To those who aren’t experts on Indian cuisine, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that dill is a popular and widely used herb in the country.
Perhaps more commonly associated with Scandinavian cooking, this member of the parsley family adds a subtle fragrance to traditional Indian dishes, and acts as a cooling accompaniment to heavily spiced food.
The herb has a number of health benefits, which may also help to explain its popularity. It is a great source of vitamin B and calcium. It also contains volatile oils that qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food (much like parsley), which means that it can help neutralise certain types of carcinogens. These oils can also help to prevent bacterial growth, a similar benefit of garlic, which is also used extensively in Indian cooking.
Dill also happens to be a good source of dietary fibre and has positive digestive effects, meaning that it can be a helpful addition to a largeIndian meal!
There are a number of names for dill across the languages of India. In Hindi it is called soasaag, in Bengal shoapatta, in Gujrati it is referred to as soa, in Punjabi and Urdu soapatti.
The delicate herb is commonly used to flavour green vegetables such as spinach, and can be used to add freshness to dhansak. The Sindhi’s have a popular dill-flavoured rice dish, the recipe for which is featured in Camellia Panjabi’s best-selling cookery book ’50 Great Curries of India’.
Surprisingly, it can even enhance the flavour of meat dishes., and works particularly well with lamb as it counteracts the richness of the meat. It is also frequently used in a range of other dishes, such as dressings, omelettes and pancakes.
Dill is commonly used as an ingredient for condiments. During winter, when it is most readily available, it is ground with garlic and tamarind to make chutney. Perhaps its most familiar guise is in the popular dish raita, traditionally served alongside snacks and appetizers.
Below is a simple recipe for Sowa KakdiRaita (Dill and Cucumber Raita):
1 cup fresh natural yogurt whisked till smooth
1 small bunch fresh dill weed (approx. 50g), finely chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped into 1″cubes (remove seeds if preferred)
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Chaat Masala (available at most Indian grocery stores)
A pinch of red chilli powder (optional)
Preparation couldn’t be simpler: all you need to do ismix the yogurt, salt and sugar in a bowl and stir well to combine every element. Add the remaining ingredients, mix again, then chill for a few hours before serving.
If you’re not a fan of home cooking and would rather someone else do the hard work for you, you may wish to visit some of the best Indian restaurants and brasseries in London. Serving high quality, authentic Indian food, these top London restaurants are sure to feature dill on their menus, whether it is incorporated in a dish itself, or as a condiment alongside an appetizer or balanced thali.