I love the scents of winter – ginger, cinnamon, holy basil, nutmeg, pepper et al. I’m sure it is equally fascinating for you to witness the early morning mist of winters and a variety of foods arranged in your kitchen waiting to be turned into wonderful dishes. The entire experience of cooking changes especially during winters, as it becomes imperative to boost the immunity of our bodies and keep it warm, to enjoy the chilly weather being hale and hearty! I clearly remember maa keeping her pitara of recipes ready, to surprise us with some of the most amazing seasonal recipes. When I sit and open each chapter from those fond memories, the most special ones include copious cups of adrak/tulsi ki chai and makki di roti with sarson da saag, without which winters would literally be incomplete. Then there were some superfood grains like makai, jowar and bajra that always used to be a part of our winter special diets, as these kept the body warm besides supplying the right nutrients for healthy functioning of the body during the cold weather. And if you feel that these just worked this way without bringing in taste or texture to our meals, then you are quite wrong! Not just health-wise, I’ve grown up on some of the tastiest food made with these very humble ingredients.
Toh chaliye, let’s explore more about these wonder ingredients that can enhance your winters with their warmth as well as deliciousness.
Ginger is one of those ingredients that are easily available in our kitchen and work wonders in boosting immunity. Its strong and earthy flavour makes it an excellent choice to spice up a dish. It is called srngaveram in Sanskrit, where srngam means ‘horn’ and vera means ‘body,’ thus, describing its shape. Consuming this ingredient means you are not just warding off stubborn cold and coughs, but also other ailments like morning sickness, nausea and indigestion. I’m sure you enjoy sipping on a hot ginger tea in chilly winters, but how about exploring another interesting avatar of it? A recipe that will tickle your taste buds every bit. Here’s a lovely Adrak ki Launji that’s going to impress you instantly. Did you know that during the 13th and 14th centuries, one could buy a sheep by paying one pound of ginger? Yes, ginger has been that valuable!
It is fortunately quite an accessible ingredient now. But did you know that 4000 years back, there was a huge demand for pepper due to which it was also referred to as the ‘black gold?’ It was truly a matter of prestige and a status symbol of wealth if someone kept it on their desk. This spice does not just enhance the taste, but also stimulates the digestive enzymes, improves gastrointestinal functionality and keeps the body warm, as it is rich in antioxidants, is antimicrobial and has anti-inflammatory properties too. While you must have used it in your favourite pasta and stir-fries, a rasam is where it shines! Try this comforting Pepper Rasam with steamed rice and comfort your body, just the right way this winter.
Here is another gem which is loaded with anti-bacterial and antiviral properties, which supports in alleviating chest infections. It is an excellent remedy for people having bronchitis and asthma, as in winter, this problem aggravates all the more. The world ‘garlic’ originated in Central Asia and is made of 2 words – gar meaning ‘spear’ and lac meaning ‘plant,’ signifying the pear-shaped leaves of the plant. The cultivation of garlic started about 4,000 years ago, which makes it one of the oldest and first herbs to be grown by humans. You must’ve savoured garlic in various forms, but this time, try a curry where it is the hero.
Fun fact: Brides in ancient Greece didn’t carry flower bouquets, instead carried bouquets consisting of garlic along with other herbs!
Jowar, bajra, makai
These grains make winters so special with some of the most comforting recipes. Not just this, but these also work on making the body strong. As they help in better absorption of calcium and also build muscle tissues. There is no such winter when my daughters haven’t insisted me to make recipes of bajra, jowar or makai.
Sorghum a.k.a jowar is high on fibre, protein and essential vitamins. Not to forget, it is termed as ‘new quinoa’ in the world today. Thanks to its whole grain goodness and gluten-free nature! Try this recipe and you’ll know what I’m talking of. https://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/Recipe/Jowar-Bhakri-with-Thecha.html
Pearl millet a.k.a bajra is capable of giving an energy high for a long time and also detoxifies the body. Enjoy this one-pot hearty meal that’ll touch your soul while keeping you full for longer. And yes don’t forget to top it with a dollop of ghee.
Corn a.k.a. makai is not just a great source of vitamins and minerals, but is loaded with antioxidants ‘lutein’ and ‘zeaxanthin’ that aid good eye health. While you must’ve savoured a lot of delicacies with this fabulous grain, here’s a mithai recipe that’s going to be just right to satiate that wintersweet craving. Go for it!
The most amazing fact about sesame is that its plant can survive drought and still keep growing, which is why it is also known as a ‘survivor crop.’ In some countries, it is even used in medicines as well as beauty products. This calcium and the iron-rich ingredient is worthy to be included in your winter food intake. You can even make the most of it, by soaking sesame seeds overnight and having it the next morning. Til Gud ke Laddoo is one of the forms in which I love sesame seeds. Try it, I’m sure you’re going to love it too.
While you must have heard this quite often, ‘tulsi har aangan ki’ as its strong association with holy beliefs, it is also a truly amazing green. A common in almost all Indian households, holy basil a.k.a tulsi has the power to cure various ailments like the common cold, fever/flu, etc. Also, it is a blessing for asthmatic patients. In Ayurveda, it is recommended to use for building respiratory resistance. Not just this, it can also be helpful in treating conditions like hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue. You too can make the most of this ingredient by sipping a hot cup of this refreshing tea. So, sit back and enjoy it with your family.
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.