When I am home alone, mostly I read, watch TV, surf the net, write and sometimes (though not very often) try my hand in cooking. I like making some side dishes or add-ons to main course. After making some of them a few times I seem to have got a good hang of certain dishes. One of them; rather simple one, is called Raita. It is basically a curds (Dahi) dish. Last time I wrote a piece about this, it was on a day that I made Pudina Raita and got burnt. I only wrote about the incident of getting burnt in the process of making a dish that essentially is supposed to be cold. I was quite excited with my stupidity and foolishness in doing what I did; so I shared it with everyone. But slowly I got pretty creative and started making different kinds of Raita. And surprisingly, I started getting complimented too for them. So I decided that it is now safe for me upload these recipes on the net. Of course it is safe for the readers too. Let me put my white hat on. Ok, here it goes -Ingredients: Curds (dahi)- 500gms/ mint leafs- 50 gm/ Garlic flakes- 10/ freshly ground black pepper– to taste/ salt- to taste.
Chop mint leafs fine. Chop garlic fine. Put chopped mint and garlic in a small utensil. Add a large cup of water (not more than 200ml) in it and put it to boil. We are boiling them to basically get the mint leafs disinfected. It will also reduce the strong flavor of both, mint and garlic. Boil it on slow fire and keep it covered to retain the water from the steam. In 4-5 min, mint and garlic should turn soft. Cover it and let it cool to a comfortable temperature. After it has cooled put it in mixie just for half a minute. It would become smooth.
Now put Dahi in a large bowl. Add a little salt. Add black pepper preferably from a pepper grinding mill, because it retains the fresh taste of pepper. Now add the cooled mint and garlic in it and whip until it becomes homogenous. Taste it for salt. If you find it less then add some more and stir again. But it is better to keep the salt on the lower side and let others add it if they need.
If it has turned out to be smooth in feel and looks saturated light green color, with dots black pepper, I guess you have done it. Just in case the Dahi is too thick then you could add some more water before whipping it. Keep it in the refrigerator for at least an hour; two hours will be better.
Raita is a side dish of an Indian meal. It is had with Indian bread (roti) meals and also quite often with Dal and rice. Northern India, especially UP and Punjab are the lands where you can find a variety of Raitas.
You could follow the same process and make Raitas with spinach (palak) or Methi too. Use garlic for both; but you may not use black pepper for Methi. I like to play with flavors. I like the dish to be recognized as a ‘so and so’ dish with a clear hint of ‘something else’. Like mint Raita with a hint of black pepper. You could add a little ginger paste to the Palak Raita to get a hint of ginger flavor and not use pepper. Like that you could have various combinations; like this with that or next time something different. It is always good to have a clear flavor in a dish rather than mix many things and create confusion.
Raitas can also be made with cucumber (shredded fine), white pumpkin (shredded fine and boiled), onions (shredded), onions and cucumber, onions and ginger etc.
Delhi Darbar restaurant in Mumbai makes a very simple and interesting dish that is made with curds, onions, salt and sugar. Onions are chopped straight and fine, added to the curds along with sugar and salt to taste. It is stirred until the sugar is mixed smoothly. The sugar in fact is a variation here and is to be added just enough to be noticeable; without turning the dish too sweet. Also the mixture should be thick. So there has to be good amount of onions in it. Each mouthful should get a taste of curds with onions. It is more like a salad than Raita.