Of Peels and Chutneys
It was the day of the home science practical exam. We had to make a cucumber and tomato sandwich. Easy-peasy, I thought. I took the slices of bread, spread butter over them, thinly sliced the cucumber and tomatoes, arranged them carefully on the slices; then I sprinkled salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice. I made a small collage of cucumber slices and tomatoes and a sprig of coriander to round it off. The other girls were still at work, cleaning their work tops and discarding lots of stuff — what stuff? I shrugged.
The examiner took one look at my sandwich and lifted the top slice and set it back slowly. Then she looked at me. She was kind enough to commend the presentation and pass me – just about.
My mistake? I had not peeled the cucumbers and trimmed the edges of the bread! So that was what the girls were throwing out in the bin! But did I deserve the low marks? I thought no.
Now, I come from a household where no food was wasted. We rarely had bread in the house and when we did, we ate every scrap, even the edges of bread. And vegetables were eaten with their peels – cucumbers, carrots, even potatoes. Of course they were thoroughly scrubbed and washed several times to remove all dirt and mud first and also pesticides were not as rampant back then. The hard peels of vegetables like pumpkins, ridge gourd and ash gourd were made into tasty chutneys. The peel of ash gourd is used for making uradbadis both by north and south Indians even today. We ate some varieties of mango with their peel and mother made a tangy sweet and sour chutney with orange peel.
Coming back to my practicals, you can understand why I was clueless about the peeling of cucumber, especially since we had not been taught the recipe in class.
Peels have the most nutrients and vitamins that are lost when they are discarded. So now we hanker after organically grown vegetables which can be eaten – peel and all. We are told by chefs to thoroughly clean vegetable peels and then boil them to make stock out of it. And we are re-learning the lessons we had discarded not too long ago. Peels are tasty and healthy without a single doubt.
And now for a quick recipe of Peel Chutney:
Vegetable peel: 2 cups thoroughly washed and chopped fine.
You can use ash gourd (white pumpkin), yellow pumpkin, bottle gourd (lauki), ridge gourd, the seeds of snake gourd, etc.
Mustard – ½ tsp
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Tamarind – gooseberry sized ball
Green chillies – 2-3 (or as per taste)
Ginger – 1” piece
Salt to taste
1½ tsp oil for sautéing.
Heat ½ tsp oil in a kadhai and add mustard. After it splutters, add the dals and saute till they turn golden. Add chilles and fry a little. Remove and cool. Now add the remaining oil and the peel. Saute well till the raw smell goes. Take care not to burn the peel. In a mixer jar, take the tamarind, salt, ginger and the fried dal mixture and grind to a coarse powder. Add the peels and grind well, but not superfine. This chutney can be eaten with rice, roti or even dosa.
*You can substitute tomatoes for tamarind, but saute it a little before grinding. A tbsp of coconut or a couple of cloves of garlic can be added if you like. Go ahead and experiment!
Next time you peel a vegetable think twice before doing it.
The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!