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Less is more in Chef Ranveer Brar’s lockdown kitchen

What does the celebrity chef make when he is cooking for his family during quaran-time?

Chef Ranveer Brar
Chef Ranveer Brar

Mumbai-based chef, food show host and author Ranveer Brar has a thumb rule for simplifying meal planning: Less is more. “It’s not about how many ingredients you use, it’s how you apply them; it’s not about how much was bought during grocery runs, it’s what you buy; it’s not about how many meals are cooked, it’s how you can bring out the nutrition and taste of one dish," he explains.

This approach plays out on his YouTube and Instagram pages, where he launched two content categories during the lockdown—Kam mein zyaada on the former and #RBLockdownCookbook on the latter.

Kam mein zyaada on YouTube picks basic ingredients and gives a fun spin to detailed fail-proof recipes—like the one for vegetarian seekh kebab without a tandoor, the 7-minute Chinese samosa and summer-appropriate aam panna. #RBLockdownCookbook’s recipes focus on ideas to spark creativity. For instance, how to repurpose leftovers, make sweets with scarce ingredients and give a healthy twist to dishes.

“All the food for my social media content is consumed at home. We don’t really have a choice, right? If I am cooking, I better cook for everyone," he says, adding that his wife, Pallavi, has been shooting the videos during the lockdown. His young son looks forward to the shoots, anticipating “something yummy" like cake, pancake or pizza.

Like most urban households, the Brar family has had to spend the days of lockdown without domestic help. His wife manages the kitchen, his mother loves doing the dishes even though there’s a dishwasher, while he continues to do what he does best—cook in front of the camera, sharing recipes and culinary wisdom. Mint caught up with the chef for his lockdown food chronicles. Edited excerpts:

What do you buy during grocery runs?

As a broad rule, we go for whole ingredients, whether it’s grains like moong and rajma, or spices, from dry chillies to cinnamon sticks. It’s better to grind spices at home to make powdered masalas. Within each category of essentials such as flour and lentils, we buy a wide variety. Flours will include wheat and millets, while lentils will have moong, toor or masoor. I recommend not sticking to just one item within each category to have more variety on your plate. Apart from adding nutrition, it will prevent the problem of monocropping.

For vegetables, we grab as much colour as possible: the deeper the colour, the higher the nourishment. Beetroot and spinach are a regular feature in our shopping cart. For fruits, it’s about managing ripening. If we know bananas are needed to last 10 days, we get a fair mix of ripe and semi-ripe variations. In our kitchen, we always keep an overripe banana handy to make sure that it is used to ripen other fruits, like mangoes.

How do you plan your meals?

In the lockdown, the demand-supply scenario has altered to supply-supply. This means planning meals according to what’s available. The starting point is the fridge. Most of the menu planning the night before involves looking at what you have in the fridge.

Everything that needs to be consumed first is placed up front and anything with a longer expiry date is in the bottom shelves. Today, in my fridge, spinach and sprouts are leaping out, which indicate immediate consumption. So, we will do a spinach-sprouts-potato chaat.

How can one be smart about managing time in the kitchen?

We pre-prep breakfast the night before by soaking whole grains. It increases the nutritional value of grains by 12 times. Let’s say, you have overnight soaked yellow moong, make a paste the next morning and use it for chillas or crepes, or take the whole moong and add it to upma. If you cook it for lunch, you will consume half the amount of gas and feel less bloated. It’s healthier and you will feel more energetic.

To reduce time and effort, there’s at least one dish during the day that can be rehashed in the evening. Leftover steamed rice gets a makeover with some spices and becomes phodni cha bhaat (tempered rice in Marathi). Leftover rajma and chana are reprised as vadas or used as paratha stuffing.

How do you make your ‘rotis’?

Our roti dough is 70% wheat flour and the rest is manna, which is a south Indian flour mix comprising roasted lentils and flours. We also add a little bit of grounded chana dal and finger miller to our roti dough.

You have done several food and travel shows across India. Do share some stories about cultures that use fewer ingredients to make mind-blowing food.

It’s everywhere in India. Two stories come to mind.

I was shooting in a Bishnoi village in Rajasthan. As a community, they are fearlessly protective about the environment and worship the blackbuck. I met a widowed Bishnoi woman who invited me into her kitchen. Her masala box had just three ingredients—turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder. She made the most amazing rabodi (a cornflour and buttermilk papad) dish for me with just those three masalas.

Another story is from the remote village called Turtuk in Ladakh. There are very few things that grow, like wild herbs, buckwheat, turnip, almond and perhaps the tastiest apricots. Everything that they cook is essentially with these five ingredients, be it wedding feasts or everyday lunches. I tasted kissir—a crepe made with buckwheat, flavoured with a basil-like herb, seasoned with salt and cooked on a clay or iron griddle with a little apricot oil. I make so many variations of crepe but I know nothing will beat the buckwheat crepe I had there. This kind of cooking is a state of mind. It comes with being content and focusing on what is actually important, rather than what we feel is important.

Moong dal dhokla
Moong dal dhokla

How to make Ranveer Brar's moong dal dhokla

Serves 4

Ingredients For batter

3/4 cup split yellow moong dal, pre-soaked

3 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

1 /1/2 tsp sugar

A pinch of hing (asafoetida)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp Bengal gram flour/besan

2 tbsp curd

1 1/2 tsp fruit salt

For tempering

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp sesame seeds

1/4 tsp asafoetida

2 green chillies, chopped

For garnishing

2 tbsp coconut, grated

1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped


Grind the soaked moong dal and green chilies to a fine paste. Remove the paste in the bowl. Add salt, sugar, hing, turmeric, besan, curd and whisk well.

Heat water in a steamer. Grease the dhokla mould with oil.

Sprinkle fruit salt in the batter and give a good stir. Pour the batter in the mould and steam the dhokla for 15 minutes. Keep aside.

For tempering, heat oil in a pan. Add all the ingredients and stir till fragrant. Pour it over the dhokla and spread evenly.

Garnish with grated coconut and coriander. Cut and serve with green chutney.

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