Mustard fields, Punjab
Spring arrives early in the Northern Plains of India. The Hindu calendar marks Basant Panchami as the first day of spring. Basant coincides with blooming mustard fields, and it is from these perhaps, that the colour yellow has come to symbolize spring to us. If you have ever seen a mustard field in spring you will know the magic I am talking about. Reading about spring and cherry blossoms on other blogs also reminded me of Kashmir. Blossoms of the cherry and the almond trees herald the arrival of spring in the valley.
If anyone likes warmer weather it is my potted mint. After looking sad all winter it perks up at the sight of spring. As the bright green leaves begin to grow they find their way into a lot of things in my kitchen – omelettes and scrambled eggs, cold soups and salads, refreshing jal jeera, and into many a chutney. All of you probably have your favourite recipe for mint chutney. As do I.
This recipe combines the spring of the plains with the spring in the mountains. Since this is a traditional Kashmiri chutney, can nuts be far behind? The Kashmiri Pudna Chatin is made with pudina (mint) and walnuts. The heat comes from either fresh green chillies or red chilli powder, and yoghurt provides the cooling sour tang.
It can be made without any grinding equipment – no blenders, grinders or heavy-duty pestle and mortar required. Remember, I told you about the Kashmiri housewife not having time to mess with side dishes? I have seen my aunt mix some using dried crushed mint, red chilli powder, and yoghurt. Dried mint is good to have at hand during winter. I am always stocked.
Grinding walnuts is no biggie – the smallest of pestle and mortars is up to the task. If you have never needed to pound anything ever, you can always smash the walnuts on the kitchen counter using any moderately heavy object such as a rolling pin (you don’t have a pestle and mortar but you have a rolling pin?). Or go out and pick that river stone pebble from that pot in the garden (or the neighbour’s). As long as you have a kitchen counter. Or a clean floor.
Doon Pudna Chatin
(Walnut and Mint Chutney)
2 C fresh mint leaves (or 2 T dried crushed mint)
a few green chillies or ½ t red chilli powder
¼ C walnuts
2-3 T yoghurt
Using very little water, grind all ingredients (except yoghurt) to a fine paste. Mix in the yoghurt and serve.
If using dried mint:
Pound the nuts and green chillies to a paste (in a pestle and mortar or a grinder). Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for some time to allow the mint to rehydrate. If you do not have any grinding equipment, use red chilli powder instead of green chillies.
This chutney is very good in a plain butter sandwich, as also with any Indian meal. It was also good with fresh-from-the-garden celery sticks! Pistachios and pine nuts make good substitutes for walnuts.
And while I am talking about spring, there are these flowers blooming in my garden
To showcase P at the Flower Fest I have for you:
Common name: Purple Wreath
The beautiful Purple Wreath is amongst the first spring blooms in Delhi. The twisting bark of this deciduous creeper has an interesting texture. The leaves are very rough and sandpaper-like. In Delhi it blooms between March and April. The whole creeper gets covered with lilac-purple bunches of flowers. The blue-purple flowers fall off as the sun rises, but the lilac bracts give a burst of lasting colour. A real delight to look at.
In my garden there is also a very special Frangipani tree – with deep red blooms. I grew it from a cutting from my mother’s tree. It has a very delicate fragrance and is a favourite of mine.
Common name: Frangipani, Temple Tree, Champa