I always enjoy local cuisine no matter where I am. It is especially true when I am in India. Eat fresh, eat local has always been the mantra here. Growing up here, I remember the seasons of grapes, mango, chikkoo (a delicious brown, sweet fruit), leafy greens, govar beans, tondali (small green gourds that grow on a vine), etc. etc. My childhood home had a large garden with fruit trees and some vegetables. I don’t ever remember buying pomegranates, chikkoo, sitaphal (custard apple)or tondli at the market. I have been in India, my first home, for almost a week now. I am enjoying the seasonal produce.
As the monsoon ends and the weather turns cooler several leafy greens make an appearance at the market. One of my favorites is fenugreek (Methi). The small leaves, sometimes red lined, have a slightly bitter taste. They are an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, fiber and a good source of iron. 100 grams of fenugreek leaves provide only 50 calories. It has also been touted to help control blood sugar. Seeds of fenugreek are also used in Indian cooking, especially to help aid the digestion of legumes.
Fenugreek leaves are cooked many different ways. They can be easily sautéed with garlic and red chilies and made into a side dish. My favorite is with garlic, tamarind and dahl. It is great served with rice or chapatior roti. Simply chop the leaves coarsely, slice the garlic cloves and soak some tamarind in water. Heat oil, add mustard seeds, let them pop. Add a pinch each of asaphoetida, turmeric powder and chili powder. Sauté the garlic and fenugreek leaves, add cooked dahl (i happened to have some cooked toor and moong dahl from the day before) and cook covered for 5-7 minutes. Add tamarind pulp, a little jaggery (to counter the tamarind) and salt. A delicious subzi is ready in 10 minutes.
Mmmmm….I can’t wait until lunch.
And after lunch I will treat myself to this amazing Sitaphal. The usual season for Sitaphal lasts through September. Although this year, a long monsoon season has extended the Sitaphal season. Lucky for me the first day I was out at the market, I was able to find Sitaphal. It is also called Custard Apple since the pulp is like custard. Each little petal of pulp contains a black seed. You scoop out a spoonful into your mouth, eat the pulp and spit the seeds out. It was a childhood game to see who could spit the seeds farthest. We have become much more civilized now and use the spoon to carefully spit the seeds into. Nonetheless, the joy of eating Sitaphal is just the same.
I am looking forward to enjoying another week of delectable local, fresh produce. The tantalizing aromas of the Indian aromatic cuisine are healthy, heartwarming as well as nostalgic for me.