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Cooking With Leaves Made Easy With Chef Ajay Chopra’s ‘Patt-ay Ki Baat’

Zee Zest brings to you a new show that discovers and rediscovers the plethora of edible leaves India has to offer.

Shraddha Varma

Spinach makes lovely palak paneer and pakodas, and mint and coriander are essential, but when it comes to leaves used in different cuisines in India, they barely scratch the surface. For centuries, edible leaves have been used as containers, wrappers, and hero ingredients for whipping up traditional recipes across the country, based on what’s local, seasonal, and available. Banana leaves and jackfruit leaves are familiar food wrappers in Karnataka and Kerala, while colocasia and moringa are instrumental in Maharashtrian cuisine. 

Some edible leaves lend moisture and nutrients to flavourful dishes, some influence the flavour of the food they are cooked with, while others remain neutral. Leaves from spinach and cabbage are easy to enjoy as part of a dish or as they are, while others such as lotus and banana leaves are tough to chew on and digest but impart beautiful flavour. And then there are the celebrated bathua leaves that have even become part of restaurant menus lately.  

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The point is, India is home to a mind-boggling variety of edible leaves – some are already a part of our daily diet, a few, lesser-known, and others awaiting to be plucked and experimented with. 

Enter Zee Zest’s newest offering Patt-ay ki Baat with celebrity chef and host Ajay Chopra, a show that puts the spotlight on edible leaves, treats them as hero ingredients and shows you the many ways in which you can make these a part of your everyday meals. Read on to discover more about the show through our candid conversation with the host of Patt-ay ki Baat – chef Ajay Chopra. 

Edited excerpts: 

1. What is the USP of your newest TV show Patt-ay ki Baat?  

Leaves have been a common occurrence in our daily diet – think sarson ka saag, palak paneer, methi aloo, pudine ki chutney, and dhaniya for garnish. But unfortunately, the variety of leaves in our diet is limited to just 8-10. The reasons for which may vary – from availability to awareness. The team at Zee Zest and I discovered that there is a whole world of edible leaves awaiting to be discovered and highlighted, all there need is a chance. And that’s how Patt-ay ki Baat came into existence.  

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There are no words to describe the versatility of edible leaves available across the country, but there are dishes that you can cook and enjoy for sure. Plus, most of these have medicinal and nutritional values, which makes the whole experience of cooking and eating them a win-win. 

Every fruit or vegetable we eat has leaves and most of them are edible. But we've never looked at them like that. And that's what we are trying to do on Patt-ay ki Baat

2. How was your experience hosting Patt-ay ki Baat? Did you face any challenges along the way? 

It's not been easy for sure. We are suggesting that people incorporate edible leaves in their everyday meals, but I would like to admit that most of them were not a part of my life earlier. The entire exercise of finding out, researching, and zeroing in on which leaves can become hero ingredients, and how to use them, has helped broaden my horizons. Thinking about the pattern of the show and bringing out the best in each leaf is what was challenging. 

Also, keeping the freshness of the leaves intact, was a challenge too. We’d bring nice and fresh ones for the shoot and by the time we’d use them, they’d droop down, and require ice baths. *laughs*   

3. When did you discover the importance of edible leaves beyond the usual methi and palak? 

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I did so mainly amid the pandemic, when, at a point, I was struggling to keep my blood sugar levels in check. My wife put her passion for plants to use and began including several leaves in my daily diet. There is a plant called insulin, whose leaves helped bring down my blood sugar levels from 180 to 95. Then I also drank aloe vera juice to reduce inflammation in my stomach, wheatgrass juice for overall health, and infused waters (ginger, coriander, etc.) for various purposes. That made me a believer and sparked this curiosity in me about these ingredients. Then Zee Zest approached me for Patt-ay ki Baat and I didn’t think twice.   

Plus, around the same time, a group of chefs and I had founded a WhatsApp group where we’d research and share information on wild foods – leaves and greens foraged from the forest. 

4. How important is healthy cooking and eating right for you today? 

Extremely important! In fact, chefs across the world are talking about healthy cooking and eating right as a concept and discovering new ways to use local ingredients to achieve that.  

5. Of all the local ingredients you came across during the show, which one do you feel is underappreciated?   

Most of them have been underappreciated, to be honest. For instance, coriander is used widely in garnish or chutney, but we made it the hero by making chutney wale aloo. Ismein patey ki baat ye hai, that these all these leaves have their own USP and they can be used in a variety of ways – some for steaming, others for flavour. Our aim with Patt¬-ay ki Baat is to bring the best out of each ingredient and we’re not limiting a particular cuisine. For instance, we made south India’s staple idli in jackfruit leaves in one episode, and in the other, we made this flavourful nadru yakhni with sage leaves instead of mint. And it turned out brilliant. It’s not fusion but just rethinking and experimenting with the bounty that we have.  

Watch Patt-ay ki Baat every Thursday and Friday at 1pm on Zee Zest channel or catch all the episodes on Zeezest.com. Here’s the first episode for you to begin your journey of discovering edible leaves.

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Cooking With Leaves Made Easy With Chef Ajay Chopra’s ‘Patt-ay Ki Baat’
 
Photo: Zee Zest and Canva
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