Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!
The advent of a New Year harks new beginnings, a way to do things better, faster. Check out some tips and quick hacks—creating better habits around cooking more, saving more—to shift your behavior in the kitchen.
- To preserve the color of your homemade ginger-garlic paste add some oil and salt to it.
- Make a big batch of fried onions in your air fryer or stovetop. Add mint while frying onions enhances their flavor. Use as a pizza topping, on biryani’s, pastas, etc.
- While grinding coriander chutney, add some ice cubes in the blender. This will help to reduce heat buildup and preserves the vivid green color of the chutney.
- Keep your unused avocado fresh. Take any Tupperware or a bowl filled with just enough water to submerge the exposed side of the fruit. Then, simply place the avocado half in the bowl, cut-side-down, and the next time you’re ready to use it, the avocado should look like it was just cut.
- To reduce the spice in any dish, add a few drops of lemon juice milk, or yogurt in the dish.
- Perfect fluffy scrambled eggs: whisk them with whole milk before cooking
- To achieve optimal firmness for your sautéed vegetables (eg: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus) is to blanch or boil them briefly before sautéing
- To make a perfect batch of French toast soak your bread in an egg and cream mixture overnight in the refrigerator. This will keep the bread from falling apart, resulting in a rich and crispy toast when cooked.
- No more dry chicken: Brine your bird in salt and water (and lemon juice and herbs if you’d like the additional flavor) for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Keep extra salad greens fresh and crisp by adding a few paper towels to the bag or container. Store in a tightly wrapped bag with just a little air.
- Recipe calls for onions? Chop, slice, or grind them and freeze in labeled freezer bags.
- At the end of the day, sprinkle some baking soda and vinegar in your sink. Take dishwashing liquid and coat the entire area. Leave the solution for half an hour, rinse to get a disinfected and clean sink!
- To remove the food smells from the kitchen, add the peels of lemons and oranges into a pan filled with water. Bring to a boil. As the water boils and releases the essential oils, it will neutralize the smells.
- Sharpen the blades of your blender by adding dry salt and whirring it for a couple of minutes.
- The stems of coriander and mint can be used in chutneys and stocks to flavor chicken/veggies.
- To increase the shelf life of fresh green chilis, remove the stem part of chilies before storing.
- Extra oil in your dish? Wrap a few ice cubes in a paper towel, then skim them across the top of your sauce/soup. The ice cubes will encourage excess fat to solidify, making it much easier to scoop out and discard!
- While making paratha dough, adding milk helps softens the dough
- To make gravies rich and creamy use beaten curd or a cashew past in lieu of cream.
- If you add extra salt to a dish, add a small ball of dough or drop a peeled potato into it, it will absorb the extra salt.
- Can’t seem to keep your potatoes from sprouting in storage? Just drop an apple in the bag or basket where you keep the potatoes
- Make your paneer last longer, store in water with few drops of vinegar in it.
- Want your butter to reach room temperature faster? Grate it.
- While sautéing onions or aromatics for a curry/gravy, add a pinch of turmeric and salt. It speeds up the cooking process.
- Wrap the end of the banana bunch with plastic wrap. The skins won’t turn black and the fruit will remain fresh for longer.
- Freeze herbs like mint, thyme, rosemary, or coriander with melted butter or olive oil in an ice tray. Pop into any sauce.
- Microwaving whole garlic for around 20 seconds helps it to peel faster
- Use left-over whey after making paneer to make buttermilk for kadhi, add to gravies, or dough
- Everyday ingredients like eggs and potatoes can be boiled in advance and refrigerated for later use. Peel and quarter your potatoes before boiling or roasting them. The more surface area is exposed, the faster they’ll cook.
- Love lasagna but hate the long preparation time? Egg roll wrappers are a good substitute for lasagna sheets because they don’t need to be boiled. They come in small, easy to use squares
Perfectly Fluffy Basmati Rice in the Instant Pot
The ratio is 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water. Close the lid. Valve to sealing position. Select pressure cook (high). Set time to 7 min. Once done, quick release the pressure after 10 min.
Optional: You can add 1 tsp ghee and 1tsp salt to the raw rice and water mixture before closing with the lid to enhance the flavor.
PS: Don’t use the rice option.
Perfectly Dried Herbs (mint, cilantro, parsley, basil)
Sprinkle on just about anything.
The key to drying herbs is to eliminate moisture content without burning the leaves. Too much moisture left behind can result in mold growth, while high heat can scorch your leaves. Always thoroughly wash and blot before setting it out to dry. You can air dry or use the oven (my preferred method).
Low heat is critical to prevent burning leaves to a crisp. Set the temperature on your oven to the lowest possible — at most 200°F. Evenly spread out leaves to ensure everything dries at the same pace. Don’t layer leaves atop one another.
Bake at low heat for approximately 20/30 minutes. Keep an eye on your herb to avoid burning it.
After 20/30 mins, turn off your oven and leave the herb to continue drying overnight. After about 12 hours in the dry, warm oven you should have easy-to-crumble bits of your herb ready to store.
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: [email protected]