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June 2012

Quick-Fix Indian- a new cookbook by Ruta Kahate

 

Eggless Omelette
Ruta Kahate’s latest cook book is written for people new to Indian cuisine  living in countries other than India.

A couple of pages into the book and I was hooked. The very first thing that strikes you is that it’s organized so as to make YOU organized!

If you are approaching Indian food for the first time as a cook ‘Quick Fix Indian’ will get you started on the right foot. A much needed basic shopping list will help you stock your larder for many, many  Indian meals and will help avoid the frustration of being a couple of key ingredients short half way into cooking.

There are instructions to make some of these key ingredients from scratch which is well worth theeffort for the sheer improvement in taste. However many of them are also available readymade in Asian grocery stores around the world so you can dispense with all that if you are in a hurry.

Ruta’s  concept of the short shelf, pre preparing some ingredients to shorten cooking time, is great, especially for people who begin making dinner half an hour before it is required, urgently, by a hungry family.

The author has structured the book into the regular breakfast, lunch and mains recipes ( which I presume means dinner) with other chapters devoted to soups, salads, relishes, desserts and snacks. Pretty soon it becomes evident that a lot of the recipes can be interchanged from one chapter to another. I know that I frequently make the delicious Grilled Chicken Wrap as a dinner meal with a salad, or the  Indian Veggie Burger, which she lists in the lunch menu , as a quick snack.

The main attraction of the book is that most of the recipes can be cooked in half an hour and are typical of the kind of quick home cooking we do nowadays in India. Few people manage to make the thali spread of yester year with the stipulated dal, two veggies, a mutton or chicken curry, two chutneys, chapathi and rice. Most of us now make do with a main dish of vegetables or meat and a staple. While this is reflected in the book there are many recipes which, while tasty , are simplified to suit the  western palate. Andhra chicken curry though Indian in flavour is nothing like the authentic Andhra curry you might get in Hyderabad. That’s not to say it isn’t tasty. I can vouch, having tested the recipe, that it’s a winner.

Several recipes have ingredients we don’t have in India, for example the Chickpea salad had red, purple and fingerling potatoes, none of which are available here. The Coriander shrimp would be, more commonly, made with bottle gourd  rather than zucchini. However, to a person who cooks, these discrepancies are inconsequential. We all have to make do with what we can get. So if pomfret isn’t around, tilapia will do as well. Ruta remains faithful to the basic taste of Indian food which varies hugely  from North to South and coast to coast.

I especially liked the breakfast dishes so common to households in India. From the Spicy coastal scramble to the Eggless omelet (featured in my photo here) they are just what we make at home when cereal will not do and a bit of chilli on the palate gets one going so much faster.

While 'Quick Fix Indian' is written with the North American cook in mind, it is a book I would recommend to cooks in India as well. Perfect for those who work, but still want the taste of home cooked food, or those with children or families, who often have to plate up something good and wholesome in a short time, and even those of us Indians who would like a  recipe collection of old favourites from all across India  at hand-.Paneer roti, Lamb seekh kebabs, Potato raita, Chickpea salad ,the ubiquitous Egg roll and my all time favourite- Mustardy mashed potatoes .

YUM!


Reversing heart disease- no oil diet- Sweet potato and red lentil soup- Ratalu and masoor dal

 

Lately we are cooking a great deal of  no oil recipes. This has been an attempt to follow a Dr Dean Ornish type of diet to reverse heart disease along with yoga, lots of exercise and meditation. Needless to say we have all lost weight, a hefty 10 kg in two months, quite painlessly.

Cooking without oil or butter or fat of any kind seems impossible when you begin this diet. However we are now so used to it we don’t miss it at all, except when passing a vada pau stall and the siren scent of fried food assails our senses.

Today I cook Indian, Mediterranean, South Asian and all types of food without a drop of the dreaded stuff. Nobody has complained and every bowl and plate has been wiped clean.

I generally begin with a good basic recipe. For example take this one for a sweet potato soup

Sweet potato soup

Ingredients:

2 onions

3 garlic cloves

1” piece of ginger

800 gms sweet potatoes/ ratalu

1 apple

100 gms red lentils/ masoor dal

2 tbs chopped coriander.

½ cup + 4ml water.

Juice of 1 lemon

Method: Mince the onions and garlic then chop the sweet potatoes and apple into bits. Grate the ginger and chop the coriander. Wash the lentils.

Heat a pan and add two teaspoons of curry powder. Roast the spice a bit but don’t let it burn. Add a half cup of water and the garlic and onions. Poach the onions for 8 minutes till soft.

Now add the chopped potato, apples, grated ginger and coriander. Add the washed lentils. Add 400 ml water.

Cook for 30 minutes till the seet poatatoes are soft and the lentils cooked.Take off fire and cool. Add the lime juice.

Season with salt and pepper and blend till smooth. This makes a hearty tasty soup for 4 people.

I like this as it tastes a bit like a thick Mulligatawny soup . I sometimes add a green chilli to the poaching onions at the start if I want a bit more fire.