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If you’re always pressure-cooking or sauteing, consider these additional healthy cooking methods to add variety to your menu.
By Lavanya Donthamshetty
The other day, I was doing something I love: trawling through the various food blogs for some inspiration when I came across this rather arresting statement in an article on street food, “In Delhi’s popular Bengali Market, chefs at Bengali sweets are using-imported olive oil for deep frying”, a statement wrong on so many levels that I just stopped.
Firstly, street food isn’t supposed to be healthy; it is supposed to be spicy, fiery and strip your stomach of an inch of its lining. It has no business being healthy and the sooner the good chaps that dole out those goodies get it, the better for everyone. And secondly, deep frying with olive oil is plain wrong. I know there are many articles out there that say you can use extra-virgin olive oil and as long as you don’t hit its smoking point, the result comes out as good as gold, but it is a dicey move. For starters, I would NOT use olive oil to make sweets. The oil tends to leave an aftertaste which doesn’t go with sweets and where olive oil is concerned, I am with the ‘a little of it goes a long way’ school of thought. Not for me the overly generous drizzling over dishes (I am looking at you, Jamie Oliver!) – just a wee dash is enough to perk up my salads, thank you very much!
Deep frying is deep frying, any which way you look at it and using olive oil to do it isn’t magically going to boost the health quotient of your dish. All it does is fool you into thinking you have, thereby making you eat two times more. If you are keen to delve into the healthy zone, there are other cooking techniques one can employ.
Steaming: for instance, is an excellent way of both preserving the nutrients in your veg and helping them retain their taste. Done well, the vegetables also retain their colour and by appealing to your visual stimuli, make you want to tuck into them too. But the operative words here are “done well” – it is all too easy to over steam the vegetables and end with a pile of mush. For those weary of ending up with mashed veg and the gadget freaks among us, there are some great electric steams on the market that will do the job for you and let you do other things. My mum has this nifty trick of collecting the water from her steamer and using it as stock or just enjoying it as clear broth, after adding some salt and pepper to it. I am told by my carnivorous friends that the steamer works just as admirably whilst cooking fish, so if you are looking to get one, you have my blessings!
Grilling: is another great healthy cooking option – by grilling, you vastly reduce the amount of oil you use and end up with food that has that wonderful, smokey aroma that is hard to resist. With the abundance of sunshine we get in India, barbecuing is a great activity – you can get together with friends, throw some food on the grill and enjoy healthy food in minutes. Though barbeque options for vegetarians are fewer, you still can throw in veg like peppers, corn on the cob as well as paneer steaks or veggie burger patties and tuck into them with relish. You don’t have to have a fancy gadget to make your grilling fancies come true – a simple, stove-friendly griddle pan is sufficient to give your food the smokey lines and thereby, transport it to a different level of deliciousness.
Baking: completes the triumvirate of my favourite healthy cooking methods. Baking does not mean just cakes and bread – you can bake anything and everything. Poultry, fish, pasta, vegetables and even stuff you’d normally fry, like samosas and spring rolls can be baked to perfection. That doesn’t make it super healthy, just less dripping in oil, mind you, so do have a care on how many you indulge in!
Of course there are other methods – pressure cooking, that staple of Indian cooking, is super-efficient in preserving nutrients and saving the harried cook time and effort, something that can never be over-rated! The opposite of that, the slow-cooker, is equally good if preserving taste and goodness are your main requirements. If the 8 hours it needs to cook your rajma is what is putting you off from nipping to the shops and getting you one, remember you can switch it on in the morning and it will be cooking away merrily, and be on time to serve it fresh and piping-hot, just in time for dinner.
So what are your favourite cooking techniques? And what makes it so? While you are pondering over that, here is something you can whip up in a jiff and enjoy on this hot, summery day.
To make bruschetta, first prep the bread – cut it into chunks the size of your palm, of more than regular thickness. If you happen to have some baguette, even better.
Warm up your grill – this needs to go on a hot grill so get it going now. Next, drizzle some olive oil on the bread and grill it nicely on both sides, till it is toasted well.
Grill a slab of paneer on both sides and once it is done, cut it into chunks.
Now, rub the garlic over one side of the bread. Place a few chunks of tomato, onions and grilled paneer over it, sprinkle salt and oregano and take it back to the grill.
Take it off after 3-4 minutes, drizzle with few drops of olive oil and serve hot.
A chilled glass of Prosecco goes beautifully with this.
Mother, writer, foodie, margarita lover, Lavanya is the exception to the rule that women are
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