Let us talk about a cool herb that has infiltrated into our lives big time. It makes its presence felt when we brush our teeth early morning and then goes on through the day presenting itself in various moods…maybe in an adrak pudina chai as the morning cuppa. As a chef, I am completely biased toward mint! I love being different and would rather use a fresh sprightly sprig of mint for garnish rather than dhania or parsley…it suits both: food and camera. My food shots are proof! I would rather get my pudina picked up from the vendors near Vile Parle East station because I just cannot use ‘mareh hue’ leaves for my show.
Mint has its many moods! It could be crushed into a fresh pudina chutney that is super duper with kababs. (Can munch on some fresh pudina leaves that come as garnish on the kabab platter). Here I would say, do use mint with care. In a good chutney, pudina to dhania should be in the ratio 1 : 2. Change that and you might not get a good chutney. Same thing for tea and cold beverages…
It is really interesting to see how much like gossip mint is. It spreads like wild fire! Take a small plant and put it in cool moist spot in partial shade. The plant can actually ambush your flower pot and experts actually put a steel ring to control the spread of the plant. Due to their speedy growth, one plant of mint, along with a little care, will provide more than enough mint for home use. In India you can get exceptionally good pudina from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir.
There are different species of mint like garden mint, peppermint (sat pudina), spearmint, apple mint and corn mint. Among these, garden mint and peppermint are commercially popular and significant. Different varieties contain different active substances. Menthol and peppermint which give a cooling sensation are the most popular in toothpastes, dental creams, cough drops, chewing gums, after shave lotions, mouth washes, cigarettes, as also confectionery, liqueurs and medicinal preparations like the green digestive capsules and liquids.
Fresh pudina should be used up immediately or stored up to a couple of days in plastic bags within a refrigerator. Or whenever there is excess pudina in the house, dry it and store in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark and dry area. Dry mint is excellent in aloo paranthas, on naans but use fresh leaves in paneer preparations, in pani puri ka paani, or in iced tea, in chaas, raitas, in biryanis….the list is endless!
Mint is also a favourite in drinks like Mint Julep and Mojito. Crème de menthe is a mint flavoured liqueur that is preferably served on finely crushed ice. And who can doubt the popularity of thin mint-filled chocolates? And the medicinal help it gives in stomach aches and flatulence? These days many restaurants serve tea with a woody sprig of mint as a stirrer!
In school we were taught that a mint is a place where coins are made. Ask today’s teen and the answer for mint would be a small menthol sweet! But for avid cooks like me, mint is a flavour that finds many a favour!
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.