Some of the best Winter recipes are found in the exotic hyper-regional cuisines. No, really!
Take for example, the humble Chainsoo, made with black gram dal, or the Matar ka Nimona that makes you salivate with the mere presence of the bright green, fresh winter peas.
Or the famous Murauri/ Mooli ki Kachori from Bihar, that’s made with fresh white radish and rice flour. Or the Tchat Goji from Kashmir, a simple preparation made with Turnip and red Chili.
Speaking of Turnips or Shalgam/ Shaljam, one of the best Shalgam I had was in Turtuk (famous for its Balti cuisine) a few years ago.
Growing effortlessly in the vegetable gardens of some homes, fed by fresh glacier water, the crunch of the vegetable and its leaves gave me a high to the point of it being Aphrodisiacal!
That sojourn tracing the cuisines along the Himalayan range, taught me a valuable lesson. The more you simplify, the more you enjoy. As with life, so with cooking.
I was so blown away by the flavours of the simple Shalgam bhaji a lady prepared for me, that I had to recreate it in my kitchen.
Theoretically, said to have originated in Central Asia, west of the Himalayan range, the Turnip is said to have been around Asia for as long as 4000 years. But did you know that Turnips are among the oldest and hardiest vegetables?
Turnips were also crucial around the 14th century Europe, when they were used for crop rotation in between seasons. In fact, history says, that the vegetable paved the way for a modern revolution of sorts!
While some cultures used them as animal fodder (yep!!), French cuisine held it in a slightly higher regard, making it a critical ingredient in the famous winter dish – Lamb Navarin.
Quite the underrated vegetable, its mention doesn’t excite people much though and sadly so.
But, wait..this trivia might change your mind..and palate.
One of the biggest nutritive benefits of a Turnip is its Potassium content, probably 233 mg per turnip. Given the mineral is crucial for good heart health, kidneys, blood sugar and much more, it might make you look at the humble vegetable with little more respect!
The greens (never waste them!) compete for space too, with their rich levels of Vitamins and Calcium.
The Turnip, like the potatoes, blend into almost any dish; and actually end up elevating it.
For instance, the quintessential winter delight – Shalgam Gosht, an odd pairing, but subtly complimenting each other, or the classic Shalgam Sambaar from the South…and of course, the classic Shalgam-Gobi-Gajar ka achar that is resplendent with the aroma of the winter fields of Punjab.
So, how are you using Shalgam this winter?
And if you need inspiration, here are a few recipes from my kitchen 🙂