Mustard is a cornerstone of Indian culture. Its flower symbolizes spring, and the yellow oil produced from its seeds is considered a cure-all. Known for its stimulating, cleansing and rejuvenating properties, the warmth generated by mustard oil when applied to the skin opens the pores and helps sweat out impurities. In the colder areas of India, mustard oil -- the olive oil of India -- heats the body by firing up the food, and heals chapped lips when a drop of oil is applied to the belly button. Mustard oil can be purchased at most Asian grocers or health food shops, but beware -- a little of its strong taste goes a long way!
This recipe for Calcutta Chicken comes from Larrian Gillespie's Goddess Diet cookbook (Healthy Diet) and is Cher's favourite light supper. Chop 12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast into 2-inch pieces. Remove the stems from a bunch of spinach (about 2 cups). Chop 1 medium onion and mince 4 large garlic cloves, 1 seeded jalapeño pepper and a 1-inch piece of ginger. In a spice grinder, coarsely grind 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds. In a heavy skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of mustard oil until it starts to smoke -- this helps reduce the oil's pungency -- then reduce to medium. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, ginger and crushed mustard seeds, stirring as the onion browns. Add 2 teaspoons of ground coriander and cook another minute, stirring. Stir in the spinach and cook it until it wilts, about 30 seconds. Gradually stir in 1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt and mix well. Add the chicken pieces and 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Serves Cher.