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How You Can Make The Best Of The Ingredients At Home While Cooking During Lockdown

Posted: April 14, 2020

Cooking during the lockdown may be stressful and difficult, mostly because of what is available. Jyotsna Shahane’s The Classic Konkan Cookbook to the rescue!

Extraordinary times like these bring home some plain truths to all of us. One of the most widely shared truths on social media is the simple fact that we can all live, quite contentedly, with less. Another is the fact that cooking our own food provides a source of pleasure sometimes forgotten in the age of eating out and ordering in.

It is likely that many larders are not so well stocked as the lockdown caught many of us on the back foot. Vegetables and fresh produce have become precious, and we all look to eke them out over many more days than we would have had to earlier.

A few, old fashioned, thrifty tricks will come in handy now, when we need, more than ever, to make whatever we have at hand go a long way.

The first, important pointer is to store and preserve what you have in the best way to minimize waste.

How to store food to minimise waste

Dry grocery provisions

To prevent growth of grain weevils in Flours, lentils, pasta, noodles, dry masalas, you can do this. First clean pantry shelves with soapy water and then wipe with vinegar, and then any or all of the following methods can be used.
~ Zap provisions at 400 watts in the microwave for 1 minute. The flour/dal /dry goods should be spread out over a glass plate.
~ Store in canisters with bay leaf/tej patta or a few cloves  which act as a deterrent to the growth of weevils.
~ Freeze for 5 days.

Vegetables and fruit

Line the vegetable tray of your fridge with newspaper or paper towels. Clean and dry vegetables before storing each separately in string bags/ net bags in your vegetable compartment.

Herbs like coriander/ hara dhania, parsley, basil, mint/pudina

Clean herbs, cut off roots and thick stems. Fill a large bowl with water and soak the herbs for half and hour. Remove and dry thoroughly on clean, cloth or paper kitchen towels. Store in large, roomy airtight plastic containers in fridge. Your herbs will last for three weeks.

Onions, potatoes, garlic

Keep onions, potatoes, garlic in single layers at room temperature. This will prevent sprouting and spoilage.

Using vegetables to minimise waste

Once you start preparing a dish remember to use the vegetable as fully as possible.

Use all parts

Potatoes taste as good and often better with skins on. Cauliflower and broccoli stems need not be thrown away. Use them in your preparations to bulk up the amount. Never cut off the stems of spinach or coriander- they are as tasty as the leaves and perfectly edible.

Freezing extra raw vegetables

If you have too much of one vegetable to use when fresh and it is likely to spoil, blanch (by dunking in boiling water for 1 minute) and freeze for later use. Especially good for this are vegetables like peas, spinach, beans, carrots and cauliflower.

Processing herbs before storing

Green chillies can be used even if they turn red in the fridge. They can also be dried as can herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, basil and mint. Methi leaves should be plucked, washed and dried before storing in a canister in the fridge if you don’t use them immediately.

Cooked leftovers

Remember to freeze any left over cooked food like dal, curries, rice for another meal another day. If the amounts of left over food are too small remember they make delicious cutlets when mixed with mashed potato, bread or rice or fillings for omelettes, chilas, crepes and dosas. In short, nothing need ever be wasted.

Many of us remember a time when we were more frugal, when being well fed did not mean waste but that resources were used intelligently. It may be time to turn the clock back.

2 recipes from The Classic Konkan Cookbook

Some recipes from my book The Classic Konkan Cookbook that demonstrate that old is after all gold.

Lemon Coconut Rice /Chitranna

Day old rice can be mixed with other ingredients to make a delicious and filling meal

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS

Rice, cooked 250 g (you can use leftover boiled rice)
One-fourth a coconut, grated
A pinch of turmeric powder
Juice of 1 lime
Salt 1 tsp

MASALA

Black peppercorns 25-30
Sesame seeds 1 heaped tbsp
Whole urad dal (husked black gram) 1 heaped tbsp
Chana dal (husked Bengal gram) 1 heaped tbsp

SEASONING

Ghee or oil 25-50 g
A pinch of mustard seeds
A pinch of cumin seeds
Green chillies, slit 2-8 (or as per taste)

METHOD

Mix the cooked rice, grated coconut, turmeric, salt and lime juice and set aside.
Roast the peppercorns, sesame seeds, and dals separately till light brown in colour. Mix together and grind into a powder.
Combine the masala powder and the rice mixture.
Heat the ghee or oil and fry the mustard and cumin seeds as well as the green chillies. Pour this seasoning over the rice and cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat. Serve hot.

Note: If you reduce the amount of ghee and oil in the seasoning, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the rice at the end before cooking for 10 minutes.

Popular in the Karnataka area of the Konkan region, this lemon rice recipe has many variations. You can omit the lime juice and add one-third of a grated raw mango to the coconut. Grind the two to make a chutney to be added at the end, after seasoning the rice. This version of the recipe is known as Mavinkai Chitranna. Garnishes include chopped green coriander and roasted peanuts.

Sprouted Green gram/ Gram Sukke

Make sprouts at home when you run out of vegetables to make this yummy dish.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

Whole moong (whole green gram), sprouted 125 g (page 18) Potatoes 200 g
Water 1 ltr
Salt to taste

SEASONING

Vegetable oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds ½ tsp
Curry leaves 2 sprigs

MASALA

Oil 1 tsp
Urad dal (husked black gram) 1 tsp Coriander seeds 1 tsp
One-fourth of a coconut
Dry red chillies, roasted 2 Tamarind ½-inch ball

METHOD

Boil 1 litre of water and add washed, sprouted gram. Boil till soft.
Boil the potatoes till done. Peel and cut into 1-inch cube.
Heat 1 tsp of oil and pop the mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves, fry, then add the sprouts and potatoes. Stir for a minute, then add salt to taste.
Heat oil in another pan and fry the urad dal. Remove from oil, then use the same oil to fry the coriander seeds till golden brown.
Grind the fried coriander and urad dal in a mixer with the coconut, roasted red chillies and tamarind. Slowly, add 1 cup of water to the mixer and grind to a fine thin paste.
Pour the paste over the seasoned gram and potatoes. Mix well, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes till very little liquid remains. Serve hot with rice or parathas.

Tip: You can substitute the sprouted moong and potato with jackfruit, green bananas, cluster beans and tender bamboo shoots.

For recipes like the above, you can read Jyotsna’s book The Classic Konkan Cookbook, which is inspired by Narayani Nayak’s recipes from ages ago and has been updated with Jyotsna’s own Konkani recipes and also made current-cooking friendly. From Duddi Koshambari, a delectable pumpkin flower salad to Kori Gassi, a robust chicken curry, The Classic Konkan Cookbook features over 100 delicious recipes celebrating the freshness and simplicity of coastal food.

Exploring a culinary tradition that revers every part of an ingredient, Shahane introduces readers to a zero-waste kitchen that existed years before it began to trend. An inspiring collection for a new generation of home cooks looking to add traditional tastes to their table.

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Header image source: HarperCollins & The Cook’s Cottage

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Jyotsna Shahane is a filmmaker with an interest in Indian food. In 2004 she started her blog The Cooks's Cottage, one of a handful of bloggers on the subject at the time. She was chosen as one of the world's favourite food bloggers by Saveur, the gourmet food magazine. Jyotsna lives with her husband in Pune.

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