Healthy Street Foods & Snacks of India!

Dear Cousins! Happy New Year!! Well I know its a bit late for New Year wishes..but well it is the new year & so no harm if I wish all of our readers a very prosperous 2013…

All three of us had some amazing moments in the last few weeks of the year 2012 which were loaded with relaxing holidays, including my stay with you didi(Ushmita) at Shantiniketan in Bengal, the post on my ‘Shantiniketan Poush Mela Visit’ will follow soon (if you guys get my meaning of soon!!), non-stop chatter with family & friends, celebrations, lots of photography and of course, gorgeous, lovely food!!

2013 then began with all of us devising new year resolutions. The first one, as it is every year is, that we will eat healthy and stay healthy (18 days have gone by and no exercise regimes have started yet!!).  So instead of writing about the amazing array of foods I have already had in this new year, I am starting with a post on origins and health benefits of Indian spices and food.

Over the past 3-4 weeks during my travels personally and as part of DelhiByFoot across Western & Eastern parts of India, I have been wondering on some fundamentals of food, especially, the question of ‘Why we eat, what we eat’?

Pyaaz Kachori and Aloo Subzee, is a favourite snack of North and West India and reflects a perfect blend of digestive spices and good carbs

Pyaaz Kachori and Aloo Subzee, is a favourite snack of North and West India and reflects a perfect blend of digestive spices and good carbs

So definitely nature has a role to play in that, as our food habits are governed by the topography, vegetation and climatic conditions of a region. For example coastal areas like South-East Asian countries or the various island countries like Mauritius or the Caribbeans  have abundant rice, sea-food and coconut dishes.  Or in colder regions like Europe or Canada where there is a dearth of cultivable land for producing grains or certain variety of fruits, cured or preserved meat and vegetables are eaten. The Americas, have abundance of big game like bison, caribou and wild ox, so they love their chunks of fresh or preserved meats.

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Warm Puntarelle Salad with Toasted Nuts

Dear Didi,
In another of my efforts to try out a new vegetable available in the fresh-food market here, of which I had previously read about, the warm puntarelle salad happened! Yesterday night I tested the Puntarelle, an Italian variety of Endives on Niloy and we both loved it.    The leaves taste a little bitter if eaten raw like the other endives.  This is why one should take of the leaves (discard them), and soak the shoots in cold water till they curl.  But I didn’t want to waste such beautiful looking leaves.  So we tasted the leaves first and both decided that we were not ready for a plate of bitter salad. I turned the whole leaves into a warm salad instead of taking out and throwing the leaves.

Warm Puntarelle Salad (a variety of Endives)

Treating each leaf as a prized possession I carefully washed a bunch of Puntarelles to get off all the grime in it (the amount of soil these veggies contain here might clog-up my kitchen drain one day! But its fine, anything for the love of food! Right?).

While the leaves were being soaked, I quickly dry-roasted a handful of pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in a pan for that almost perfect brown tint and then crushed them coarsely.  The two cloves of garlic that were waiting for my attention were then gruesomely chopped and thrown in 1tbsp of heated olive oil.  When the pan made the garlic pieces and the oil sizzle, the Puntarelle leaves quietly followed to be blanched to perfection.  Once the leaves were tender, I threw them in cold water so that they retain their lovely fresh green color and transformed the ripe avocado and the juicy apple into small dices.  Did you know it is always best to cut apples right before you serve or else the iron in them oxidizes and one is left with brown apple pieces? If not, now you know 🙂

All the ingredients looked perfect for arrangement by then.  In a medium-sized salad bowl I laid the Puntarelle leaves, put some nuts, the apple, the avocado and seasoned it with salt, fresly ground pepper, dried mint powder and a dash of lime juice.

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It is difficult to get these endives in India, but do try this recipe with lettuce.  You don’t have to have it warm though..it would be lovely with crunchy leaves too 🙂 If you are making it raw, I suggest you add some finely grated garlic in the lime juice, whisk it well with a fork and then pour it over the leaves.  Do try it out!

So till the next time,

Take care and happy cooking!

Dakhina