Its resolution time! After the usual end-of-year indulgences, it is time to think fit, but it is also time to think Conscious. Time to think about the distance that food travels before it reaches us. Time to think local. Time to think seasonal. Time to think if our food choices are just a convenience or options that nurture ourselves and our environment.
Here are our top picks for January and what you can do with them:
- Sesame seeds: It is harvest season across the country, and one produce that is now ready for consumption is sesame seeds. Perfect timing, too—sesame seeds help our bodies cope with the winter among other ways, by providing lubrication to our digestive system. They are also a great source of calcium, iron and magnesium. Add a small handful of toasted sesame seeds to your salads or stir fries, or even basic Indian-style subzis such as eggplant, potato, and okra. Don’t beat yourself up for eating a piece or two of sesame seed Gajak—in combination with jaggery, and other nuts, Gajak acts as a classic energy bar minus the evils of preservatives and refined sugars.
- Jaggery:If it is Lohri/Pongal/Sankranti, it has to be a “gud” time! Across the country, this is the season for fresh sugarcane and plam jaggery in various degrees of caramelisation—sticky jaggery for the hard sesame laddoos and chikkis, and a drier jaggery for other sweets and general use. Experiment with homemade chikki or nut and seed brittles, crumbly laddoos, and pongals using millets and various kinds of jaggery this season!
- Ponk: Tender, green Jowar or Sorghum is known as Ponk in Gujarat and Hurda in Maharashtra. Ponk or Hurda parties are common in these parts in the winters—groups of people drive out of the city to the fields, where the tender Jowar is harvested, roasted on coals and served with an array of accompaniments ranging from yogurt to various kinds of fresh and dry chutneys and jaggery. You will find Ponk at the local vegetable market or at Gujarati stores. Do bring some home and simply stir fry with a little green chili, galic, and cumin and eat hot for breakfast as an alternative to cereal. Or blanch and add to a salad along with toasted nuts and steamed, seasonal red carrots. Or stuff into patties. Or blend along with spices and add a little Besan to make Chillas. They’re delicious!
- Cape Gooseberries: More than anything else, you must buy a box of Cape Gooseberries for their sheer beauty! The papery outer leaves look like lace as they protect the golden berries. Cape gooseberries are only available for a small window of time around the end of December to mid February, are a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Make a simple compote using raw sugar and a little fresh grated ginger and top your panna cotta or vanilla ice cream with this for a simple yet flavorful dessert. Or chop them up and fold them in your cake batter with a little lemon zest. Or arrange them, some open, some still hiding in their lacy covers, in a pretty basket and sit them on the coffee table.
- Turnips: Turnips or Shalgam as they are known up north, are high in nutrients and low in calories. This makes them great options for fillers. Think light, soupy stews paired with brown rice or millets. They are also great simply boiled and then tossed in butter.