Chard, or mangold - as it is called here, is a vegetable which grows in Germany too. And it being summers we are getting it at local markets everywhere. Otherwise half of the things that you find in the markets are not grown here, as the climate does not allow it.
On seeing fresh and crispy mangold in the market, I quickly bought 1 kg of it and used it on two consequtive days making two different recipes, both of which turned out good.
One very easy but lovely recipe is the simple Indian Bhaji. Last year was the first time that I made chard in an Indian style, otherwise I always made it with spaghetti, which was delicious too. But last year I had bought this variety from someone selling organic demeter vegetables and very spontaneously decided to make it like a bhujia as we call it at home, or as I remember it from my childhood days in Calcutta - Bhaji, fried shortly in rapeseed oil, and it had turned out so good.
Making and above all eating it gave me one of the feelings I get from some Indian dishes which make me feel so close to home, or should I say, to my childhood! This was a very good compensation for "muli ki bhujiya", both my mom and my grandmother used to make and I just loved it, and which I cannot make here as it is very difficult to get radishes with leaves.
While making chard bhaji this time, impulsive as I am, I did a small experiment, which was only half an experiment, as I felt good about it turning out right. Although, I had become doubtfull, after tasting it in the beginning. Read on to see what happened...
3 Mangold / Chard (roughly 500 - 700 g, more than a pound)
1-2 tbsp Rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 pinch asafpetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp freshly ground fenugreek seeds (the spontaneous experiment!)
1 middle sized onion, cut into thin stripes
1 small clove garlic (optional)
1/4 th tsp chilli powder
1 medium tomato
1/3 rd tsp Amchur /Mango powder( optionally lemon juice)
salt to taste
(be careful with its use, as just like spinach, the volume of chard reduces a lot at the end)
- Clean the chard thoroughly of sand and gritt and chop into thin stripes, including the stem
- Heat oil in a sautè pan or a wok (Kadhai) and let the cumin seeds splutter, add hing and ground fenugreek seeds and turmeric and stir once*
- Immediately add onion, garlic and coriander powder, stir further till onion is golden brown
- add the chard to it and chilli powder and reduce heat towards low
- cook covered, stirring in between
- Add the chopped tomatoe and Amchur and salt as per requirement. Cook till done
- Serve warm with daal and rice or roti (Indian flatbread)
We ate it with Arhar daal and chawal (rice) for dinner and it was throughly enjoyable. Rishab, my son, finished off his plate and left behind only the tomatoes and some pieces of onion (as expected!). That made me especially happy.
Now coming back to the experiment, just when I had added some oil into the pan, I opened the cupboard to take out something and saw this bottle of fenugreek seeds and felt like adding it to the bhaji I was preparing. So, I quickly ground some seeds in the cofee mill - my spice mill, and used it for the recipe. Initially, when I had just started cooking the chard I tasted it and was a bit surprised at the bitter taste of fenugreek seeds which I could taste distinctly. But, then I felt that it just needed some time to cook and absorb some moisture and I was right, thankfully!
The bhujiya was very pleasant and enjoyable just because of the flavours of fenugreek and the nutty flavour of rapeseed oil, which reminds me distinctly of mustard oil, both being quite similar in taste.
Now, I am aware of all the controversies which surround rape seed oil or canola oil or for that matter mustard oil in India because of their erusic acid content and its harmful effects. But, I see the matter a bit differently. Mustard oil, which is quite similar to Rapeseed oil in its constituents, the proportions may be different, and flavour, is being used since ages in India and in my opinion these are one of the healthiest plant oils for cooking purposes, next only to olive oil. A ver interesting article on this is here.
What makes cold pressed virgin rape seed oil so good is that it by nature contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, in very good proportions just like mustard oil and is one of very good plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids as it can be used regularly for cookig food. One needs to store it in airtight containers in a dark and cool spot, just like olive oil and if possible in dark bottles. That prevents the oil to loose its goodness, i.e., prevent damage caused otherwise by sunlight or heat and oxygen, which all lead to rancidity.
If you want to cook or shallow fry or sauté with the oil, it is very good, but for deep frying one should use oils with a high smoke point, like sunflower oil or peanut oil, as these do not degrade so easily into toxins at higher temperatures, which are produced while heating oil, which in turn depends on the the degree of saturation in the fatty acids in the respective oils.
To put it in short, I consider a good quality virgin (cold pressed) rape seed or mustard oil a very good cooking medium for ones health, if used appropriately and in moderation.