Comfort Food To Beat The Winter Blues

These winter delicacies from across different regions of India are made to keep your body warm and your tummy happy
Sarso ka saag is a mix of seasonal greens like mustard leaves, radish leaves, spinach and bathua or pigweed and is best enjoyed with makki ki roti (cornmeal flatbread) and white butter. Credit Wikimedia commons
Sarso ka saag is a mix of seasonal greens like mustard leaves, radish leaves, spinach and bathua or pigweed and is best enjoyed with makki ki roti (cornmeal flatbread) and white butter. Credit Wikimedia commons

Til Gudh Ke Laddoo, Uttar Pradesh & Maharashtra

Come winter, most households in the state of Uttar Pradesh will have massive plates heaped with sesame seeds and jaggery batter, ready to be made into balls of lush warmth and health. Being rich in iron and calcium, this winter delicacy is a healthy snack to munch on, which is full of flavour and gives off a nutty aroma, leaving a lingering aftertaste. The oil-rich sesame seeds offer much-needed warmth against North India&rsquos harsh winters while being super easy to make at home.

Quick recipe 

Dry roast 1 and 1/4th cups of sesame seeds slowly for 7-8 minutes. 

Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a wide non-stick pan and add 1 and 1/4th cups of sticky jaggery. 

Stir the mixture continuously on a low flame for 4-5 minutes. 

Add the sesame seeds, a fistful of roasted and crushed peanuts, and ½ a tsp of cardamom powder to the mixture. If you don&rsquot have cardamom powder, grind some cardamom using a mortar and pestle. 

Cook on a low flame for a minute before spreading the mixture on a greased plate.

Let it cool slightly and then take small portions and turn them into laddoos. 

Let the laddoos cool completely, and then transfer them to an air-tight container. 

Sarso ka Saag, Punjab

A Punjabi signature made with a mix of seasonal greens like mustard leaves, radish leaves, spinach and bathua or pigweed, this vegetarian dish is hearty, best enjoyed with makki ki roti (cornmeal flatbread) and white butter with a cube of jaggery. This green curry is best enjoyed in winter and is rich in iron plus antioxidants that give your body enough warmth and strength to fight the dip in temperatures. 

Quick recipe

Although this is a fairly time-consuming dish to make, it is still easy and can be attempted by beginners as well.

Wash and chop 2 cups each of mustard leaves, spinach, radish leaves and bathua. Blanch for 4-5 minutes.

Strain and rinse with cold water then blend to a coarse texture with ½ cup of water.

Heat oil in a pan and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds. When they start to crackle, add ¼ tsp of asafoetida and 1 tbsp of ginger-garlic paste. Saute until fragrant. 

Add the pureed greens and season with salt, turmeric powder, and red chilli powder. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then shut the flame.

For tempering

Heat 1 big tbsp of ghee in a pan and add dry red chillies, mustard seeds, and finely chopped onions. Saute for a minute or two and then mix with the cooked saag. Serve hot.

Undhiyu, Gujarat

This one-pot casserole dish is a vegetarian speciality of Surat. Made with seasonal vegetables usually available as winter commences, Undhiyu is a source of fibre, protein, and iron and makes for a filling main course. Veggies like unripe plantains, baby green peas, lilva beans or edamame, purple yams and potatoes are usually used for this pot meal. The addition of gram flour dumplings punctuates the curried consistency of the mixed vegetables. 

Quick recipe

Mix 1 tbsp each of semolina, and rice flour with ½ cup of fresh fenugreek leaves, a pinch of turmeric, red chilli powder, grated ginger, ¼ tsp of baking soda and 1 tbsp of oil or curd. Knead into a dough, adding water as needed. Steam them in a lightly greased idli maker for 2-3 minutes on both sides.

For the curry 

Mix grated coconut, chopped coriander, chopped green garlic, coriander and cumin seeds, green chilli paste, salt to taste and lemon juice. 

Make diagonal slits on yams, potatoes, plantains and brinjals and stuff them with the green masala. Combine with asafoetida, fresh toovar dana, carom seeds and baking soda and marinate for 8 minutes.

In a pressure cooker, heat oil, add carom seeds, asafoetida, and baking soda and saute for 2 minutes before adding all the veggies with 2 cups of hot water.

Cook on high flame for 2 minutes, then transfer to a non-stick pan and add the dumplings. 

Serve hot.

Sudkaa, Punjab

Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh made this rich milk-based drink famous in one of his Instagram videos. Sudkaa is specially prepared for children in the villages of Punjab, where it can get unbearably cold during the winter months, to provide relief from cold and cough.

Quick recipe

In a deep-bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of desi ghee.

Reduce the flame and add 2 tbsp gram flour, stirring continuously until fragrant.

In the lightly browned flour, add 2 cups of milk and turn the flame to medium.

To the milk, add 2 tbsp of sugar, 8-10 crushed almonds and ½ tsp green cardamom powder or ground cardamom seeds, whichever is available. 

Bring it to a boil, then lower the flame and cook for 5-7 minutes until the drink thickens.

Turn off the flame and drink hot.

Chi Al Meh, Manipur

One of the few vegetarian dishes of the northeastern state of Manipur, this brothy vegetable soup is like a warm hug in the middle of the biting cold. All the vegetables used are treated in their most natural form without dressing them with too many spices, so you get a burst of earthy flavours that are both healthy and tasty. 

Quick recipe

In a wide-bottomed pot, heat a tbsp of oil and add a tsp of ginger paste. Saute until fragrant.

Add 2 diced onions, 1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper chopped,1 cup chopped mushrooms (any variety), 1 cup blanched and finely chopped spinach/ mustard leaves, plus any other vegetables you prefer (broccoli, carrots, corn etc.)

Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add green chilli paste, soy sauce, gochujang paste (optional), sugar and salt to taste.

Add two cups of hot water to the veggies or vegetable stock if you have and bring it to a boil. 

Once it thickens to your desired consistency, take it off the heat and serve it hot with noodles or rice.

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