What's your summer spread?

What's your summer spread?

What's your summer spread?

As temperatures rise, it's easy to lose your cool because of the heat. Along with the sweat and discomfort, summer also brings illnesses, dehydration, cramps, and nutrition loss that can be fatal. That's why, for centuries, various regions in India have had their own versions of summer food cooked with locally available produce that help beat the heat. No wonder, all our childhood memories are filled with images of nimbu pani with lots of ice that we stole from the fridge and of aam pannas, mango kulfis, watermelon juice and creamy lassis. The dishes were more curd-based including kadhi, curd rice, cucumber raita and dahi bhindi.

Buttermilk becomes a staple in most homes both in the North and South. An exclusive pink version of it (made with kokum), called sol kadi is a must-have in regions along the Konkan coast. Interestingly, kokum, a small, dark-purple plum-like fruit, that tastes sour like tamarind, is found only on our western shores. In fact, a glass of its juice is great to prevent dehydration and loss of nutrients. Even bael (wood apple) juice is a rage in the north to beat the hot loo winds that are common in summers. And of course, lassis are made in large quantities, especially up north and are often flavoured with either rose syrup or with mango.

Summer can be challenging since the nutrition levels and fluids of our body deplete rapidly. Sweat and water loss also results in the reduction of water-soluble vitamins and associated nutritional
deficiencies and sunstroke, which can be fatal.

Clinical nutritionist Dr Nupur Krishnan recommends saatu sharbat, a summer drink from the north. You can make it at home by roasting 250 gm of chana with 150 gm of jowar, adding some jaggery powder and 1/4 tsp of cardamom powder. Store the ground mixture in an airtight jar and keep it handy. "Mix this sattu with lemon juice, salt and roasted cumin powder for a refreshing drink. Also sip on coconut water, since the electrolyte concentration in it is same as in our blood - so it gets absorbed quickly and it has tons of vitamins and minerals to stay cool," recommends Krishnan.

Eastern comforts

When it comes to mangoes, we are fortunate to have a huge variety of it growing across the country. While raw mangoes are often consumed in the form of pickles and chutneys, it even finds a place in our basic dishes for that quick burst of tang. Amer daal (raw mango dal) is a must-have in most Bengali households during summer. Mango pieces are added to half-cooked lentils. The dal is then cooked further and tempered with mustard seeds and dried red chillies. Kakrol or teasel gourd is a summer veggie that is best enjoyed in fish stews, as fritters or with coconut and mustard stuffing. Panch meshli torkari (five mixed veggies) has parwal (pointed gourd), potatoes, ladies finger, pumpkin and eggplant cooked in a lip-smacking and nutritious gravy.

Northern delights

For restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani, his summer childhood memories are filled with kadhi chawal lunches. "This simple recipe was our family's favourite. Historically, the dish has evolved over the years and has its own versions across the country. From the coastal sol kadhi to Gujarati kadhi and Sindhi kadhi for instance, every community has its own version of it," says Amlani. Another favourite of his family was shikanji, a drink that helps deal with summer troubles like nausea and dehydration. "My mom used to make shikanji for the entire family and she added beetroot to it to make it healthy," remembers Amlani.

Temper it right!

For chef Thirumal Mohan of Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield, a trip to his aunt's home in Shimoga is a summer ritual. At one such trip, chef Mohan tasted a unique dish called southekayi sasive - a unique combination of cucumbers, cumin, coconut, mustard and green chilli blended with yogurt. "While the yogurt and cucumbers are cooling, the hit of heat from the mustard and chilli makes it a beautiful amalgamation," adds Mohan. For this, cucumbers are peeled and finely minced and whisked yogurt is added to it. A spice paste of coconut, green chillies and mustard is made and added to the bowl. The dish is topped off with a tempering of dried chillies, curry leaves, cumin seeds and a pinch of asafoetida. This can be served with steaming hot rice.

Chef Madhusudan Singh, executive chef, Radisson Blu, Karjat enjoys beetroot kootu, a nutritious preparation from Tamil Nadu, made using dal and beetroot. Traditionally served on a banana leaf as part of a larger meal, it makes for an excellent summer dish as it is a rich source of sugar and iron, which help boost stamina and maintain blood sugar levels, thereby preventing dehydration.

Coastal treats

Executive sous chef Pradeep Rao of Novotel, Bengaluru Techpark reminisces soi bhajjili ghassi from his grandmother's Mangalorean kitchen in Udupi. It's a vegetable curry, flavoured with roasted coconut, coriander and chilli and is traditionally served with rice and poori and contains jackfruit. Toor dal is cooked along with yam, potatoes, sprouts, carrot, and jackfruit in a pressure cooker. Coconut is slow roasted with coriander and chilli till it turns golden brown and then ground into a paste. The ground mixture is cooked in a pan, the lentils and boiled vegetables are added and cooked further to make it thick.

Drink it up!

Krishnan suggests healthy summer mocktails like orange and cucumber, mixed with ginger; raw mango blended with apple, pear, and carrot; lemon and mint; cucumber, apple with mint; orange juice with ginger and honey; pineapple juice with orange, apple, banana, and lemon. Traditional drinks include wood apple mixed with amla juice, shikanji, buttermilk with a hint of ginger and mint, sugarcane juice, and kokam sharbet. Cumin water is a great digestive and rose water and mint are coolants that you can add to anything you like for a swift change of taste.

Punjabi Kadhi
Ingredients (for kadhi)
Sour curd: 1 cup
Besan: cup
Water: 3 cups
Cloves of garlic: 3-4
Methi seeds: tsp
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Jeera: tsp
Red chilli powder: tsp
Turmeric powder: tsp
Hing: 1 pinch
Salt to taste
Dry red chillies: 2-3
Oil: 1 tbsp

For Pakoras
Besan: 1 cup
Onion: 1 sliced
Garlic, grated (optional): 2 cloves
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder: tsp
Chaat masala (optional): tsp
Oil for Frying

Method
For the pakoras:
* Take the besan in a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. Make a thick batter by adding water.
* Heat oil in a frying pan. Scoop small portions of the mixture in your hand or in a spoon and gently drop them in the hot oil. Fry the pakoras on medium flame.
* Remove the pakoras once they become crispy and are golden brown in colour.

For the kadhi:
* Put a cup of curd in a bowl and beat it properly.
* Add about 2 tbsps of besan along with three cups of water. Mix thoroughly.
* Add red chilli powder, turmeric powder, methi seeds and salt and mix well.
* Pour the mixture into a pan and cook it on medium heat, till it starts boiling. Cook for * 30 minutes on a low flame, stirring occasionally.
* Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, jeera, dried red chillies, garlic and hing to it.
* Add the pakoras to the hot kadhi and cover the pan. Cook on medium heat for five minutes. Add the prepared tempering to the kadhi. Mix and cook for few minutes on medium heat.
* Garnish it with coriander leaves.

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