A delicious,warm and fulfilling meal with your loved ones in the cosy comforts of home is just perfect to celebrate the chills of winter season. Winter brings with it a vast assortment of unique ingredients that are available or are enjoyable only during the season. Though almost all seasonal fruits and vegetables are now available throughout the year, but enjoying its taste in the perfect season is enticing and fantastic. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, mustard greens and many other edible leafy greens are all winter delights that come with a power pack of nutrients and are highly enjoyed during the season.
Mustard greens, leaf mustard or oriental mustard, also known as Lai paata ( in Bengali ) or Lai Haak ( in Assamese ), which is a variant of mustard leaves ( scientifically known as Brassica juncea var. rugosa ), are largely grown and consumed in the north-eastern India during winters. There are innumerable cuisines available in this part of the country with this incredible ingredient. Having a hot piping ‘machher jhol‘ prepared with fresh fish and this flavourful lai paata, a usual preparation in the households of north east, is just an ecstasy that cannot be expressed in words. It has a very subtle flavour and a mild aroma that is just unique in itself and blends really well with just anything when cooked with minimum spices & gives it a flavour of its own. Apart from its exotic taste, it also has a high nutritive value. Being a member of the Brassicaceae family of leafy greens, it is a rich source of Vitamin A, C & K along with calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, fibres and antioxidants which are essential components of a healthy and balanced diet. The flavour, aroma and colour of these wonderful leaves are so tempting and compelling that I go crazy over the idea of mingling and infusing it with just anything, be it fish, meat, paneer, mushroom or anything that comes to my mind.
I am a huge fan of lai paata and would love you to enjoy its divine taste too. So, here is a simple oil free dish of paneer mixed with few ingredients packed in small parcels of lai paata and steamed so that the flavour and taste of the leaf gets infused into the paneer. Non-vegetarians can also try this recipe with fresh fish or meat with little mustard oil. If you are also feeling the temptation of trying this out, then have a look at the recipe that follows👇
- Mustard greens ( Lai Paata ) – 5 to 6 leaves
- Cottage cheese / Paneer ( cut into small cubes ) – 1 large cup
- Poppy seeds ( Posto/Khuskhus ) – 1 tbsp
- Mustard seeds ( Shorshe/Sarson ) – 1 tbsp
- Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
- Green chillies – ( finely chopped – 2 ; whole- 1 )
- Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves
- Chaat masala – 2 tsp ( I used Everest chaat masala )
- Onion (diced) – 1 large
- Salt – to taste
- Ground cashew (optional) – few
- Pickle (optional) -1/2 tsp
- Wash the mustard leaves thoroughly to remove any dirt, impurities and chemicals, as leaves are quite commonly tainted with these agents.
- Sprinkle little salt over the leaves and keep them aside for about 30 minutes, so that the leaves turn soft.
- Grind poppy seeds, mustard seeds and green chilly together to make a fine paste.
- In a mixing bowl, take the ground paste, add grated coconut, chopped green chillies, chaat masala, pickle and chopped onion and mix well. Add the paneer cubes and salt to the mixture and your mixture is ready.
- Now, spread each leaf on a plate, take small amount of the mixture over the leaf and fold to make small parcels out of it. Fold the leaves delicately as it may get torn while folding. ( Note: You may use thread or cloves just to seal the parcels if you find any difficulty in keeping the parcels folded )
- Now steam the parcels ( kept in a tightly closed container so that no water enters inside ) either in a steamer for 15 to 20 minutes or in a pressure cooker for one whistle.
- Switch off the flame, take out your parcels gently and serve with hot steamed rice to enjoy it to the fullest.