By Naini Setalvad
An Indian meal is incomplete without the popular mouth freshener known as saunf. It is also loaded with many healing properties, discovers Naini Setalvad
What is fennel? Simply saunf or varyali. An Indian meal is incomplete without fennel. It is a popular digestive eaten after a meal all over the country. It is also an important component of the paan (the rolled up betel leaf stuffed with all sorts of delectable titbits). The paan is a favourite mouth freshener and routinely served in restaurants after a meal.
Fennel has a distinctive aroma and flavour that subtly enhances the taste of a dish. It is a key ingredient in many Indian spice mixes. In India fennel seeds are mainly added to spices, pickles, curries, soups, lentils and rice. In Chinese cuisine fennel is one of the main features of their five spices. It is also one of the main ingredients of Kashmiri cooking. It has an amazing aromatic, sweet and refreshing flavour.
Fennel is also added these days to salads, dressings, sauces, soups, vegetables, pulao, and biryani. It is used to marinate fish, white meat and red meat. It is regularly added to chewing gum, ice-cream, and some desserts. Indian sweets like kheer (rice puddings) and malpua (deep fried pancakes), are flavoured with fennel and pistachios. Its revitalising properties make it a key factor in herbal concoctions and teas. Its invigorating cooling properties makes it a refreshing addition to cold beverages.
Fennel mukhwas (mouth freshener)
50 gm fennel seeds
50 gm sesame seeds
salt and lemon to taste
o Mix fennel and sesame seeds in a vessel. Add salt and lemon and mix well
o Roast it continuously on a slow flame till crisp.
o Use as a mouth freshener after meals.
50 gm fennel seeds
1 tsp organic honey
1 glass water
o Soak fennel overnight in water.
o Boil the same water next morning for five to seven minutes.
o Allow it to cool. Add honey and lemon.
o Chill and serve.
Fennel seeds are rich in minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and manganese. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Fennel seeds are anti-inflammatory. They are strong anti-oxidants. A recent study proved that fennel is more powerful than Vitamin E, which is generally known to be a nourishing and beautifying antioxidant protecting against cardio vascular diseases. Fennel seeds are believed to improve the lactating mother’s milk flow. It is a well known addition to the diet of people suffering from cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. Consuming fennel regularly may also reduce the incidence of strokes.
In the Indian sub-continent fennel seeds are often mixed with sesame, pumpkin seeds and raw sugar crystals and served. India is the leading producer of fennel seeds in the world.
Fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container away from moisture and pests. These seeds are actually fruits of the fennel plant. Fresh fennel is available in the winter months in India and sold by vegetable vendors. Dried fennel seeds are available all year round in supermarkets and grocery stores in whole and powdered form.
Hundred grams of raw fennel contains 7.29 g of carbohydrate, 3.1 g of dietary fibre, 0.20 g of fat, 1.24 g of protein, 12 mg of vitamin C, 49 mg of calcium, 0.73 mg of iron, 17 mg of magnesium, 50 mg of phosphorus, 414 mg of potassium and 0.20 mg of zinc.
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