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Fresh, local, seasonal: Summer salads with a desi twist

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Spring and flowers, summer and salads… they seem pretty obvious, right? Salads are great to beat the heat, offering welcome respite from standing next to the stove, stirring and sautéing. And now that we’re back in lockdown, the prospect of cooking 3x a day is… well, let’s just say not something we’re too excited about.

Salads are simple to put together and can offer both nutrition and hydration when prepared with the right ingredients. And, if you look beyond the classic Cae Sal (that’s what all the cool people are calling Caesar Salad these days,) and turn to Indian ingredients and techniques, you’ll unlock a world of flavour and texture.

Our culinary experts have put together a trio of salads that are colourful and healthy, with a desi twist. There’s a lot more on offer than just leaves - no arugula or iceberg lettuce in sight here! (Iceberg is just crunchy water, let’s be honest.) The produce should be easy enough to source, and you probably already have the spices and herbs required in your pantry. So go on - give them a try!


Who: Ragini Kashyap

Ragini is a development professional who now devotes most of her time to her three greatest loves: food, history and education. A culinary historian, she runs Third Culture Cooks, creating a number of culinary experiences for people, from pop-ups to podcasts, to help them reflect on the food they eat. At present, she’s based in Vancouver, Canada, studying and eating her way through the movement of the Indian diaspora through her project To Desi, From Desh.

Food philosophy: For Ragini, it’s about being open and curious with new flavours and ingredients and the cultures they come from. She believes that you can understand people better by learning the story behind what they eat.

The inspiration behind the recipe: “This delightful summer salad is a play on the traditional Maharashtrian Khamang Kakdi, enhanced with the creaminess of Greek yoghurt, and the crunch of fried garlic. It is healthy and indulgent and makes for a great, quick summer lunch. Crunchy cucumber, roasted peanut and the zing of chilli give this plenty of flavour, without any of the fuss! Make sure to use a good quality ghee, as it does add to the flavour. And preferably Greek yoghurt, which is thicker and has more protein as compared to regular yoghurt. If you use regular yoghurt, this will be more of a raita, and less of a salad!” (Instructions for home-made Greek yogurt included in the recipe).

Ragini Kashyap is a development professional who now devotes most of her time to her three greatest loves: food, history and education.

Khamang Kakdi Greek Yogurt salad is enhanced with the creaminess of Greek yoghurt, and the crunch of fried garlic.


       2 cup Greek yoghurt*
·       2 cup cucumber, chopped finely
·       2/3 cup crushed roasted peanuts
·       2/3 cup chopped coriander
·       1 green chilli, finely chopped
·       3 tbsp lemon juice
·       1 onion, sliced thinly
·       1/2 cup white vinegar
·       6 garlic cloves, sliced 
·       1 tsp grated ginger
·       4 tbsp grated coconut

Tadka ingredients
3 tbsp ghee
·       1 tsp mustard seeds/rai
·       2 dried red chillies
·       10 curry leaves

Soak the sliced onion in the white vinegar for four hours, or until they turn pink.
·       Strain the onions and set aside.
·       Heat the ghee and fry the garlic slices to a golden brown crisp, about 1-2 minutes. Save the ghee for the tadka!
·       Mix the cucumber, coriander, green chilli, peanuts, lemon juice and yoghurt together well, and transfer to your serving dish.
·       For the tadka, heat the ghee once again and once it reaches smoking point, turn off the heat and add the dry red chillies, mustard seeds and
        curry leaves for 20 seconds. Now pour this tadka over the yoghurt mixture.
·       Sprinkle the onions and fried garlic chips on top, and garnish with the grated ginger, the coconut, and some coriander leaves.
·       Serve immediately. 

*To make your own Greek yoghurt, mix 5 tbsp of fresh cream into 5 bowls of yoghurt. Place the yoghurt for 4 hours in a muslin cloth to strain the whey.


Who: Sanskriti Bist

Sansriti is a Bangalore-based food stylist and photographer. A communication graduate, tells stories through food and imagery, sharing recipes, cookbook reviews, musings and more on her blog.

Food philosophy: Sanskriti’s food philosophy is simple: she loves to eat seasonal, regional and make everything from scratch with good-quality ingredients!

Inspiration behind the recipe: “This recipe defines my mother’s childhood while growing up in Dehradun. She spent her childhood and all of her teens in Dehradun with her great-grandmother. They used to have a large garden behind the house that was filled with pomelo and litchi trees. She and her cousins would pluck pomelos (chakotra) and make a kachmoli (crushed salad) with it and sit in the sunny veranda, enjoying it with the rest of the family. This is a dish still so prevalent in Dehradun.” 

Sansriti Bist is a Bangalore-based food stylist and photographer.

Chakotre Ki Kachmoli is a dish still so prevalent in Dehradun.


       1 pomelo
·       2 tbsp pisyun lun (Pahadi flavoured salt; recipe below)
·       2 tbsp sugar
·       1 tsp chilli powder
·       2-3 tbsp mustard oil

       Peel the pomelo, remove the white pith and the seeds.
·       Then make pisyun lun: take a handful of garlic leaves, handful
        of coriander, 2 green chillies and chop them. Add 2 tsp of rock
        salt to the chopped mixture and grind it on a silbatta or in a
        mixer to make a fine paste.
·       In a bowl add the peeled pomelo, sugar, chilli powder, pisyun
        lun and mustard oil.
·       Serve fresh and eat it in the sun!



Who: Keertida Phadke

Keertida is a trained plant-based chef from The Natural Gourmet

Institute in New York. She's the co-founder of 'better', a gourmet plant-based food brand that makes all-natural, preservative-free spreads, tofu and crisps. Prior to this, she conceptualised and ran a modern vegetarian restaurant in Pune and also spent time at Nix, a Michelin-starred vegetarian in NYC. 

Food philosophy: Keertida believes food is the core of one's physical and emotional wellbeing, both of which are highly important in today's stressful environment. But she also knows that when healthy food comes at the cost of taste, it’s unlikely to sustain in the long run. Good-for-you gourmet is at the heart of her philosophy.

Inspiration behind the recipe: “Inspiration is everywhere, particularly in my family which is filled with great cooks and gourmands. This recipe is a spin on a food combination I heard about from a cousin who has lived across many parts of India and has a unique way of combining food and flavours. As a plant-based chef focused on wellness, I am looking for ways to 

Keertida Phadke is a trained plant-based chef from The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York.

incorporate whole-foods and seasonal produce in my recipes, and this salad fits the bill on both fronts.”

Watermelon & Matki Salad With A Basil-Mint Dressing is a dish that incorporates whole-foods as well as seasonal produce in it.


       1.5 cups watermelon, deseeded and cubed
·       1/2 cup Matki, sprouted
·       1 tbsp  Peanuts

Dressing ingredients:
       1/4 cup (25-30 leaves), Mint 
·       1/4 cup (5-9 leaves), Basil
·       1 tbsp Lemon juice
·       1/2 tsp Jeera, toasted and crushed
·       1/4 tsp Sugar
·       1/4 tsp Chili flakes
·       Salt, to taste

To garnish:
       8-12 leaves, Mint 

Soak peanuts in water overnight or in warm water for an hour.
·       Refrigerate watermelon overnight. 
·       In a bowl, add chopped mint & basil leaves and all the other ingredients listed under ‘dressing.’ Mix well, crush down with a spoon and let it sit
        for 10-15 mins till you prep the watermelon and matki.
·       Cover the sprouted matki with hot water for a minute, then rinse in cold water, drain and set aside.
·       Drain the peanuts of soaking liquid, wash once then combine with sprouted matki.
·       Cut the watermelon in cubes, discarding seeds.
·       Now combine the watermelon with the matki and peanuts in a serving bowl. 
·       Strain the dressing in a small bowl, discarding the solids, reserving just the flavour-infused lemon-juice. 
·       Pour the dressing over the watermelon mixture in the serving bowl and toss to combine.
·       Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Tip: this salad tastes best chilled, if you haven't kept your watermelon in the fridge overnight, place the watermelon & matki mixture in the freezer for half an hour before combining with the dressing and serving. 

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