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Avoid the phone. Make the effort. Eat well

To resist the temptation of food-delivery apps is not easy, but it is always worth your while to whip up dinner yourself

(From left) Pork, chorizo and haricot beans stew with salad and salmon baked in lemon butter sauce. (Photos: Samar Halarnkar)
(From left) Pork, chorizo and haricot beans stew with salad and salmon baked in lemon butter sauce. (Photos: Samar Halarnkar)

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One fine balmy Bengaluru Sunday, my nephew, his father and I found we were home alone without the women in our lives. I suppose we were missing them, so we called each other instead and decided to do dinner.

This meant little effort. With my fastidious spouse away, I had not made the bed for two days, and the rest of the house was—shall we say—not impeccable. Newspapers were scattered around the house, as were the cat’s detritus—rubber bands, balls of silver foil and sundry trash—and a general state of disrepair was evident.

Let’s order out, I told the boys, and they vaguely agreed. I felt somewhat guilty because I had the entire kitchen and home to myself, and I was ordering out? I usually complain I don’t get enough time in my kitchen, busy as the wife is in commandeering it for random things, such as making dal and Sindhi kadhi chawal. I ask you, isn’t this a perfect waste of kitchen time and space?

In the event, I almost immediately found out, via my nephew’s mother in Mumbai—our family WhatsApp group is nothing if not lightning fast in conveying useless information and gossip—that he would be making baked fish. That made me realise that the idea of ordering out was an affront to said nephew and me.

Like me, 26-year-old Karan Kinariwala cooks a lot, even if he does not have my confidence. He is more talented overall (he’s our technologically challenged family’s fixer and consultant) but I realised he is given to following recipes closely, while I tend to be cavalier about their details, using them merely as inspiration.

Once I heard about the fish, I decided to ditch the ordering out idea. It’s very simple, isn’t it, to pick up your phone and tap one of those food-delivery apps? No fuss, no effort, except maybe for thinking your way through all those options.

I didn’t have to think much. Like me, the boys’ comfort food is often pork, so I didn’t think beyond that. Inspired by fabada, a Spanish stew, I went over to our local Karnataka ham shop, and as Jesus and Lakshmi watched from their walls, I bought some “less-fat” pork. I already had Goa sausages at home, so that substituted for chorizo.

My stew came together very quickly and easily after the boys arrived with a Sula rosé wine. It only needed frequent stirring once assembled in the pot, but that was easy enough while being occupied with the glass (es) of rosé. The fish came assembled in a baking dish, so there was nothing to do except, well, bake it.

And that was basically that.

Karan brought a simple salad of lettuce, olives, feta and red and yellow capsicum, which only needed to be dressed. We had bread, rice and kokis, which the Kinariwalas had not heard of. Sindhi theplas, I said, and they understood.

Technology often makes us forget exactly how easy it is to make food instead of ordering it. It’s always good to be gently reminded of the simple things in life, as my nephew did. You know what they say about the family that cooks together.

Pork, chorizo and haricot beans stew
Serves 3

Half kg pork with less fat
4-5 chorizo sausages (or Goa sausages), chopped into 3 pieces each
Half can haricot beans
One-and-a-half tsp sweet paprika powder (or replace with Kashmiri red chilli powder)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Half can pomodoro tomatoes (or use 2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
2 tsp vegetable oil
15 garlic pods, smashed and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt to taste

In a non-stick pan, heat oil gently. Fry garlic until soft, then add onion and sauté till transparent. Add sweet paprika powder and sauté, adding red-wine vinegar if it sticks. Add tomatoes and mix well for a minute. Add pork and sear on high heat for 10 minutes. Then add chorizo sausages and mix well. Add water to cover sausages and pork. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 90 minutes until pork is softened. Open lid every 10 minutes and mix well so nothing sticks and burns. Add water when necessary. Add haricot beans (canned beans are cooked and only need to be rinsed in water) for the last five minutes before shutting off the gas. Serve hot with rice, couscous or bread.

Karan’s salmon baked in lemon-butter sauce
Serves 3

For the lemon butter sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 stick butter (a thin slice)
4-5 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbsp brown sugar

(To prepare the lemon butter sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan, add garlic. Cook until the garlic is slightly brown or fragrant. Turn off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and brown sugar.)

700g fillet of salmon (or any firm fish)
3-4 twigs rosemary
3-4 twigs dill
6-7 basil leaves
4-5 orange slices
4-5 lemon slices
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Lay out salmon pieces in a baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the lemon butter sauce, making sure to spread it all over. Place orange and lemon slices on the fish. Add basil leaves, rosemary and dill. Bake in oven at about 180 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes.

Our Daily Bread is a column on easy, inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures. @samar11 on Twitter.

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