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Homelifestylefood-and-drinkThe thrills & frills of dill

The thrills & frills of dill

On a breezy Sunday morning, we walked into one of the newexperiential cafés in the city — Kana by Coffee Mechanics, and Iordered an extremely interesting Turkish dish called Cilbir. Fluffypoached eggs with chilli butter, parsley oil, dill yoghurt andsourdough toast, the delicious offering had me swooning over thedistinct flavour of dill more than anything. So much so that I bought abunch soon after and started sprinkling the leaves generously inanything and everything I prepared, much to the chagrin of myfamily! Be it upma or dosa, idli or even toast, the delicate andfragrant dill became a fixture in every dish I prepared over the next few days.

A realisation too gradually dawned upon me — that it’s not just mewho is rediscovering these leaves that bring back some distantmemories of childhood — of crunchy dill masala vadas and flavourfuldill sambar that my mother used to prepare. The slightly pungent yetsupremely aromatic sabbaki soppu is also catching the fancy ofmany home cooks and modern restaurants.

Ganga Prabhakar, co-founder and director of the quaint café Kanawhich restarted my love affair with the perfumed herb, says that onecan either love the leaves or hate them. Hence, they need to be usedcarefully. “As a café, we are cuisine agnostic but flavour forward —we like to use local ingredients in unfamiliar ways,” she says. “Wealso believe in serving a portion of greens to balance the nutritional element of a dish, more so, if they are locally sourced. So you wouldfind dill in a lot of our dishes — from pizzas to garlic bread and evenpuffs and the smoked ham toast,” she adds.

From native to upmarketA constant part of Indian cooking, more so in Karnataka cuisine,where it’s added to dosa, idli, masala vada and akki roti, it wasjust a matter of time before the humble soppu started to frequentthe menus of high-end restaurants too — to not just lift the taste ofthe food a notch higher but also increase its nutritive value. Chef Aditya Das, Director of Culinary Arts, Gatsby Cocktails and Cuisine, apopular restobar in the city, thoroughly enjoys cooking with dill withhis main focus being retaining its nutritional value.

Perfect as a flavouring agent

“It’s a known fact that the more a vegetable is cooked, the more itsnutrients decrease. The same holds true for greens. But in the caseof dill, you don’t have to cook it. Hence, it works perfectly well withcold cuisines like cold soups, salads and fermented foods,” he saysand adds, “I particularly like using it with salt and sugar to cure salmon as dill is a great flavouring agent for any fish-based dish. The pairing of fish and dill is an ideal one, similar to the one of red meat,asparagus and baby carrots.” Some chefs like to tap into the flavour of the dill to balance a dish out.Says Souvik Banerjee, Executive Sou Chef of Long Boat Brewing Co.,a brewery, “In nuchinunde (steamed dal dumplings), we use dillleaves to tone down the rawness of toor and moong dal whileinfusing a unique taste in the dish. For our cilantro-crusted fish, dill leaves are incorporated to diminish the fishy smell and lend anaromatic note to the sauce, resulting in a harmonious dish. In grilledprawns in chilli beans sauce, dill leaves play a crucial role inmitigating the strong seafood essence of tiger prawns. Their additionhelps mellow down the overpowering aroma of the dish, thereby ensuring a more enjoyable dining experience for the guests.”

Home chefs too enjoy creating a host of dishes with the piquantherb. Karen Martin, a publicist who runs a kitchen called House ofAnglo, opts to work with dill leaves whenever a dish is heavy anddairy-based. “Dill adds a lot of flavour to a cheesy or creamy gravyand lightens it up. Pairing it up with lentils and pulses also helps in easy digestion. That’s why it works very well in bite-sized items likefalafels and masala vadas, which could be heavy on the palateotherwise.” She adds, “Even as a garnish, it makes any dish lookbeautiful. I especially love using dill leaves with flowers on my dishes,whether it’s a steak or panna cotta.”

With its nutritive value and distinct aroma, dill for sure has begunits journey to fame, and will soon probably be on the same pedestalas its international cousins — celery and parsley. But as far as myculinary experiments are concerned, a dash of it here and a sprinklethere totally works!

(Published 28 October 2023, 19:32 IST)

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