Home chefs and caterers from across the country suggest creative dishes for frugal kitchens in the time of the covid-19 lockdown
It’s the middle of the week, the food stock is depleting fast and supplies are taking forever to be delivered. What can you do if you are stuck with a disparate array of items in your pantry: merely ragi (finger millet) and milk or potatoes and a handful of greens? Apparently quite a lot, given a bit of ingenuity.
Home chefs from around the country have come up with magical ways of making do with just three main ingredients. While some have repurposed peels, others have created their own spin on traditional recipes. Who says frugal cooking can’t be creative!
In the first week of the lockdown, when supplies were difficult to get in Goa, Odette Mascarenhas, the cookbook author-historian, had to take stock of what she could do with limited resources. “My 90-year-old father, who used to be a great cook and lives with me, could not understand our situation, especially when relatives in other parts of India did not have such drastic food supply issues," says Mascarenhas. The pantry only had spices, onions, potatoes, dry staples and the Goan essential—coconut. There was no access to bread, fruit, vegetables, fish or chicken for seven days. So, meals were made with overripe bananas, frozen corn, limp carrots and leftover prawns. To lighten the situation, Mascarenhas decided to give some fun names to the dishes she was cooking and her creativity was appreciated even by her gastronome father. Pot-a-To Green is Mascarenhas’ version of the traditional thick Portuguese soup caldo verde.
Three main ones: 100g spinach, 500g potatoes, 1 onion
Staples: 1.5 litres water, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt
Boil the potatoes, cool and purée. Wash spinach and cut into fine strips. Finely chop the onions. Pour oil in a pan and sauté the onions until they turn pink. Add the potato purée with a little water to get a thick soup-like consistency. Add spinach strips and season with salt. Add a dash of olive oil for that creamy finish.
Tip: You can replace spinach with any greens you have at hand.
Mumbai-based Gitika Saikia, who conducts pop-ups based on the cuisines of the North-East, has been cooking a lot with leftovers and kitchen discards these days. So you will find her grinding ridge-gourd peels into a chutney with just a pod of garlic, lemon juice and salt. “I am making a lot of chutneys and storing them in the fridge. Since meals are really frugal now, these act as the perfect accompaniment," she says. This particular one also goes really well with the chatamari, a Nepalese pancake that Saikia makes with green moong dal. “This dal is usually given as prasad during puja in Assam and doesn’t often make it to the table," she adds. But she has gone ahead and used it in a chilla or pesarattu, without letting the batter ferment. The dish is so versatile that it can be had as a different course through the day, with a diverse array of toppings repurposed from leftovers.
Three main ones: 1 cup split whole moong dal (presoaked), choice of toppings, half-inch ginger
Staples: Salt, water, oil
Add a little water to the dal and grind with all the ingredients. In a pan, heat oil, add the mix and make the pancake.
Tip: For breakfast, eat the chatamari with a chutney. For lunch or dinner, you could top it with an egg, minced chicken or leftover vegetables.
Lau Khosha CHENCHKI
Iti Misra, a Kolkata-based home chef who has done pop-ups at eateries such as The Bombay Canteen, is cooking up a range of batas, or mashes, chenchki and bhajas or fries made with peels, and more. Some of her favourites batas include those made with the barbati, or the palwal bean, and with peels of snake beans, pointed gourd, pumpkin and raw bananas. “All you need to do is boil the peels, mash them and do a light stir-fry with green chillies, onions, salt and oil," she says. Using peels adds diversity to the table as well. For instance, while the potato can go in a curry, the peel can be fried into a crisp and eaten with dal and rice.
Three main ones: 1 tender bottle gourd, green chillies, egg (in case you are making the non-vegetarian version)
Staples: Salt, water, sugar, mustard seeds, oil
Peel the bottle gourd, with some of the white fleshy part intact. Chop it into juliennes or matchsticks. Steam or parboil with some salt. Keep the water aside for another dish (a soup or a dal). In a little oil, add green chillies and mustard seeds. Stir fry the peels with a pinch of salt and sugar. Remove from the pan and eat with dal and rice.
Tip: In case you want to make a non-vegetarian version, add a beaten egg to make a scramble.
Ragi (FINGER millet) flour hot chocolate
A huge proponent of millets in the diet, author and menu consultant Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal always has a ready stock of ragi at home. During the lockdown, her fun millet recipes, such as ragi hot chocolate, are not just getting her two children interested in cooking but also helping them understand the importance of indigenous ingredients. “With milk being dear during the lockdown, you can reduce the quantity normally used in a hot chocolate and add more ragi. It is a good way of supplementing nutrition," says Ghildiyal, who is based in Mumbai. And children tend to enjoy the nutty, earthy flavour that ragi lends to this thick creamy beverage.
Makes 1 cup
Three main ones: 1 tbsp ragi (Ghildiyal uses Bakri Chhap from Uttarakhand but you can use any millet flour), 1 cup hot milk, 1 tbsp cocoa powder
Staples: 1 tsp ghee, N cup water, sugar (optional), N tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
Heat the ghee in a pot and add ragi. Roast on low to medium heat, stirring constantly until the flour is cooked and the ghee starts to separate. This takes 5-7 minutes. Add milk and bring to a boil, whisking all the way. Now simmer or the concoction will get too thick. Add sugar, cinnamon powder and cocoa powder and whisk to incorporate. Strain to remove any lumps of ragi before serving.
Tip: Leave out the water and cook a little longer. Chill to make a custard or a pudding.
Vishal Shetty, co-founder of the Bengaluru Oota Company, a tasting room and catering service which focuses on Gowda and Mangalorean food, has been crafting delivery menus based on whatever is available. “We speak to the vendors a day before to check what they are likely to get the next day. Based on that, we make a menu and share with our customer database," says Shetty.
The orders too are taken the night before delivery. The food is picked up by two runners, approved by the government. “We have been doing this for a week now," she says.
Shetty suggests making the kukuda chutney as mangoes are in season and the relish has a certain longevity if stored in the fridge.
Three main ones: 2 raw mangoes, K coconut, grated, 6-7 flakes garlic
Staples: Water, salt, red chillies, 2 tsp mustard seeds
Boil the mangoes until soft. Grind together coconut, chillies and garlic. Add mustard seeds and grind coarsely. Finally, add the boiled mangoes to the ground masala and mix thoroughly for another 2 minutes. Remove and serve.
Tip: This combination goes really well with boiled red rice.
As we speak, Rhea Mitra Dalal, founder of Euphorhea Kitchen, Mumbai, is in the middle of cooking a very special mutton dish. Made with baby onions, meat and baby potatoes, kandi papeti ma gos is an heirloom Parsi dish. “But I have never once made it in the 20 years of being married into a Parsi family (her husband, Kurush, is an archaeologist and runs the catering service Katy’s Kitchen in Mumbai. I think, now, a lot of inherently frugal recipes are making a comeback to the table," she adds.
The couple has been cooking a lot of one-pot meals or just coming up with ingenious ways of using leftovers. “We had five cocktail sausages in the freezer, which is a ‘neither here nor there’ amount. These were chopped up," says Dalal. Mashed potato, left over from the previous day’s dinner, was added in place of cheese. To this, beaten eggs and a basic akuri (very browned onions, chopped coriander, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chillies and salt) mix were added, resulting in a very hearty breakfast dish.
Three main ones: Sausages, mashed potato or cheese, 5 eggs
Staples: Salt, basic akuri mix
Heat oil in a pan. Chop up the sausages, beat the eggs and add both to the pan. Grate the cheese or mashed potato, whichever is available. Add the basic akuri mix and scramble all the ingredients together.
Tip: Best had with pao or bread.
The good part is that you can put this dish together with whatever leftovers you have in the fridge.
FIRST PUBLISHED11.04.2020 | 05:19 PM IST