No one thinks of eating Indian vegetables and greens as salads,” said Tara Deshpande Tennebaum, a trained chef and author. “There’s mustard, bathua (lamb’s quarter), amaranth and even radish and beetroot leaves, but we hardly eat them raw.”
Tennebaum’s latest book An Indian Sense of Salad – Eat Raw, Eat More addresses this cultural idiosyncrasy by offering ways to make salads a regular feature on home menus. It’s a book that’s based on lessons learned over the years in her own kitchen. When she moved back to Mumbai after spending a few years in the US, she missed the fresh, lightly-dressed salads she ate there. That is when she started experimenting with local produce to create her own recipes at home.
In the book, Tennebaum has turned quite a few classic Indian dishes into a salad – “Take any Indian dish and break it down to its ingredients. If these flavours work in the cooked form, why can’t they work in [their] raw form?”
In her Chicken Korma Salad – one of her favourites from the book – she adds whole spices to room-temperature oil and stores it in a jar. After overnight refrigeration, the oil has the aroma and flavour of the korma. There’s also a recipe for saffron oil made using the same technique.
Chicken Korma Salad Recipe
For the salad
3 cups chopped boneless, skinless, leftover chicken pieces
¼ cup celery with leaves, very finely chopped
¼ cup unsalted, roasted cashew pieces
1 red onion, sliced thinly into rings
½ cup light cream
1 tsp red chilli hot sauce or to taste
For the dressing
2 tbsp saffron oil*
¼ cup vegetable oil
1-inch turmeric root
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger root, fresh grated
1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted, lightly pounded
1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted, lightly pounded
1 tsp red chilli flakes, crushed
Juice of ½ lime
¼ tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
*To make saffron oil combine 500ml unflavoured, refined rice bran oil and 12 saffron threads crushed in a mortar and pestle. Keep this mixture in a jar, shake well and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours in a cool and dry corner of your kitchen. Refrigerate for a week. Shake occasionally during this time. This keeps refrigerated for one month.
1. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake well and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge and strain. Discard the strained bits and pieces.
2. Whisk the dressing into the light cream.
3. Toss the remaining ingredients for the salad together.
4. Spoon the dressing over the chicken and toss again. Use only as much dressing as required to lightly coat the salad. Stir well and adjust the seasoning if required.
5. Top with celery leaves and cashew pieces.
6. Serve cold with melba toast or crackers.