Quick and easy is the name of the game in today’s kitchens. We all feel 24 hours are not enough to pack in all that we need to do and also want to do, but unfortunately that is what we all get! We live life in the fast lane, drive fast cars and eat fast food. But wait a second, with due respect to a precious commodity that is time, let us clarify that fast food is called fast food not because it is quick to cook but only because it can be served at a moment’s notice. Everything is prepared and all it needs is assembly. When it comes to fast food that is fast to cook then the testing time in the kitchen begins.
Quick, easy and healthy
What can be fast food? A quick meal that is easy to make requiring no fancy equipment or special skills. It could be a meal that is quick to prepare. But let me reassure you, whoever has some experience in the kitchen, knows that everything takes time! Whether you are kneading dough, soaking the pulses, chopping the vegetables, grinding the masalas, waiting for the pressure cooker to whistle or the microwave oven to buzz, all these activities need time. Yes, what can be done is have things ready so that the actual time from ‘raw to table’ is not much. Fast food can also be delicious. And if the meal is to be quick, let it be so, but ensure there are no shortcuts from the health point of view. If it is bread instead of chapattis, buy brown bread instead of white, if it is one dish meal make sure that items from all the food groups go into it.
Tips for preparations
The major thought that gnaws away at time is the decision of what to cook. The hardest part of cooking a meal is not the making of it but the deciding. Here it is – a simple (a little thought provoking!) weekly task:
1. Plan the menu – Make a list of meals for the week keeping in mind that the whole family has to be pleased. You want to feed the family healthy meals and make the most of the rupees too.
2. Shop – And shop going by the list. Pick up provisions for extra mouths to feed in case there are unexpected guests. If not used, they can always be incorporated in the following week’s meals.
3. Take an hour or two on an off day or weekend to prepare the masalas, grind the gravies, scrape the coconut, boil the stock, boil the dals, prepare dosa/idli batters etc., and then freeze them in portions. We have no dearth of readymade ginger and garlic pastes, tomato purees, etc. that can be made use of. We can also make use of precut vegetables once in a while when time is really short. Blanch spinach and keep. The colour is retained and all you have to do is puree it. Some even like to freeze makhni gravy or onion-tomato masala that can be the base for many recipes. We recommend freezing paranthas, tikkis, etc. for those absolutely rushed moments.
4. Keep measuring cups in every tin. If you have the cup to measure rice for one family meal kept in the rice tin, keep an appropriate one in the dal tin, and flour tin etc. It helps to cook in the correct quantities and in case you do plan to cook for two meals (so that one can be frozen) then the measurements can be increased proportionately.
Techniques of cooking fast
All that cooks needs a flame. Or, well, the oven or the microwave! We highly recommend prudent use of the pressure cooker. It is versatile and a real blessing. If you have a large one, use the containers to cook dal, rice and potatoes together. Three things in semi preparation in twenty five minutes! While it is whistling, the chapattis can be made. If you have a microwave, let the rice be done in it while you use the gas flame for the vegetables, dal or curry. Another de-stresser in the kitchen is innovation. If you are cooking by the book and some ingredient falls short, do not waste time in rejecting the recipe…rather go ahead and innovate, use something else! If you know the working of an ingredient then you are in total control.
Here are some recipes that are really tasty and also get ready in a jiffy.
|Quick Chocolate Cake Crumble|
|Quick Fried Chicken – All Green|
|Quick Pressure cooked Vegetables|
Hope planning meals and cooking goes from being stressful to being a stress buster for you like it is for me! Do let me know.