October opens with promise, delectable aromas and lots of windows open on my computer. What am I on?
My article titled ‘The Chef’s @’ appears in JetLite’s’ in-flight magazine through this month. It is a go-to primer for the culinary-challenged (like me) who nevertheless have appetites and luckily for them, an internet connection. If the kitchen scares you, don’t worry. The Internet is benevolent and bountiful and will teach you how to cater to this most basic of needs, in an easy, efficient and tasty manner.
If you’re flying this month, please do read the story and send me your thoughts. Bon voyage and bon appetit!
‘The Chef’s @’ by Ramya Pandyan
The kitchen has never been my favorite room in the house. But the hunger pangs come knocking every few hours, reminding me of the mealtime that looms up ahead. For most urban dwellers, the daily preparation of food can be a real problem. At the end of an demanding day full of gargantuan commitments of work, bills, children and household management, who has the time or energy to devote to several hours of preparing something, that will be gone in a few minutes? Like several other chores, this too could be sourced out to external help but finding a person whose skills (let alone temperament and salary demands) match one’s needs could be problematic. You are not a super chef but you don’t always want to order in or reheat packaged food or live off cup noodles. So what do you do? I decided to check online. Google was the solution to many of my needs so I figured, why not ask about the most basic one?
Setting up & kitting up
Food as everyday sustenance of every human being must nourish, interest the palate, fit the wallet and not take up the entire day to make. First up, you need to know how exactly to equip a functional kitchen. Are you a singleton? A couple? Three bachelor flatmates? A nuclear family with a small child? The culinary needs of each of these units would be different. Wikihow will give you a good idea of what kind of utensils, cutlery and crockery you need and then (Link) will help you stock up on basic materials that an Indian kitchen needs. Hooked on Heat will also help you turn a bare room into a complete Indian kitchen.
Isn’t Indian cooking the most elaborate routine in the world? All that chopping, peeling, sifting, cleaning, straining, extracting, pureeing & churning and then one learns that these are only preparatory actions before the frying, boiling, mixing & sundry other activities that most people think of as the ‘real cooking’. Any attempt to shrink the most basic format of rice/rotis, pulses, vegetables and accompaniments means compromising on taste, expenditure and nutritional value. That’s why I was delighted to find Recipe Delights and Life Hack which introduced me to the world of easy cooking.
The microwave is one of the biggest innovations in cooking but most people still spend all that money on a fancy-looking box, only to use it for reheating food. Indian Mirror shows how to use this gadget in Indian cooking, WebIndia123 shows you how to bake a cake in a pressure cooker while Fast Cooking gives you other creative uses of this basic kitchen implement. Also see: Awesome Cuisine and IndoBase.
Bringing diversity & fun to the kitchen
Western cuisine offers a practical solution to people who don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. Soups, salads, pasta and sandwiches can be easily rustled up and will keep you going through mealtimes. If you’d like to try a few variations, LoveFoodHateWaste will show you how to combine some pre-cooked materials with other easily available things for a more varied meal. BigOven lets you enter up to three ingredients and comes up with things to do with them.
I was intrigued by the green stuff called pesto that I got served in Italian restaurants. The wikipedia entry said that it required no cooking, only blending (really?!). The recipe called for olive oil, basil leaves, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. For a moment I was stumped but I stumbled upon a few blogs that recommended using walnuts in place of pine nuts and regular Amul cheese as these would cater to the more flavor-habituated Indian palate. My pesto was a hit that night with my guests who thought I had turned into a genius overnight!
This experience told me about the wealth of experience to be gained, secondhand from blogposts and Twitter conversations about cooking experiences. Bloggers commonly include their own quick-tips and tiny variations that make a recipe interesting and easier. Some of these include photographs too, which give a far more realistic idea of how a dish will look when it is prepared by an everyday person and not a professional chef. Twitter conversations can give you instant (pun unintended) and useful feedback on dealing with minor kitchen emergencies. Do see Niru ke Pakwan, Cookery Corner and Arundhati’s blog.
I also found reams of information relating to each vegetable, kitchen technique and condiment. Love garlic? See All Recipes. Wondering why your panipuris never turn out the way the roadside chaatwala’s do? Look up Youtube for a quick tutorial. Cuisine-based sites are probably the easiest to find. If you love roshogullas, dhokar-dalna and machcher-jhol bath, you can’t afford to miss Bengali Cuisine.
The health factor
While on food, it would be a crime to not talk about health, it being the big idea on culinary minds now. Indian cooking is notorious for its high fat content. And while healthy eating is a great idea, all of us know just how difficult it is to change an appetite used to the puri-chawal-curry menu to a bland soup-salad routine. It would be a lot more practical instead, to tailor the traditional menu to make it a lot healthier.
And finally, since food is one of the basic pleasures of life, what’s a food piece without a mention of desserts? No more eating honey-coated flakes out of the cereal box after you drop into Top Indian Recipes which will tell you how to jazz up the plain old Marie biscuit, tinker about with bread slices and rustle up an impressive looking dessert. Just make sure to shut the browser window before your guests drop in! Also see Easy Dessert Recipes and About>>Busy Cooks.
Other Recommended Sites
- Kitchens Of India
- Tarla Dalal
- Best Desi Cooking
- Cooking Equipment
- Show Me The Curry
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