On World Vegetarian Day today, a food blogger who's started a live chat series on salads shares why they're healthy and how to make them a part of your diet
Contary to the images of exotic vegetables and dressings that come to mind when we hear the word salad, food blogger Nandita Iyer asserts that it doesn't have to be fancy. Urging us to think of the humble kachumbari, raita and even the lightly sauteed poriyals, the Bengaluru-based author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian, says we tend to look at salads as a European concept. "Anything that is lightly cooked and retains the original flavour and nutrients of the ingredients can qualify as salad," shares Iyer, who's been decoding various aspects of the healthy dish through live chat sessions called Salad Series on Instagram.
As someone who's always been fond of making salads, conducting workshops, and growing vegetables herself, Iyer felt it was a good time to share her knowledge with the world. Five episodes old, the series has fetched 3,000 to 7,000 views, with Iyer deep-diving into the different kinds of salads; various components including base, body, garnish and dressing; chopping techniques; handy tools, and more. "There will be 14 episodes, each covering various topics related to salads," she tells us.
While salads have been somewhat of a palate cleanser or appetiser in desi homes, Iyer insists that eating it as a main meal at least once a day has several benefits. "Since we consume so much processed food, salads provide fibre which keeps diabetes and bad cholesterol levels in check. The veggies provide you with micronutrients, including minerals and vitamins in a natural form. It's also a good way to consume healthy fats." One of the most important factors, though, is the fact that it's the easiest and quickest way to have a balanced meal — all in one bowl, she adds.
She asserts that it requires only a two-three-hour prep once a week to have a bowl of salad every day. Her tips:
. Pre-cook items such as rajma, millets, chana, etc, and store in the fridge. For veggies, chop them up, microwave them with some olive oil and herbs, and pack them in the fridge. Roast nuts and seeds, and store them. Use these in combinations.
. Incorporate proteins, complex carbs and fresh, raw ingredients.
. Strike a balance between salty, tangy, sweet and spicy. Apart from lime and vinegar, think of tamarind, kokum, amla, orange juice and yogurt for tanginess. For sweetness, think of honey, leftover jam, date pulp, fruits, etc.
. Maintain the oil and vinegar ratio.
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Spinach, masoor and roasted pumpkin salad with herbed yogurt
Serves: 2 to 3 people
. 250 gm cubed pumpkin
. 1 tbsp olive oil
. ¼ tsp salt
. 1 small bunch spinach leaves
. ½ cup whole masoor, soaked for 4-5 hours
. 2 bay leaves
. 2 cloves garlic
. Slice of ginger
. 2-3 tbsp roasted almonds (sliced)
. 1 cup hung yogurt
. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
. 1 lemon for zest and juice
. 1 tbsp honey
. 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
. ½ tsp salt
Toss the pumpkin cubes in olive oil and salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20 minutes until soft. Sauté bay leaves, crushed garlic and ginger in olive oil. Tip in the drained masoor, and add two cups of water and salt. The dal must be cooked, but should retain shape. Drain the water and discard the bay leaves, garlic and ginger. Blanch the spinach leaves, drain and immerse in cold water. Gently squeeze all the water out, and chop roughly. Whisk all the dressing ingredients. On a platter, arrange the spinach leaves. Top it with scattered masoor. Place the pumpkin cubes. Spoon dollops of the dressing. Sprinkle roasted almonds and microgreens. You can also use roasted cauliflower, broccoli or sweet potato instead of pumpkin.
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