Life Simplified

Kitchen tricks to simplify you life

6:00 AM

This post has been on my mind ever since I found a way to make sour cream in minutes (those following me on Facebook will already know about it). I realised I had quite a few tricks to make my time in the kitchen easier to share. But first, for all those who didn't see the video on Facebook here it is:

 

In India you won't find the thick whipping cream she used, but the Amul Fresh cream will give you a nice enough result, a bit less thick, but still makes for a great sour cream, without the whole business of having a sour starter and letting the cream sour for 24 hours or so, all you need are one small pack of cream and one lemon. Now for my other kitchen tricks...

- have you ever had a craving for rajma, or chili, or any of these pulse base dish but couldn't be bothered because these are the type of dish that require you soak the beans for at least 8 hours? In Europe I had the option of running to the store and buy soaked and canned kidney beans, or any type of bean or lentils really. In India that doesn't exist! and for years I did have to plan ahead and soak the conventional way???until I discovered the next best thing to canned beans: speed soaking! You'll get in an hour or so to get what 8 hours of soaking does the conventional way. To do so simply put your dry beans in a pan with water and bring to a boil, let it boil for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover your pan, let it stand for an hour before cooking your beans normally. I even found out that speed soaking does reduce the cooking time in the pressure cooker too.

- speaking of beans, if you want them soft DO NOT cook them with salt...salt is what you add at the last minute...yes even in the good old rajma, salt will prevent pulses and lentils from softening, so it needs to go in your dish last.

- Non sticky pasta is a thing I thought would only happen if using oil while cooking them, but years of doing so, I always ended up with pasta that still clumps, and pasta sauce that does not adhere well to the cooked pasta, until a few years ago when I read an article in a magazine that suggested using vinegar instead of oil in the boiling water in which the pasta cook. Add about a table spoon of it to the water, and you'll end up with al dente non clumping pasta, and no it doesn't affect the taste, what's more, the past will absorb the sauce much better.

- Have you experienced button mushroom turning slimy in a day or two in their original packaging? This is a complain most of my friends who like mushrooms in India have. The reason is simple, they are stored in inappropriate packaging over here. They should NEVER be stored in plastic bags and bins, coming from a mushroom loving country I never saw them in anything but paper bags or cartons back home and was surprised to see them in plastic here. Mushroom will sweat in plastic and this is what makes them slimy and stinky, and fairly inedible. To preserve them longer in the fridge you have two options: a) wrap them in some old newspaper and discard the plastic package, or b) line a steel plate with two layers of kitchen tissue or paper napkin, spread your mushrooms on it, and cover with another two layers tissue on top before placing in the fridge, they will keep fresh for 4-5 days.

- While plastic doesn't agree with mushroom, it does with other food, and recently one of my friend told me she finds storing strawberries and keeping them fresh in the fridge impossible as the darken and shrink. strawberries like many fruits need refrigeration, but the cold air will frost bite their skin, to keep that from happening you need a good quality airtight container. Wash all your berries nicely, pat them dry and store in the container, seal it and place in the fridge. The same technique will apply to many fruits and vegetables. It's important to have quality brand of container made with non toxic plastics though. Two very good brands in India are Tupperware and Lock n Lock, they have never let me down...unlike other cheap containers.

- Boxes can take place, so some things will do great in ziplock bags instead, and over the years I found they are the best way to keep coriander leaves fresh for over a week, the bag can be washed and reused a few times too.

- If you are going to have many dishes requiring chopped onions in a few days, spare your eyes by dumping several peeled and quartered onions in the food processor instead, chop them in bulk and store in a quality airtight container, the onions will stay fresh for 2 days that way, and you just take what you need for a dish at the time of cooking and place what's left back in the fridge. Peeled but not chopped garlic pod will even keep much longer than that, so set a moment to peel several and store in an airtight container the same way. I have kept them fresh and plump that way for 2 weeks.

- Peeled sambar onions freeze amazingly well, and since they taste awesome in continental dishes and Indian chicken dishes alike, I always keep a ziplock bag full of them in the freezer, you can throw them whole in the hot oil straight from the freezer, and blitz them frozen in the mixie to make an onion paste. Do not let them thaw before using though, they will loose water in the process and with it flavour.

- If you need a thick and rich in flavour tomato gravy, or want a salad that will not look watery, deseed your tomatoes, the seeds do not bring much in matter of flavour but brings a lot of water to a dish, when I make a pizza sauce the seeds are going out before the tomatoes end up in my sauce pan, the same applies to sandwiches that will not be eaten right away, the seeds will make the bread soggy.

 

There you have some of my kitchen time savers and waste preventers. What are yours?

6 comments

  1. The tomato one is a good one. And if you have a patio garden, you have seeds ready to go then!

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  2. Exactly! I tried planting tomatoes from the seeds I remove in Bangalore, but I never had more than 2-3 tomatoes from them, but that is probably because I have a brown thumb and there was a bit too much sun on that terrace, I should try again here, but my balcony is north facing, I might have the opposite problem of not enough direct sunlight

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  3. I love whipping cream to top my desserts, coffee or cocoa and sadly i haven't been able to find one at any store. when will india start manufacturing those spray kind of bottles of whiiped cream? :(

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  4. I think the problem is that whipped cream is something that is still an exotic thing in initial, something you find on top of cakes and fancy coffees, so it is going to take time until it is manufactured locally. I saw some colts imported spray cans in many big supermarket and gourmet stores both in Mumbai and Bangalore. People don't seem to know about the good old fashioned pressure bottle you could fill with full cream and a cartridge of what is actual laughing gas (too early in the morning to rake my brain trying to figure out the scientific name of that gas). Both my grandmas and my mom had these contraptions at home to make whipped cream before the spray cans arrived in the market in Switzerland.

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  5. Beatrix4:29 PM

    Nitrous oxide is laughing gas & makes pressurized whipped cream fluffy ;)

    Anyhoo...

    Where I am from in California we have a lot of farm laborers who eat beans with nearly every meal.

    They never soak beans - so that is how I learned to cook beans.

    They simply rinse the beans, put them in a huge stock pot with a couple of chopped onions, perhaps some garlic, a piece of salt pork, and about 3 cups water to every 1 cup of beans. Then they bring it to a boil for about 3 hours til the beans are soft. They put salt in with their beans also, I have found that salt causes the beans to split rather than remain whole - but does not prevent them from softening.

    I cook beans the same way as the farm laborers in California (sans the pork) but use a pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time to about 1&1/2 hrs. (I am at high altitude so things tend to take 15-30 minutes longer to cook than at sea level).

    With mushrooms, strawberries & cilantro I rinse & dry them and store them in an airtight plastic container lined with an absorbent paper towel or napkin- I find they'll keep fresh around 2 weeks in the fridge like this.


    We don't have Tupperware or Lock n Lock in Nepal & ZipLoc bags (my American favorite) are a rarity & a bit expensive at around $1 a bag. Yes, I am forced to use the Chinese white boxes - but- I cook for the Mosque at least twice a week & the Imam's wife has decided she can keep my white boxes whenever she pleases - HAH! So I guess I'll just keep buying the cheap Chinese white boxes instead of expensive Tupperware.

    I make my own garlic & ginger pastes around once a week also.

    I usually combine 2 heads of garlic (fully peeled & about 24 cloves) with 1 tablespoon cooking oil & 1 teaspoon salt (as a preservative) in the spice grinding bowl for the mixie & grind to a smooth paste. Then I store it in an airtight plastic container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

    For ginger paste I peel a about 4 inch piece of ginger & combine it with a tablespoon of cooking oil & 1 teaspoon of salt also - then process it in the mixie & store it in an airtight plastic container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

    I store whole fresh ginger in the freezer in a plastic bag until I need it. When I need fresh ginger for chai or to make paste I allow a piece to thaw - the skin peels off easily then & the taste is quite fresh.

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  6. I would buy the cheap stuff too if containers never make their way back home, Tupperware is awesome but oh so costly, I would hate loosing them all.
    My maid cook rajma by putting all the ingredients in the pressure cooker, including salt and then complains the beans aren't mashable and even blamed the beans I bought as substandard, organic ones mind you, and I found it puzzling because when I cook something with them they are all nice and soft, the day I insisted she cook them alone with nothing first and then put them in the Kauai with the masala and salt they turned out nice, but she still went back to cooking them the way she does and crib every time that the beans are bad quality...sigh

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