Seasonal ingredients have their own speciality, and making something delicious out of them is truly rewarding. Here are some ingredients to look out for this season

Words Vicky Ratnani

Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Also, unlike out of season produce, which is harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local retail store, crops picked at their peak of ripeness taste better and are full of flavour.

One of the best benefits of eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye.

In addition to the fuels used to transport out of season produce, loads of pesticides and preservatives used on the produce ultimately leeches into our dietary system.

However, by eating local and seasonal and possibly organic we can minimise the intake of these chemicals.

By eating seasonally, you’ll also be infusing your diet with saturation of vital minerals and un-retouched flavours and colours. Seasonal produce is generally harvested at its peak so it retains its full nutrient and vitamin content. Because it has naturally ripened on the vine or in the ground it will have a more complex and rich flavour. It’s no lie that the juiciest and most vibrant tasting fruits and veggies are those that are in season. 

After a long winter, the human body craves detoxification and longs to shed the extra weight of winter. Spring vegetables like spinach and kale help to alkalize our bloodstream and energise us for the warmer months when we typically expend more energy being active.

Spring vegetables like spinach and kale help to alkalize our bloodstream and energise us for the warmer months when we typically expend more energy being active

I always believe that eating in harmony with the cycles of nature connects us more deeply to the earth. It may sound kind of out there but many holistic nutritionists argue that getting in touch with the earth helps us get in touch with ourselves and our natural rhythms (that’s the neo-hippie alter ego of mine speaking too).

As a chef, we were always trained to plan menus with seasonal items. This keeps the creative juices in us flowing all the time and is a treat for our guests too. It also indicates the ethical values of businesses and a sure thing that food is always fresh and mostly farm to table. These don’t stay permanent on menus as a lot of produce stays in season for a short while. Just like stone fruits like lychees, cherries and peaches come around June and are gone by August. The hotter months treat us to Alphonso mangoes but soon after you find mangoes like Langdaa, Chausa and kesari coming from other states of Indian into Maharashtra. I went to the market and was amazed with how colourful, green and fresh the produce is these days. It’s a good feeling to see people flocking to local markets and picking up fresh produce.

My picks for you 

The Red Amaranth or Laal Maat leaves, known to contain thrice the calcium and five times the niacin content of spinach, Red amaranth has oval leaves with deep red veins running through them. The plant pigments responsible for colouring these leaves are red and yellow betaines, which also colour other vividly hued vegetables such as beets and chards. Betaines are important nutrients as they regulate the body’s chemical functions. Its freely available in most cities in India at the moment.

Very quickly stir fried with slices of garlic, ginger and some chillies, this is a bomb when I drizzle with a slash of balsamic vinegar to it and serve it with my Heritage Pork Chops and mustard greens.

Rat's tail radish looked like a long French bean to me when I saw it many years ago. But the moment I took a bite, its pungent taste and crispy texture just freaked me out. At the moment I could only find the green variety but early January, one can find an amazing purple rat's tail radish. Lila Mougri is the local name for an unusual type of radish, Raphanus caudatus, that unlike other members of its family, has only a small root, but produces long radish tasting pods.

Indian Peach

India produces all delicious fruits including pome fruits (apple and pear) and stone fruits (peach, plum, apricot and cherry) in considerable quantity. These are mainly grown in the North-Western Indian UTs of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Himachal Pradesh (HP) and in the hills of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
The market is quite flooded with them and its the best time to go crazy. If you’ve ever discussed the connection between vision and diet with your eye doctor, chances are good that they mentioned carotenoids. These are a type of antioxidant believed to help strengthen your eyesight. They are found in vibrant-coloured fruits like peaches and nectarines.

Stone fruits can also help promote healthier bones and teeth. That can help prevent osteoporosis, a health condition for which the risk increases with aging.

It creates collagen. And the benefit may be especially appealing for older adults. The vitamin C in stone fruits might help increase collagen. Collagen is a protein that gives the skin strength and elasticity. As a chef and a pro eater, I love visiting markets, talking to vegetable vendors and learning more from them. I love taking pictures and bringing the freshest produce home to cook out some stellar recipes.

Carotenoids are a type of antioxidant believed to help strengthen your eyesight. They are found in vibrant-coloured fruits like peaches and nectarines

Red Dragonfruit 
Commonly known as pitahaya or strawberry pear, this bright pink fruit is jam-packed with nutrients. Its taste is a mix between a kiwi fruit, pear and watermelon, which is the perfect addition to drinks, smoothie bowls or a fruit salad. To eat, simply cut the fruit into two pieces and scoop out the pulp from the inside. The pulp contains small seeds (similar to kiwi fruit) which can be eaten safely. It is sweeter and definitely tastier than its white cousin. It also boosts immunity and is grown in Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

Enjoy the recipes and get seasonal and stay sexy.

Braised Chicken Drumsticks with Soy &Plums

•    6 Chicken drumsticks skin off 
•    50ml Light soy sauce  
•    50 ml Dark Soy sauce
•    4 Plums
•    1 tbsp. sliced ginger
•    3-4 Thai red chillies
•    5 to 6 sliced garlic cloves
•    Spring onions white part only
•    2 to 3 stalks about 2”each 
•    200 ml Chicken stock 
•    2 tbsp. Hoisin sauce

•    In a pan add all the ingredients except the chicken drumsticks.
•    Simmer the lovely liquid for 10 mins.
•    Add the drumsticks and simmer for 35 mins until they are cooked.
•    Remove the drumsticks from the stock and rest until needed.
•    Reduce the stock for 10 mins. Then blend the sauce until smooth.
•    Return the sauce to the stove and add the chicken and simmer for 10 mins.

Serve hot and enjoy.

Laal Maat And Avocado Crostini with feta cheese

•    1 tbsp olive oil
•    50gms onions diced fine
•    1 tsp. garlic chopped/minced
•    1/2 tsp cumin seeds
•    1/3 tsp red chilli flakes
•    60gms blanched methi leaves
•    80gms blanched laal maat leaves
•    Mashed avocado ½ each 
•    1/3 cup diced peeled
•    tomatoes (blanched)
•    3-4 slices multigrain bread/crusty bread
•    1 clove garlic peeled (chopped)
•    1 tsp. Pumpkin seeds
•    1 tsp. Flax seeds
•    10ml Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle 
•    50gms Feta cheese

•    Heat up some olive oil, throw in the cumin seeds, once they crackle add the diced onions and garlic. 
•    Saute for a minutes.
•    Add the red chilli flakes, diced peeled tomatoes and cook for another minute.
•    Toss in the blanched fenugreek and laal maat leaves. Season to taste.
•    Slice the crusty bread into thick slices.
•    Brush with olive oil and grill or toast lightly.
•    Rub the slice with the garlic clove.
•    Spread the avocado mixture on the bread.
•    Add the feta cheese, pumpkin seeds,flax seeds and drizzle with evo!