The Winter Foodland – Part 1

Madhulika Dash

They say that one of the reasons behind Babar’s dislike for India was the lack of fruits and vegetables. Well had he waited four months, he would have witnessed the joys of Indian winter – an abundance of the best vegetables, greens and fruits. Today, this three-month-long season sees a plethora of fresh and inventive dishes from milk foam (daulat ki chaat) sold as a savoury treat to the palate-tickling kanji made of black carrot!

Beverages

Kanji: Made by soaking black carrot in water for two drinks, this palate-tingling beverage is known to gear up the body against the ill of North Indian winters. Seasoned with black salt and a squeeze of lime, it is perhaps the only famous fermented drink originating in the erstwhile kingdom of Punjab – and is on the must-have list across Delhi and Uttar Pradesh too.

Raabdi: The only similarity between rabri and raabdi is perhaps the way it is pronounced, and the fact that both use milk products – while rabri is essentially thickened milk, raabdi, which is a traditional dish of Rajasthan in winters is made from bajre ka atta and curd. 

Haldi Doodh: The world at large has finally woken up to the virtues of turmeric, with golden lattes one of the most trending coffees of late. For us however, it has always been the ultimate antidote and a favourite winter drink dating as far back as the 5th century. In fact, many believe haldi doodh to be the original flavoured milk which later inspired other royal drinks such as kesar doodh and gulabi doodh.

Rasam: Yes, the essential peppery water that is served with your favourite South Indian thali. And while it is made through the year, it tastes best in winters – especially the original pepper cumin rasam.

Chaaru: One of the best aspects about winter vegetables such as carrot and radish, is that they taste best when raw or when just slightly cooked. The best example of this would be Andhra Pradesh’s chaaru. Though visually it looks like a thick soup, it is a close cousin of rasam when it comes to the underlying spices. Varieties include ingredients pumpkin, tomato, moringa and even horse grams.

Shorbas: Shorba is to North Frontier cuisine, what soup is to the French – it isn’t just an appetizer but one-half of a meal. In fact, shorbas like rasam are often categorised under the classic, clear soups that are prepared from broths. A typical breakfast on a cold morning, served with a flatbread or pao, shorbas are mostly mildly-seasoned and slow-cooked mutton bones, cartilages and fat with minimal meat. While the more popular ones are Paya ka shorba, Nalli Ka Shorba, aab gosht (which uses white pumpkin as well) and Kashmiri gosht yakhni shorba (using yoghurt), there are a few vegetarian varieties too, like tamatar ka saar and chilgoze ka shorba.

Gud chai: While garam chai is the quintessential winter drink, there are a few versions that are particularly enjoyed between November to February. The gud chai, for instance. Traditionally presented as black tea, the Kanpur-origin drink has many versions today including one which is almond milk-based. Brewed-in-brassware, the original Gud Chai from Kanpur is known for the aromas created using pepper, ginger, cardamom and clove – and sweetened with jaggery.

Read Part Two of our series….