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Inspiration from an empty fridge

  • What do you do when children occupy your weekend and there’s no time to shop or cook?
  • There’s always likely to be some scraps of raw vegetables in your fridge. Mix and match

The basic ingredients of a ‘rice pot of leftovers’. Photographs by Samar Halarnkar
The basic ingredients of a ‘rice pot of leftovers’. Photographs by Samar Halarnkar

When Bengaluru’s short summer winds down, the city’s famous breeze kicks in, rustling through the last of the rain trees, relieving the warmth of the day. Evenings and mornings are back to being agreeable and cool.

Sorry, people of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and all those other cities that fret, fume and suffer the ides of the great Indian summer.

Oh, we complain as well:

“It’s so warm these days, isn’t it?"

“I had to sleep with the fan on ‘2’ last night."

“Bangalore is finished."

While we do have cause to complain—NITI Aayog, the government’s think tank, says we will run out of water by next year—the heat is no reason. We have it easy compared to most parts of India.

The end of summer in Bengaluru sets you free. We tend to bike, swim, walk and wander around more than normal. Some part of my weekend is usually given to market wanderings, stocking up on vegetables and meats and cooking for the family.

But the family was distracted this weekend. Three cousins were reunited—my niece, 6, nephew, 11, and my eight-year-old—and all they wanted to do was spend the days and nights together and go, go, go. Florida twangs merged easily with the daughter’s Kannadiga accent as they splashed in a pool, enjoyed a football game and carnival at her school, survived a 90-minute traffic jam easily in each other’s company, ran riot across two houses and slept together on one bed.

All this action created a bit of a problem when Monday came along: There was no food at home.

Sunday lunch had been Indian-Chinese, courtesy the first family use of a home-delivery app. After driving the children around, I could scarcely have cooked, and it was quite nice to stuff ourselves with twice-cooked pork and Schezwan fish.

My Monday morning went in putting together breakfast and school lunch, attending an editorial meeting and catching up on work. Our part-time cook had taken off on a pilgrimage for a week, but I was secretly delighted, as I tend to be when I am king of my kitchen.

There was no time to shop, so I decided lunch would be leftovers, plus something I could scrape together with whatever was available. I peered into my fridge to discover there really wasn’t much. But I did find an old, yellow capsicum, two dubious-looking carrots and spinach of unknown provenance.

We stock many traditional rice varieties, so that could be the base. There was an onion, some tomatoes, fresh ginger and garlic, and my ageing stock of spices.

What more does a man need?

Inspiration, perhaps. But I find it comes automatically when I stare at ingredients and start thinking.

So, it did. In between editing, it was easy enough to throw the pot of scraps together. Paired with leftover paneer and chhole (chickpeas)—the wife’s comfort food—the pot was perfect for a working lunch.

The basic ingredients of a ‘rice pot of leftovers’. Photographs by Samar Halarnkar
The basic ingredients of a ‘rice pot of leftovers’. Photographs by Samar Halarnkar


Serves 2


1 cup brown rice, washed, soaked and cooked (with 2K times as much water)

1 bunch spinach, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

8 pieces garlic, chopped

1-inch-piece ginger, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, cut into small fries

1 medium yellow or red pepper, slivered

1-2 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp sumac powder (or use mix of jeera and red-chilli powders)

1 tsp chipotle powder (or garam masala)

2 tsp fresh mint leaves, chopped

Salt to taste

2 tsp vegetable oil for the vegetables

1 tsp olive oil for the fries


Grease an oven tray with olive oil, spread the carrot and capsicum, sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds. Grill at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until both start to brown, and set aside.

In a non-stick pot, gently heat the vegetable oil, then sauté the onion until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the sumac and chipotle (or any other spice powders) and sauté for another minute. Add the tomatoes and mix well for a minute. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and cooked rice. Toss everything. Garnish with grilled capsicum and carrot fries and mint.

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.


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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