As a working woman I find the rush of domestic chores and tasks at work taking a toll on my quality of life .It makes every day seem like a race against time. I know for a fact that many other women understand what I am talking about and feel the same. So I started looking for ways to get things done faster in the kitchen and here I would like to share the same. Hoping to be of help to those who have not yet thought of these time saving techniques!
Let me start with the techniques I use for making my fast forward curries and gravies. I find that for curries like Dals and Sambaars, the taste is enhanced by putting the dal in to cook with the vegetables and spices all at once in the cooker. Works for me and my family, may not work for those who want to be able to see the vegies they eat, because the vegetables which need only light cooking can get a “little mashed up”
I know you are already using the ready made pastes if you are reading up time savers. But here are some of the latest. Try the Maggi Bhuna Masala for thickening any graving. Lightly fry till you get the browning to your taste. Alternately if that’s too easy instead of following the steps till sautéing and then grinding for smooth gravies simply reverse the process. That means that you can grind the onions ahead and then saute. This way you don’t have to wait for the sautéed onions to cool down. You can also saute the onion in different flavors much in advance and store them in small jars separately in the fridge if you are something of a puritan when it comes to processes. There it will sit and be ever ready to grind and use, as and when required. This lasts a week in the fridge, longer in the freezer. When keeping in the freezer, wrap in thermo-foil before putting in a zip bag. When you plan to use this, take it out and keep in the fridge section overnight so that it is defrosted and ready when you are ready to cook.
I also find that if you chop your tomatoes smaller, as in 3 pieces from a “petal”, it blends into a gravy faster. You can use 2- 3 pinches of Aam chur powder instead of adding tomatoes also. That’s a really fast way to add the bitterness of tomato to a dish!
Keep tomato soup powder as a ready alternative to tomato pulp. Add water only after toasting/sautéing it along with the other spices. Watch the quantity and add in table spoons as an overdose can make it bitter. A dash of cream would balance it off. In a jiffy, tomato sauce can also be used instead of tomato puree. But this does not lend itself to the curry in quite the same way as it has a slightly sweet twinge. To thicken my gravies quickly without having to add more onions, I sometimes add a table spoon of rice powder or corn flour. It has worked beautifully for me till date.
When using such alternatives a Chinese seasoning for the gravy, which can make it feel more natural .There is a schezwan chutney/sauce by Chings also which goes well with your mixed vegetables or mixed fried rice. This will add a Chinese touch to your preparations and give you a welcome change from garam masala ! Uses garlic, so garlic haters are advised to skip this option.
Here are are some interesting ways to add zing using the schezwan chutney to your salads, raita or cheese spreads. Blend in some Schezwan Chutney into a bowl of Mayonnaise, or with the plain Cheese spread for a fancy dip. Serve this with Potato Wafers, Fries, or Wedges. Then watch your munchies disappear .Add to salad or Raita to get a zingy dressing for the vegies! Create a colorful raw vegetable combo with cut Carrot, Cucumbers/Cabbage and Onions and put a bowl of raita in the middle.
I want things to be faster in the kitchen; but I cannot tolerate the bitterness that the added preservatives in some ready-made pastes create. So I peel sufficient garlic pods and mix with salt ,to keep them ready for use in my fridge. This way I have greater flexibility when it comes to using them as paste or chopped etc. You can also simply peel and put ginger, garlic into the mortar and pestle ,going on to give a few punches till it turns into thin threads, almost instantly. This way they blend well into the gravy. There is always the option of grating the ginger and garlic directly into the pan while sautéing is also an alternative to grinding them afterwards. This adds a texture to your gravy and can be an interesting change from smooth gravies.
Not to forget the methods given in A Short Course in Culinary Experiments by S. Muralidharan, are worth a mention here. Look up how to speed up fermentation of the dosa batter or for that matter how to slow down the fermentation so that you can use it for a longer period (In Section ST 10) . Also worth a look is how to reduce frying time for vegetable like eggplant (In section E3)and how to cure a pickle faster (In Section CP 6). The book A Short Course in Culinary Experiments is available on Amazon in Kindle version also.
Preparation before cooking, Curry, Fried rice, Salads and Starters.. Anything I have missed????…mmmmm…then I guess ,that’s all for now. What about you my friend? Any tricks up your sleeve to speed up the kitchen grind, please do share with us.