1 carrot, 1 radish and a few beans: Cooking in the time of COVID-19

I do know this isn’t the place: it is, in any case, a meals column. But after I was requested to jot down it, specializing in the scenario, one thing in me turned. The Hindu has readers who’ve entry to meals, however want concepts on how to deal with shortages. Shortages not of amount, however of selection; in the worst-case situation, possibly of conventional substances. And oftentimes of assist.

A pair of weeks in the past, an American journal had a tongue-in-cheek article the place the creator, an completed baker, went to the native grocery, famous that yeast was clear off the cabinets, and had a face-off with one other buyer over the final bag of flour on the prime rack. He muttered — in his thoughts — about how the different chap had most likely by no means baked bread earlier than in his life, what a waste that bag can be, and how he knew the different would fail and get his comeuppance.

I’m a grasshopper

It was barely humorous, in a superior, nudge-nudge, wink-wink type of approach. But deep down, it was a reminder of how privileged we’re; we search for selection. When requested to present to those that don’t have anything, we hem and haw. I’m making an attempt to not sermonise, however let’s depend our blessings and do what we will to assist others.

I can’t assist however assume of the ant and grasshopper fable as a result of when the lockdown was anticipated, all the ants I do know drove round loading their automobiles, stockpiling victuals. Grasshoppers like me didn’t, for vaguely ethical causes. And now we’re caught with what we now have in our cabinets. Which are, like Old Mother Hubbard’s, naked. Unfortunately, I’m a relentless cleaner-of-shelves, so no serendipitous delights await me, nevertheless far again I attain into fridges or cabinets. I do know precisely what I can look forward to finding — what number of stumps of drying cheese and what number of inches of peanut butter in the jar.

I see what individuals publish on social media about what they cook dinner, of how they’re dealing with the lockdown. And I’m amazed at the dishes residence cooks are conjuring up. The Westerners all appear to have forgotten jars of sundried tomatoes in additional virgin olive oil to allow them to make flavourful pasta, and luggage of buckwheat flour to allow them to make soba noodles, and luggage of almond meal and packing containers of cocoa powder to allow them to make gluten-free cake. This appears to be a chance to experiment. Some Indian cooks are making gatta curry, chana bhatura, gol gappa and ras malai.

Watching these posts provides me a complicated, so I choose to imagine that they should be proficient cooks anyway. Maybe it’s to do with their now having extra time to indulge a interest, however I don’t know make sophisticated dishes and I’m coping with a completely different problem. Vegetables aren’t persistently out there. Sometimes, if we now have solely handfuls of completely different greens in the home, I make combos which will appear odd bedfellows, however I’ve all the time been charmed by the Bengali panch mishali. So we accumulate a single radish, a carrot, a handful of beans, a layer or two of cabbage, a few leaves of spinach, a chunk of pumpkin, a potato, half a cauliflower.

Making do

The precept we’ve adopted is to make do and to juxtapose textures: agency and soft-and-squishable. The varieties could also be roughly than panch or 5, the spicing could also be completely different, however the technique is broadly to mood mustard oil with a single spice like kalonji, nigella, or a customary mixture like panch phoran, a couple of inexperienced chillies, and then cook dinner the greens, having minimize them into cubes or fingers and timing their addition at the acceptable second to ensure they cook dinner.

A bit of ginger juice freshens the flavour and most likely helps digestion. Finally, I add a smidgen of ghee and a pinch of sugar and it lets me fake it’s genuine.

We are a meat-eating household and there is no such thing as a meat, fish or rooster. Egg provide is erratic. This week, the native Safal is properly stocked with lentils and pulses. Fortunately, I’ve a full chest of spices. The upshot of all that is that I can solely perk up flavour with sudden combos and spices. Because I’m one of the miraculously fortunate élite whose solely urgent concern is combating ennui.

A precept we learnt again in the days earlier than liberalisation was to substitute, change and adapt. I had a recipe for aubergine parmigiana that regarded uncomplicated sufficient, however because it requested for Parmesan cheese and I had solely stubs of Cheddar and Red Leicester, and as a result of it requested for recent basil and I had none, I did what I may. Because I had the essential substances: aubergines and tomatoes. And the dish is elastic and accommodating.

Gone yeast

Meanwhile our native ‘artisanal’ bakery has quickly shut store, so final week, the baker-in-residence stated he’d make bread. Unfortunately, the dough didn’t rise. When I informed a buddy this, she instructed that the yeast may have expired, and despatched me, in the hope of higher occasions, the hyperlink to a video describing make near-perfect toddy at residence, with a mere three substances: coconut water, sugar and yeast. I’m saving it for when yeast is out there.

Instead I made muffins. I wrote about them about 12 years in the past, in one of my earliest columns right here. Because they’re so satisfying and really easy to make in these laborious occasions, it appeared price sharing once more. As my mom, who taught me the recipe, stated, “they’re very forgiving” — you should use any flour, any shortening, they take a few minutes, and in order for you you possibly can bung in no matter flavouring you will have at hand, candy or savoury.


Basic muffins

(makes 12)

Photo: Getty Images/ iStock


2 cups sifted flour

½ cup sugar

Three tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup milk

½ cup vegetable oil

1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F). Grease bottoms solely of 12 muffin-pan cups. Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Stir in sugar. In separate bowl, beat collectively egg, milk and oil.

2. Spread flour combination in vast spherical bowl and make a properly in the centre. Pour in egg-milk-oil combination . Stir with a fork simply till mixed. Spoon combination into ready muffin-pan cups.

3. Bake till golden, for about 25 minutes. Immediately take away from cups by inserting knife tip beneath every to loosen. Serve scorching with butter.

When mixing batter, stir simply till flour is moistened. Do not beat. Batter will probably be lumpy however makes for tender muffins.

Muffins might be frozen or stored for a few days. Wrap in foil and reheat in oven earlier than serving.

From the once-forbidden pleasure of eggs to the ingratitude of visitors, the author displays on each affiliation with meals. [email protected]

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