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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Indian "Fast" Food - When you need Curry in a Hurry!

Sometimes sheer necessity forces you to go back to basics and the lack of grocery shopping this week meant I had to go back to what I knew best. No 'brainer' in the kitchen. And of course that's different for everyone. Much of it I find is embedded in your 'formative' years - including cooking styles!

I started cooking when I was 10-12 - thanks to Home Economics at school we were in the kitchen, got interested and started practicing at home. We were also predominantly vegetarian in our household so for years I had no idea how to cook meat, fish or anything contai ning eggs! (hence my fear of making pavlova!!). Indian food only entered the repertoire from observing my mother. I never cooked an indian meal at my parents' home (leaves me scratching my head now). In fact my mother only ever taught my husband how to make a chicken curry 'from scratch'!  Yet somehow if I must do, I will whip up an indian meal (fiji style) without thinking too much of it. And that's what I had to do when I realised we had managed to not get to the supermarket that week. 

Long live 'convenience' foods - in this case it was lentils (assortment), rice (bless the rice cooker), frozen beans, frozen paneer (cheese, similar to haloumi) and frozen chappatti (roti)! Indian frozen foods have become surprisingly good and I took up the advice of 'subcontinental ladies' who swear by them and stocked up on a trip to Harris Park. The quality is impressive, taste great and at the end of the day are far more interesting than cheese on toast.  I always have spices on hand so the added magic for dhal and curries can be achieved with the simplest of ingredients. Staples for me are cumin seed, coriander seed, mustard seed, good quality garam masala and ground turmeric - everything else is on a needs-basis. Even ground chilli will do well enough when you are simply not in the mood to deal with fresh chillis (and it happens!).Served up was roti, rice, dhall and green b ean & paneer curry (featuring cumin, mustard seeds and finished with cassia bark which was a great addition).  Dhal and rice is traditionally a fast and nutritious deal. The bean & paneer curry took the least (!) amount of time as a soon as the spices are roasted the vegetables can go in, the paneer browned (in the same pan), tinned chopped tomatoes added (add a little sugar to counter the tartness) and you're away.  Fresh coriander leaves would have been fabulous but the cupboard (and fridge) were bare!  Of course in hindsight I realise that the meal was vegetarian but frankly the resident omnivore hadn't even noticed so enamoured by tasty good food was he!

So next time you are in an indian grocer check out the freezer - you will find okra, paneer and stuffed paratha among other delights. Gone are the days of housewives beating their brow over hours spent in the kitchen, Indian women in the workforce has meant better access to convenience foods and I for one am grateful!

Posted via email from Radhika's posterous

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Hey thanks!