As if April wasn’t hot enough, May has arrived, and how! Most of the country is indoors if they can help it, perpetually exhausted under a whirring fan or the hum of an air conditioner that is never switched off.
Eating (leave alone cooking!) in this month has always been difficult, and full meals seem like some form of medieval torture. One-pot dinners and salad-sandwich lunches seem to work best for everyone in this weather. Here are a few ideas for light meals using the season’s best offerings.
By now, almost all varieties of mango have made their appearance in the markets. Be it the elusive, pale coloured Mankurad from Goa or the Banganapalli from Andhra Pradesh or the Alphonso from the Konkan belt, they are all jostling for space at supermarket and farmer’s market alike. There has always been a debate on the consumption of mangoes and whether they are permissible for consumption by people who need to be on a low calorific diet. While some experts rest their case on the high sugar content of the fruit, others advocate it on the basis of high fiber content and low glycemic value. While the medical fraternity debates this, perhaps it is best to adopt the doctrine of moderation and not be quite so harsh on ourselves. A mango a day will certainly not cause your weighing scale to scream or your glucometer to flash the distress signal provided you balance it with a little extra walking or swimming (forbidden fruit tastes sweeter, remember?). Ripe yet firm Mankurad and Rajapuri mangoes are great in a salad with lettuces, toasted Makhana, and crisp red bell peppers. Small, indigenous mangoes, ripe or raw, make for a cooling and comforting curry to go with plain rice while tart green Kairis will pick up your evening Bhel or form the base of a lovely drink.
This is also the season for Ratambe or the Kokum fruit. Did you know that the Kokum fruit is a close cousin of the Mangosteen? It is much more sour, however, so you cannot possibly eat the flesh on its own. Kokum contains, among other nutrients, an element called Garcinol, which is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Traditionally, the fruit is cut into two hemispheres, the flesh is scooped out and the two halves are filled with sugar. These are the stacked in a glass jar and left in the sun to make the Kokum syrup we enjoy as a cordial. The shriveled up skins are washed, salted and dried to make the dried Kokum we add to daals and curries. The seeds are ground together to make an inedible skin butter, which prevents drying and soothes allergic irritation. How about making this a summer project? Go to the local market and scout around for these!
There are innumerable ways in which we try to get ourselves to like green tea, and let’s be honest—it doesn’t always work. With so much evidence in its favour, it is a health supplement we cannot entirely ignore. Here’s a fun way to make it this month—in the morning, add a few spoons of loose leaf green tea or two-three tea bags in a jug of room-temperature water along with a few slices of citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, sweet limes, grapefruit) and perhaps a few sprigs of mint. Leave this jug in direct sunlight for 4-5 hours and drink through the day. Try other flavor combinations—lemongrass and ginger, perhaps?
It can’t be all fruit and salads and juices all summer—one needs to eat a source of protein at least once a day! Moong daal is a light yet filling option. Make light a light khichdi or soup for dinner. Paired with some toast or simply steamed vegetables for your vitamin and iron intake, this makes for a complete meal. Moong daal with the green skin still on ensures that you also derive a healthy amount of dietary fiber from whatever dish you make without making the meal heavy or sluggish.