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Mint fresh

Just a few of these cool leaves add punch to chai, drinks and vegetables, writes Sanjeev Kapoor.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2008 13:41 IST

Let us talk about a cool herb that has infiltrated into our lives big time. It makes its presence felt when we brush our teeth early morning and then goes on through the day presenting itself in various moods…maybe in an adrak pudina chai as the morning cuppa.

As a chef, I am completely biased toward mint. I love being different and would rather use a fresh sprightly sprig of mint for garnish rather than dhania or parsley…it suits both: food and camera. My food shots are a proof ! I get my pudina picked up from the vendors near Vile Parle East station because I just cannot use ‘mareh hue' leaves for my show.

Moody mint
Mint has its many moods. It could be crushed into a fresh pudina chutney that tastes super with kababs (also munch on some fresh pudina leaves that come as a garnish on the kabab platter). But do use mint with care. In a good chutney, pudina to dhania should be in the ratio 1 : 2. Change that and you might not get a good chutney. Same thing for tea and cold beverages… Mint is so much like gossip.. it spreads like wild fire. Take a small plant and put it in cool moist spot in partial shade. The plant can actually ambush your flower pot. Experts actually put a steel ring to control the spread of the plant. Due to their fast growth, one plant of mint can provide more than enough mint for home use. You get exceptionally good pudina in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir.

There are different species of mint like garden mint, peppermint (sat pudina), spearmint, apple mint and corn mint. Among these, garden mint and peppermint are commercially popular and significant.

Different varieties contain different active substances. Cooling menthol and peppermint are popular in toothpastes, dental creams, cough drops, chewing gums, after shave lotions, mouth wash and medicinal preparations like the green digestive capsules and liquids. Mint helps cure stomach aches and flatu lence too.

Fresh pudina should be used immediately or stored for a couple of days in plas tic bags in the refrigerator. Whenever there is excess pudina in the house, dry it and store in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark and dry area.

Dry mint is excellent in aloo paranthas, on naans but use fresh leaves in paneer preparations, in pani puri ka paani, or in iced tea, in chaas, raitas, in biryanis.. the list is endless. Drink away Mint is also a favourite in drinks like Mint Julep and Mojito. Crème de menthe is a mint-flavoured liqueur that is preferably served on finely crushed ice. These days many restaurants serve tea with a woody sprig of mint as a stirrer.

In school we were taught that a mint is a place where coins are made. Ask today's teen and the answer for mint would be a small menthol sweet! But for avid cooks like me, mint is a flavour that finds many a favour.

(The writer is a master chef, author and television host.