Food talk
Way with veggies

What is most often dished out as mixed vegetables in most eateries is a dishonest sleight
of hand to utilise leftover stuff, writes Pushpesh Pant

There is something about ‘mixed vegetables’ that makes them particularly attractive. First and foremost are the cost and convenience. One can mix more expensive with the easily affordable ‘stretching’ what is scarce helped by the abundant; also one can at a pinch make do with whatever is at hand when a meal has to be prepared in a hurry. But for us the greatest joy has always been the pleasure such a medley provides for the senses. The visual appeal is often stunning with a ‘Vibgyoric’ extravaganza on display that promises a symphony of tastes and textures.

It is a pity that what is most often dished out as mixed vegetables in most eateries is a dishonest sleight of hand to utilise leftover stuff, which is over-spiced and all greased up to disguise the literally bitter reality. A few cubes of paneer tossed in the frying pan, along with quarters of tomatoes for fresh tang try to redeem the honour of few wilted florets of cauliflower, stringy beans and if you are in luck some bits of soggy capsicum. The bulk and body are alu that have served a patron earlier in a zeera alu incarnation. For colour and crunch, a few batons of baramasi carrots are there.

We have long fretted and fumed about this con. Good old jalfrezi is reduced to the lowest common denominator and should be aptly renamed jalfarebi (fraudulent) and baoli handi recalls to mind not the step well where a light summer dish was though of, but the creation of some madcap cook. Calling it subz miloni doesn’t improve matters — the combination remains bemel (ill-paired).

The important thing is to play around with fresh seasonal ingredients every time and let time-tested partners sing along sonorously. The idea is to balance the dish — aesthetically as well as nutritionally and let each ingredient shine out. You can hardly go wrong if you stay with the stir-fry coupled with blanching/steaming, lightly boiling routine. Lightest possible touch with salt and spices will make the ensemble really come alive. We are, on our part partial to a spoonful of butter for the glaze but you are free to decide for your self. Just try out the methi-matar-gajar and see what you have been missing all the while.

Chef’s corner

Fresh green peas (shelled) 500 gm

Carrots (scraped, washed

and in bite size pieces) 250 gm

Fresh methi (cleaned) 500 gm

Bay leaf (small) one

Royal cumin (shahi zeera) `BC tsp

A pinch of cinnamon powder

A green chilli deseeded (optional)

Lime juice 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Butter or oil 1 tsp

Boil water in a pan with a little salt. Blanch the peas and carrots in this for one minute then refresh in very cold water. Keep aside. Chop methi finely. Heat butter in a large frying pan, put the bay leaf and when it changes colour add the cumin seeds. After 15 seconds add the carrots and peas. Stir, then put in the methi. Sprinkle the limejuice, cinnamon powder and salt. Stir well, reduce the flame and cook uncovered stirring occasionally till done to taste. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Green chillies slit or chopped may be added just before serving. If you are incorrigibly addicted to masala, than stray from the path of virtue if you must and add half a tsp of dhania powder and a tiny pinch of garam masala just after the shahi zeera.