Salad days are here: Enjoy the refreshing flavours of the season : The Tribune India

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Salad days are here: Enjoy the refreshing flavours of the season

Salad days are here: Enjoy the refreshing flavours of the season


Pushpesh Pant

More than a quarter century back, a freshly minted graduate from a hotel management school, Ashish Verma, wanted nothing more than to globetrot and experience the world. Well, he has been there and done that but the restlessness remained till he experienced the magic of the hills of Uttarakhand. The hotelier-turned-mountaineer has now made Jilling his home, where he runs a delightful hush-hush homestay for the kindred souls. To cut a long story short, this is how ‘Himalayan Bounty’ was born — a unique project that strives to give back to the rural communities in the Himalayas what they have given selflessly for ages to all who come here to recuperate and rejuvenate.

Every year, Ashish ropes in friends — trendsetting chefs and home chefs — to join hands with village women for ‘cook-ins’, providing an unprecedented opportunity of bonding to villagers in the hills and visitors from the plains. Skills and ideas are exchanged and the culinary philosophy of ‘Farm to Fork’ takes a new meaning. Also researched are lost recipes and forgotten ingredients, some foraged from the forest skirting the village. But let’s not digress.

The first mangoes of the season have made their appearance — sinduri as well as the expensive and exotic hapuz, aka alphonso. And, it will not be long before the peach blossoms are transformed into luscious fruit on the trees. This inspired home chef Anita Tikoo to create the mango-roasted peach salsa to bid goodbye to winter and welcome the summer before it gets scorching hot.

Anita loves utilising local ingredients, infusing her dishes with the essence of local flavours, and advocates a mindful approach to food consumption. She saw pahari women chargrilling potatoes in the embers of a chulha and roasting the juice-dripping peaches with delicate skin.

You can easily replicate this on open flame on a gas stove.

The hills of Uttarakhand aren’t known for melons. These were always aspirational imports from the plains. According to food lore, as the mercury rises, kharbuja becomes sweeter. Can anything match the intoxicating fragrance of the aptly named muskmelon? This is the fruit from his birthplace in Samarkand that Babur, the founder of Mughal dynasty, missed most. Honeydew melon is veritably a cask of nectar.

Chef Anuj Kapoor, an experienced executive chef in the Capital, is passionate about community outreach, often cooking alongside locals, exchanging knowledge, and imparting valuable skills that extend far beyond the realm of cooking.

Chef Anuj is fond of mixing and matching ingredients to create light and refreshing meals for his guests. What he has contributed to the ever-growing repertoire of ‘Himalayan Bounty’ is a kharbuja mango salad topped with feta cheese.

Both the recipes are easy to try out at home and we have great pleasure in sharing these with our beloved readers. By the way, the dressing for the salad can be prepared beforehand and stored in airtight jars in the fridge for about a month. It can be used with any other salad you may fancy to create at home. Feta cheese is easily available these days but if not at hand, you may consider using good old creamy paneer!

Mango and peach salsa

Ingredients:

Mangoes (Baganpalli, malda, peeled & diced) 2 large

Peaches (fire-roasted, peeled & diced) 2 medium

Lime (juice) 1

Garlic clove (minced) 1

Green chilli (minced) 1

Small onion (chopped fine) 1/2

Parsley (chopped) 2 tbsp

Fresh coriander (chopped) 2 tbsp

Fresh mint (chopped) 2 tbsp

Extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp

Salt 1/2 tsp

Fresh ground pepper

Method

Put all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix gently with a spoon to combine. Cover and let it stand in the refrigerator for an hour before serving to allow flavours to meld.

Kharbuja mango salad

Ingredients:

Muskmelon (desi kharbuja, medium) 2

Feta cheese 300 gm

Fresh rosemary A few sprigs

Walnut kernels (roughly broken & toasted) 80 gm

Dressing:

Fresh ripe tomatoes (or semi-dried tomatoes) 4

Garlic cloves (roasted) 6

Fresh rosemary (leaves broken) 2 tbsp

Apple cider vinegar 4 tbsp

Olive oil (extra virgin) 80 ml + 20 ml

Mustard oil (kachchi ghani) 6 drops

Rock sea salt & black pepper To taste

Method

Prepare the dressing by cutting the tomatoes into quarters. Place in a baking tray, add the peeled garlic cloves. Sprinkle with some rock salt, black pepper, 20-ml olive oil. Toss lightly. Set the oven at 80º C, no need to pre-heat. When the 30-min timer goes off, turn the oven off, leave the tray inside for another 30 mins. Blend the tomatoes and garlic from the baking tray in a blender along with the remaining ingredients. Dice the chilled melon, toss with broken rosemary leaves, place in a serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the melon. Top with chunks of feta. Garnish with walnut kernels.


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