to 2m long, that spreads by runners. They are commonly found as a weed in crop fields and other waste places throughout East India. Stem is round, pink, and striated, rooting at the nodes. The sak is considered to have medicinal properties to heal diarrhoea and wounds.

Ingredients:
200g thankuni sak, chopped
½ cabbage, chopped
½ cup red lentil (mosoor dal)
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric power
3 tsp salt
2 tsp mustard oil
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed

Method:
Rinse the lentils (daal) and soak for 4 hours. Heat the oil in a wok, lob in the onions and sauté until translucent. Dissolve the turmeric powder and red chilli powder, in 1tbsp water, and pour it in. Sauté until the spice (mosla) releases its aroma.

Next stir in the following: sak, cabbage and lentils (daal). Mix up, sprinkle with salt, mix again and cook until the lentils (daal) are al dente. Heat the ghee in a saucepan, toss in the garlic, sauté until the edges starts to brown, pour the ghee along with the garlic on the sak, stir to mix.

Amaranth leaves stir-fry
Data sak or young leaves of Amaranths is closely related to spinach and beets are a wonder food in terms of taste, ease of growth, and nutrition. One variety of 'data-sak' is grown as sak (a greens crop); another for producing the mature stems (data), which can grow up to 180 cm. Like most greens, the smaller leaves are always the best; Amaranths contain higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels than spinach. It also has higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels than spinach. It also contains dietary fibre, and tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which may have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans.

Ingredients:
250g data sak
2 tsp mustard oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp onion, sliced
1 tsp red chilli powder
5 garlic cloves crushed
2/3 tsp Salt

Method
Rinse the tender sak and shake off the excess water. Break off the root and discard. Tear the stalks into three portions. In a small bowl, dissolve the turmeric powder and red chilli powder in 3 tbsp water. Set spice (mosla) mixture aside. Heat the oil in a wok, lob in the onions, saute until translucent. Pour in the spice mixture and cook until this liquid is reduced to half of its original measure. Chuck in the sak, stir to mix, sprinkle with salt and mix again, cook stirring frequently until the leaves wait.

NOTE: Data sak does not require much cooking. You can use very tender raw data leaves in salad. Nutrition facts: Per 100g of Data Sak, raw (34 kcal)


BOOK LAUNCH

"Recipes from the Ranna Ghor": Shawkat Osman launches latest book

A chilly night at Dhaka Club set up the almost perfect premise for the launch of Shawkat Osman's latest book, 'Recipes from the Ranna Ghor'. This third book follows on the footsteps of the previous two successes titled 'Recipes from the Raj' and 'Recipes from the Rasoi'. The celebrity gourmet chef, whose television shows, unique recipes and larger than life personality have made him a household name, expressed his satisfaction at being able to add yet another feather to his cap by the launch of this book.

Recipes from the Ranna Ghor brings to exposure the more deshi cuisine. This book is dominated by tantalising variations of original fish-based recipes. Osman adds different dimensions to each of the recipes and makes them more appetising than they originally were. Hasanat Abdul Hye, one of the members of the panel of discussants labelled the book 'Sahwkat's Piece de Resistance', expressing how it was 'so rich in content that it could easily hold a candle to the best recipe books in the world'.

As a trademark of all his books, Osman brings more than just recipes. Every recipe and sometimes even individual ingredients are preceded by historical background of the cuisine or ingredient in discussion. Nutritional information is also provided, along with guidelines, making the procedures even easier to follow. Hye concluded by stating that the book was indeed a 'book of art'.

Professor Sonia N. Amin also expressed her appreciation for the new book. She mentioned the 'beautiful cover' and highlighted how the book managed to 'celebrate the spirit of cooking'. She also praised the young photographer, Rukhsara Osman, whose brilliant work with the camera made the dishes look even more enticing.

Professor Fakhrul Alam prudently thanked Dhaka Club and its members for coming up with the funds required for the publication of the book, promising that the book will bring about 'an evolution of Bangladeshi Gastronomy'. However, the book's cons were also mentioned, namely how the book could have been better edited and the presence of a Glossary, Index and Bibilography would serve the purpose much better.

Finally, Osman took the stage and enthralled the audience by sharing his numerous anecdotes and stories, reminiscing about his personal revolution and digressing to demand respect for the etiquettes of the club. His magnetism was evident as he took to the mic, with everyone in his presence paying rapt attention to every word.

The Panel of discussants consisted of Hasanat Abdul Hye, Professor Sonia N. Amin, Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam and Professor Fakhrul Alam. And all these legends in their own worlds added much more weight to Shawkat Osman's newest book.

By Osama Rahman

     
 

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