One thing the express cooking event showed was that organization shall set you free. Maybe later I will make this a quarterly event but for now this is a one-off event. I do however still have a bunch of tips to share with everybody.
Its not fun to get organized and it won't happen in a day. To change from staring vacantly at the fridge and pantry to be organised enough to have labelled ready to use spice mixes, frozen pastes and gravies ready to be popped into the saute pan will take me awhile.
It looked daunting but now I am armed with the best tips from some of the industry experts...Meeta, Coffee, Jai n Bee, Bharathy, Manisha, Anita, RP etc.
So here are the links to their words of wisdom and lets look forward to more home cooked meals using all these suggestions. It has to make life a tiny bit easier, don't u think?
Jugalbandi took my express meal idea to heart and went one step further...they took time out to list their time saving tactics. Some of the pointers struck an echo in my mind.
"......We cannot live without our pressure cooker, microwave, and electric kettle. These are time savers and fuel savers.
If we make spice pastes for any dish, we try and double or triple the quantity and freeze the rest. Right now, in the freezer we have vegetable makhani paste, Thai green, red, yellow and massaman pastes, and caramelised onions. We freeze them in meal-sized portions so that we don’t have to thaw the entire batch when we want to use it.
Coconut milk powder is your friend. Add it to curries. 1/3 cup of coconut milk powder = 1 cup coconut milk. Use 1/2 cup if you want it really thick. You don’t need to add water to it if your curry already has liquid......"
Follow the link for the whole list.
My friend Meeta also suggested some great organizing tips for the cooking process.
Check them out here
..."Onions, garlic and ginger are very often used is Asian/Indian meals. To reduce my preparing time I normally make pastes of each of these ingredients. They are then filled in ice-cube trays. Once frozen I place them in freezer bags and label them...."
She also has a wonderful collection of ready sauces: Pesto alla Genovese,Aglio Olio,Arrabiata Sauce.
Spicy Chilly also listed her few tips for Quick Indian Cooking...."Plan the dinner menu before hand for the coming 7 days in advance,considering the family preferences and simple nutritional facts.Plan your shopping list accordingly. See to it that you include cereals, salads, vegetables, milk and yoghurt, all over.This might seem a 'burden' to start with, but sets you going automatically the whole week."
Another tip I found on Indian Food Rocks..
Optimising a can of tomato paste."...All you have to do now is use the quantity you need and then spoon the rest of the paste onto a plate in large blobs about an inch in diameter, if you can get them to be round!...."
Spice Cafe seems to have organized her kitchen well enough to create Al Lentilo Pulavo in just 15-20 minutes. We should take a page out of her recipe file and make a large batch of Spice Cafe's Frozen Gravy. It would definitely save time on a weekday or a lazy day.
RP has listed a multitude of options with leftovers to make express meals.
To get you started a well stocked pantry is essential. If you set about pounding spices when the lentils are cooking ,there goes another half hour! So here are some recipes for the most common spice mixes. If you feel there are some other spice mixes already blogged that should be added here, drop me a comment and the link and I will add it.
Spice Cafe's Garam Masala
Anita's Goda Masala
Jugalbandi's Kashmiri Garam Masala
Indosungod's Sambhar Masala
Kerala Sambhar Powder
Tamil Sambhar Masala
My only tip is to cook extra and freeze whatever won't be consumed in two days. All kinds of lentils (Dals) freeze well as do any kind of meat dish.
I am not a big fan of frozen veggies but I do end up with huge pieces of pumpkin or other vegetables which then proceed to die in the fridge. So such extra vegetables (such as ash gourd, pumpkin) could be chopped and boiled and then frozen for an instant curry or side dish (olan/pulissery etc).
Cooked Biryani meat masala if extra should be frozen in a glass container and then when you need it, defrost, make fresh ghee rice(which only takes 10 minutes) and layer and microwave together for biryani. Use the microwave for nuking the potato for curries and cutlets and you save gas and time.