By Naini Setalvad December 2013 Mustard is an indispensable part of Indian cuisine, be it in the form of spice, cooking medium or masala. The flavour adds zing to a dish, says Naini Setalvad The mustard seed has a distinctive aroma and a slightly nutty flavor and is used as a spice and oil in food for thousands of years, in many countries. It has even been mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings dating back about 5,000 years ago. The seed of the mustard plant is a cruciferous vegetable making it a powerful antioxidant. As it grows well in temperate climates, it is used on a substantial scale in the Indian subcontinent. Unbelievable as it may sound, there are as many as 40 varieties of mustard, though the popular ones are black, white and brown. Black mustard seeds are the most pungent. It is an important seasoning agent in Indian cuisine. Mustard oil is also commonly used as a cooking/frying medium. This tiny seed, no more than a tenth of a millimeter in diameter, has often been used as a metaphor by the great saints and prophets of the world. Gautam Buddha compared a world cycle to the time it would take to move a pile of mustard seeds, if one seed was moved every one hundred years. Jesus Christ said that even those with faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains. The Koran says that even the equivalent of a mustard seed will be accounted for on the day of judgment. Tiny as it is, its effects are potent, a fact that even scientists are acknowledging today. As it belongs to the cruciferous group, the mustard seed contains cancer- fighting properties. Consuming mustard seeds daily plays a significant role in protection against obesity-related colon cancer. Mustard oil is popularly used in India for cooking, and as a preservative agent in pickles and preserves. It is said to act as a detoxifier against cancer-causing chemicals and thus protects cells. The Harvard School of Public Health found that cooking in mustard oil lowers the risk of heart disease by a staggering 51 per cent as compared to sunflower oil. They also discovered that mustard seeds help stabilize insulin levels. The Romans took mustard seeds to Dijon in France in the 14th century, and that city started commercially selling mustard. They have more than 3,500 preparations of mustard, and till today the most popular mustard paste in the world is said to be from Dijon. In the 18th century, the English invented a way to make it into a dry powder and the famous Coleman’s Mustard in 1904 made its debut in America, slathered on a hot dog. Mustard oil Mustard oil is cold pressed from the whole seed, with no heat treatment, and is then filtered through cotton and paper, and bottled. The characteristic mustard flavor is developed in the presence of water through the action of the enzyme system. Mustard oil is healthy as it has 30 per cent protein, calcium, and phytins, phenolic and natural anti-oxidants. Mustard oil contains high amount of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and a good amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It contains the least amount of saturated fatty acids, making it comparatively safe for heart patients. Mustard oil contains the essential fatty acids which are required for important metabolic functions in the body. The oil of mustard seed is nutritionally similar to other oils, and makes up 28 per cent to 36 per cent of the seed. Tocopherols present in mustard help to protect the oil from rancidity, thus contributing to a long shelf life. Packed with lower levels of saturated fats, cholesterol reducing and anti-oxidant properties and even essential vitamins, switching to cooking in mustard oil could well be the wisest health investment you can make. Mustard oil is found to have very low levels of artery clogging saturated fatty acid and high levels of good omega 3 fatty acid and mono-unsaturated fatty acid and thus score over other cooking mediums including refined oils, olive oil and soybean oil. This oil is traditionally used in West Bengal and is prized for its characteristic flavour (pungent and sharp). It is generally available as filtered oil and refined mustard oil. Mustard oil is suitable for all types of cooking including frying, but should be used along with other cooking oils to reduce the erucic acid content. Mustard oil is sometimes adulterated with argemone oil, which is toxic. The adulteration is rampant and therefore your best bet is to buy a reputed brand from well known shops and never in loose form. There are many of ways of using mustard. Add whole seeds to temper and saute dishes. Coarsely grind seeds and add it to curds to make raitas, dips or marinades. Add whole seeds to vinegar and use as a dressing. Use paste to braise fish or paneer or chicken. Dry roast and add to vegetables or salads. Potato salad Ingredients 200 gms potato, boiled and cut into squares 50 gms low fat yogurt 1 tsp mustard paste 1/2 tsp honey Pinch of dry herbs (coriander, mint, parsley, oregano) 1 green chili optional A few lettuce leaves Salt and pepper to taste Method Mix yogurt, herbs, honey, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk together in a bowl. Pour it over the boiled potatoes. Chill and then serve. Tear lettuce leaves and sprinkle over the salad just before serving. Mustard sauce Ingredients 250 gms ordinary black/brown mustard seeds 100 gms yellow mustard seeds 5 whole dry kashmiri red chillies 1 tsp turmeric 2 tsp cumin 3 tsp oil (mustard or sunflower) 4 pods of garlic salt to taste 1 tbsp jaggery/sugar Balsamic vinegar as required for grinding Method Grind the mustard seeds with vinegar and all other ingredients except salt which you add later to taste. To make it into a paste, add little more vinegar. Store in an airtight jar and refrigerate. Use when needed.
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