More than mere tempering
LIVING IN THE KITCHEN
Those humble green leaves contain a number of health benefits. Vinaya Govind suggests ways to make the best use of curry leaves
The next time you come across curry leaves floating in any dish, do not push them aside or throw them away. Just munch on them and, believe me, you will be reaping a whole lot of health benefits.
Botanically named Murraya keonigi, this deciduous shrub is an ingredient found in almost all Indian kitchens. These shiny, dark green leaves also known as karibevu, kariveppalai, or kadi patha, are an essential ingredient along with mustard or cumin in tempering dishes or the tadka. Just garnish your chutneys with a little mustard and curry leaves fried till they are crisp in a teaspoon of oil and savour the flavour these leaves impart. You’ll surely love it and what more, your family and kids are sure to keep away digestive problems. Curry leaves are a rich source of protein, carbohydrates and digestive fibre. This stimulates digestive enzymes which break down your food.
nImproving digestion: Drink a glass of buttermilk mixed with a few fresh, crushed/finely chopped, curry leaves and a pinch of asafetida. If you’ve had a heavy meal the previous night and you feel sick, this buttermilk can be taken on an empty stomach the next morning. A chutney powder made of dry roasted curry leaves mixed with a little salt and ghee can be eaten with the first morsel of rice at the beginning of the meal to improve digestion. Adding a little finely chopped ginger can prevent constipation.
Insect bites and burns: If an insect bite causes irritation, apply the juice extracted from a few curry leaves. The juice can be applied on minor cuts and burns too.
nLactation: Take a tight fistful of curry leaves, a little tamarind and a wee bit of salt. Grind to a coarse paste. Consuming this chutney is beneficial for nursing mothers.
nNausea during pregnancy: A teaspoon of the curry leaves juice mixed with a teaspoon of honey or half a tsp of lemon juice can reduce the severity of nausea.
nHair tonic: Heat about a cup of your hair oil, and throw in a handful of curry leaves into it. As the leaves turn crispy and black, turn off the fire. Cool the oil. Bottle it and apply it daily on your hair. This oil is believed to reduce graying.
nFor general health: Dry roast a handful of curry leaves, ˝ tsp fenugreek, ˝ tsp of cumin seeds, 1 tsp of dry ginger powder. Boil the ingredients with 2 glasses of water for some time. Drain the juice; add a tsp of salt/sugar/honey and tsp of lemon juice before drinking it up.
Get the benefits of curry leaves by cooking up these dishes:
Curry leaves curry
Ingredients: Curry leaves – 2 cups, onion – 1 finely chopped, tomatoes – 2 finely chopped, fenugreek – 1 tsp, garlic – 10 cloves, cumin seeds – 1 tsp, dried red chillies – 2, mustard – ˝ tsp, tamarind juice – 3 tbsp, red chilli powder and coriander powder - 1 tsp each, turmeric powder - ˝ tsp, jaggery powdered – 1 tsp, asafoetida – a pinch, oil – 3tbsp and salt to taste.
For the tadka: Mustard and cumin – ˝ tsp each and a sprig of curry leaves.
For the masala paste: Roast the curry leaves in a kadai with 2 tsp oil till they are crispy. Remove them and fry about 6 cloves of garlic in the same oil. Grind garlic and curry leaves to a paste with a little water.
Method: Heat some oil in a kadai, crackle mustard and cumin seeds. Add the asafetida, fenugreek seeds, and red chilli bits. Throw in the remaining garlic cloves. Tip in the chopped onion, sauté till they are lightly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes. When the tomatoes are mushy and soft, add turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder. Keep stirring to avoid burning. Pour in the tamarind water, sprinkle the salt and jaggery powder. Simmer till oil separates. At this stage, add the curry leaves paste. Boil for another 2 minutes and remove from fire.
For the tadka, crackle a few mustard and cumin seeds. Add the curry leaves. Pour the tadka on the curry. Serve hot with rice or roti, drizzled with a little ghee.
Curry leaves chicken
Ingredients: Chicken – 1 kg, a bunch of curry leaves, ˝ a bunch of coriander leaves, garlic – 12 cloves, ginger – a 2-inch piece, onions – 3 (finely chopped), tomatoes – 5 (finely chopped), green chillies – 4, turmeric powder – 1 tsp, red chilli powder – 2 tsp, garam masala powder – 1 tbsp, cinnamon – a few bits, cloves – 5, cardamom – 2 pods, any instant chicken masala powder – 4 tsp, oil – 4 tsp, and salt to taste.
For the masala paste: Grind together half a bunch each of curry leaves and coriander leaves, ginger, garlic and green chillies.
Method: In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the rest of the curry leaves till they are crisp. Remove the leaves and when cool, crush them with your palm. Heat the remaining oil in a handi, add the whole garam masala and the chopped onion. When the onions are light brown, add the masala paste. Fry till the oil separates. Add the remaining masala powders and the chopped tomatoes. Tip in the chicken pieces and fry till they are coated with the masala. Once the excess water is evaporated, pour in about 1˝ cups of water. Add salt to taste. Cook till chicken is done. Before taking the dish off the fire, garnish with the crushed curry leaves. Serve hot with rice or rotis.