Mint is a zesty herb that stimulates digestion, brings relief from menstrual cramps, nausea and flatulence, soothes the throat, freshens the mouth and and infuses food with a wonderful fragrance and flavour.
I keep looking for ways to include mint in my daily cooking. Sharing some homely favourites with you:
Mint chutney: ½ cup mint + 1cup cilantro leaves + 1 sharp green chilli (optional) + ½ red onion + salt. Whirl these in a food processor, adding enough water to get a smooth, thickish paste of pouring consistency (make sure the herbs are finely ground). Squeeze lemon juice into the chutney and stir well. Makes a zingy accompaniment to all kinds of rice dishes and breads. You can also use it as a spread.
Mint-spiked juice: For a touch of India-style spicy tomato/orange juice (or for that matter any fresh juice), make a trip to a specialty store and buy a packet of Chaat Masala. Composed of dried mango powder and many interesting spices, chaat masala is beautifully sour but not hot. Sprinkle this masala on juice and stir in a few finely chopped mint leaves. Pop in an ice cube if you like. Irresistible!
Rice with a hint of mint: One of my favourite comfort foods is rice cooked with green peas. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a round-bottomed pan. Add ½ tsp of cumin seeds, a small cinnamon stick, a few black peppercorns and a bay leaf. As soon as the seeds start crackling, pour in 1 cup of green peas and stir well. At this point, you can add ¼ tsp turmeric powder for an exotic touch, a lovely golden colour and many healing benefits.
When the peas are slightly soft, add 1 cup basmati rice, and toss gently to mix the rice with the peas and spices. Now add 2 cups of water, and salt to your taste. When the rice comes to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan. When the rice is done done, lift the lid and toss in about 2 teaspoons of chopped cilantro leaves, ½ tsp chopped mint leaves and some freshly grated ginger. Squirt half a lemon too at this time—it lends tang and fluffs out the grains. Enjoy hot, with the raita recipe below or the chutney above—or perhaps both (in which case, go easy on the mint in the yogurt).
Crunchy minty yogurt: Here’s a crunchy yogurt raita you’ll find in most homes in India: 1 big bowl of plain yogurt, into which you stir 1 finely chopped cucumber + 1 finely chopped tomato + 1 finely chopped onion/spring onion + 1/2 tsp finely chopped cilantro leaves+ ¼ tsp chopped mint leaves, a little rock salt or sea salt + 1/2 tsp roasted and powdered cumin seeds + a pinch of paprika for a dash of bright colour. Very good-looking, absolutely delish, and perfect for a warm afternoon.