In the heat of summer, the Darjeeling hills are a great shelter from the blistering temperatures of Kolkata. But the journey from Kolkata to Darjeeling is turbulent and long, and all I ever want when I arrive (aside from a medicinal gin and tonic) is a bath and the freshest, most cooling salad I can think of. This is that salad.
Serves 6 as a side
1 medium bulb of fennel
1 medium red onion
3 mixed bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange)
½ a cucumber
a handful cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (plus extra to serve)
1 cup fresh mint leaves
½–1 Indian green chile
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the fennel, trim it, then cut off the fronds, reserving them for later. Chop the fennel bulb, red onion, and peppers into ¼-inch dice (the smaller the better), and place in a serving bowl. Halve the cucumber lengthways, remove the seeds with a teaspoon, then chop it into ¼-inch dice and add to the bowl. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the bowl, along with the salt and nigella seeds.
Next, make the dressing. Chop the mint and green chile as finely as you can, put into a small bowl, and mix well. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, and sugar, mix together, and taste. There should be a good balance between the heat, sweetness, saltiness, and lemoniness, so adjust if need be.
Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix well. Sprinkle over the fennel fronds, and a few more nigella seeds for good measure.