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 Diet & Nutrition

september 2012

Freshness In Every Splutter

Sanjeev Kapoor
Curry leaves are loaded with potential for use in food and medicine. The next time you see it floating in your dal, just chew it and enjoy the benefits.
I am one of those who always recommend a garden patch or a green balcony spot around the house. The cook that I am, I may even say make it only beds or pots of tulsi and kadipatta! Cleaner air, lesser insects and a mild appealing fragrance are all yours to enjoy. The kadipatta or meetha neem or curry leaves plant, for that matter, is easy to maintain; just water it daily and enjoy fresh leaves whenever you need them.

Our cook of many years is a grand old lady from Andhra, who is still emphatic about using only tender fresh kadipatta in dal and sambhar. No stale leaves will do – that for her are not kadipatta but kadva patta (bitter leaf)! Thanks to her stand, a few stalks of fresh kadipatta, as compliments from the vendor, have for long been a part of every batch of fresh vegetables delivered to our house. If at all they are stored in the refrigeratorthe whole stalk goes into a ziplock bag (shelf life two days).

I confess that kadipatta does not play a big role in a North Indian household. We are used to fresh coriander in everything! But in South Indian cuisine kadipatta is a vital ingredient. In recipes for chicken, mutton, fish, chutneys, vegetables, dals, rice dishes, rasams, poha, wadas, aloo wadas, sambhars – you name them and all the other great dishes – and the kadipatta is there. Dried kadipatta is also an essential ingredient in certain spice mixtures.

Benefits Aplenty

Interestingly, kadipatta comes from a plant that grows wild in the Himalayan foothills and also in many other parts of India, North Thailand and Sri Lanka. Ayurvedic and Unani medicines use kadipatta in many ways including herbal tonics. Even the bark of the tree is used for certain formulae. Mixed with other herbs, curry leaves are used for relief from digestive disorders, diabetes, eye disorders, insect bites, burns and bruises.

It upsets me when people make it convenient to remove curry leaves in food preparations! Curry leaves have some volatile aromatic oils that are also antioxidant in nature. The oils account for the lemony aroma that you are treated to when you fry kadipatta in oil. Just a word of caution though: the leaves go hissing and cause a bit of a splatter when added to hot oil. So be careful.

Try a chutney made of kadipatta with fresh coriander and coconut or roasted kadipatta, roasted chana dal, black peppercorns and salt. It is truly tasty with curd rice. I have also tried chopped kadipatta in omelette and scrambled eggs. It goes wonderfully with toast. I have also tried out a smooth Tomato Shorba with a lot of kadipatta; the volatile oils do give a tasty kick to the soup.

Sanjeev Kapoor is Master Chef, Author & Television Host, Khana Khazana India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai.