The traditional Mediterranean diet has become a default setting for healthful eating for good reason. It offers healthfulness and pleasure in spades, and it has been thoroughly researched — with many studies pointing to its benefits.
With that in mind, all this month and periodically throughout the year I will dedicate this column to exploring nourishing recipes from world cuisines that might not typically make the health headlines, shining a light on cookbook authors who represent those cuisines.
In the coming weeks you’ll get healthful dishes from India, Mexico, Ghana and North American Indigenous culinary traditions, each of which, in keeping with how I typically roll in the kitchen, are quick and simple to prepare but offer a wow factor of flavor and nourishment. Of course there is no one recipe that could reflect the entirety of any culture’s cuisine, and every country comprises micro cultures that have unique food traditions. The idea isn’t to distill that wealth of variety into a single dish but rather to offer a taste of healthful foods from around the world to inspire you to explore further.
First up, this mouthwatering, plant-powered curry from Meera Sodha’s book “Fresh India,” a nutritious, weeknight-friendly dinner that dispels any notion you may have of Indian food being heavy or complicated, and highlights the extraordinary tradition of India’s vegetarian cuisine. Sodha is from Gujarat, a small state on the country’s western coast where, she explains in her book’s introduction, “over thousands of years, a rich and resourceful vegetable-first way of cooking has evolved.”
Her take on chana saag, a dish she says is almost as popular in England, where she lives now, as it is in India, is especially convenient and fresh-tasting. It brims with healthful flavor from aromatic spices and is packed with protein-rich chickpeas, savory tomatoes and piles of just-wilted fresh spinach. This one-pot stew comes together in under an hour and tastes even better the next day.
I couldn’t agree more with what Sodha expressed to me via email: “If readers are looking to eat a more plant-based diet to put vegetables at the centre of their meals and for a myriad of ways to cook them simply and deliciously, I think India is a great place to look.”
And this dish, I’ll add, is a great place to start.