Dhania, kotmir, coriander…call it by any name but one thing is for sure, it has become a priceless commodity in Mumbai. All you will get for five rupees are a few sprigs and then one begins to wonder if today’s dal and sabzi can do without garnish, perhaps? But fresh coriander can really enhance any dish and the super part is that all parts of the plant are edible! We can use the leaves for garnish, the stems and leaves in chutney, the seeds in garam masala and other masalas, the roots in Oriental cooking and coriander oil in seasonings for sausages and other meat products. And it would also be a great surprise that dhania is not ingenious to India but features in a variety of cuisines, including Southwestern, Latin, Caribbean, Mexican, Mediterranean, North African and Southeast Asian. I think coriander should not be undermined in its utilities!
I also have an idea which has developed while writing this. Why not grow coriander at home? As this herb will grow up to maximum two feet in height it is a good potted plant for our balconies. You will need good quality (unroasted) whole coriander seeds and a large pot of good quality soil. The pot needs to be deep because the tap roots go down deep. Sow seeds at least one centimeter deep and cover with soil. Position the pot where there is lots of light. Do not over water as coriander does not like the roots to stand in water. Seeds will take around twelve to sixteen days to germinate. You can pluck the leaves after the plant has reached around ten centimeters in height. Coriander should be sown every few weeks to ensure a continuous crop. The good green colour of fresh coriander will always be around to garnish your ghar ka khana.
Remove the roots and thick woody stems and store the leaves in an airtight container kept in the fridge. It can stay for a week. As and when you need your hara dhania, wash the leaves well, dry them, chop and use. Coriander seeds should be lightly roasted to ensure no breeding ground for any kind of insects. Coriander powder should be stored in a clean container and you may use a piece of whole asafoetida to prevent spoilage.
Coriander chicken, coriander parantha, chutney, pulao, or then go Mexican and make a salsa with tomato, onion, garlic, chillies and freshly chopped coriander leaves. Or stir some coriander leaves into a chilled cucumber raita. Or use with spices as a stuffing in bread but bake in large batches as this is a super success. Who can think of kothimbir wadi and deny the flavour of coriander in it? Or a dhania pudina chutney? A carrot and coriander soup? Dhana jeeru powder is a good thickening agent in curries and roasted split coriander seeds called dhana dal is a popular mouth freshener. Coriander is considered an aid to the digestive system. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices.
So while all this convinces you that dhania is enchanting, I will cook myself a bowl of lemon and coriander soup which is fast becoming popular in many restaurants.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.