Mumbai chef Thomas Zacharias gives expert tips on picking winter veggies
Dashing Mumbai chef Thomas Zacharias takes Shraddha Uchil shopping at the buzzing Grant Road market for a crash course in picking winter sabzis
Winter is also the season for fresh greens and carrots. Pics/Poonam Bathija & Thomas Zacharias
Come winter and the markets are filled with beautiful, fresh produce. The sweet carrots found in this season brighten up your gajar ka halwa, and fresh mustard leaves make for a delicious sarson ka saag.
Chef Thomas Zacharias holds a bundle of green garlic, yet another ingredient that makes its way into the Gujarati winter special, undhiyu
We accompanied chef Thomas Zacharias, executive chef at The Bombay Canteen, to the Grant Road market, situated just outside the west exit of the railway station, to help us identify ingredients that are best this time of year. Here are some of them, with insights from Zacharias on how they are used by the various communities of India.
Zacharias tells the reporter that the season for fresh water chestnuts is just ending. He adds that from now on, only the boiled variety (front) will be available
You can also cook these at home a tad differently. For instance, in his Lower Parel restaurant kitchen, Zacharias uses the Gujarati delicacy ponkh in an innovative Barley and Jowar Salad, while fresh toor finds its way into the Fresh Toor Samosa Chaat. Green tomatoes can be grilled or roasted on a flame and turned into a chutney, and winter melon — used to make petha — can also be used in a warm soup. This is also the season during which you will find fresh turmeric in the markets, which can be used to flavour curries, or even cocktails. If you haven’t cooked with any of these winter ingredients before, the primer above is to help you get started.
Mogri or rat’s tail radish is a podding variety of radish that grows above the ground. It has a nice crunch and a slight pungency. It is either added raw to kachumbers or used to make sabzis in Maharashtrian, Gujarati and Rajasthani homes.
Ponkh or tender green jowar is the fresh harvest of sorghum available in the winter months, before it is dried. It is found widely in Surat, and is mildly sweet, with a chewy texture. It can be eaten as is or lightly roasted and mixed with chaat masala and sev.
Chayote or chow-chow is a type of winter squash commonly cooked as a vegetable side dish in Karnataka and Kerala. Due to its texture and versatility, it can be eaten raw in kachumbers or raitas, and also cooked in sabzis, curries or stir-fries.
Knol khol or Kohlrabi tastes like a combination of cabbage and turnip. It is used in many parts of India, right from the north to the south. The Kashmiri pundit community uses it in dishes like yakhni, and it is cooked with coconut and curry leaves in southern India.
Undhiyu, a dish made by the Gujarati community, uses a medley of vegetables that are found exclusively in winter. One of these is a flat bean called Surti papdi. When you’re shopping for these, pick beans that are firm and smooth, with a slight sheen on the surface.
Colocasia leaves are versatile. Maharashtrians and Gujaratis use them to make alu vadi or patrel, a dish that involves stuffing the leaves with rice flour and flavourings. They’re also used in dishes as far as West Bengal, Kerala, and Nagaland.
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