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Friday, 1 May 2015

The joys of single cooking

The first time I stayed completely alone was when I moved to Bhubaneswar in 2013. Before that when I was in Bangalore, worrying about food was the last thing on my mind. We had an incredible maid who cooked nice food and we lived in very close proximity to 100 ft road Indiranagar which meant frequent takeouts and regular dining out. So by the time I moved to BBSR I had decided that it’s time to start cooking. Not only because my previous lifestyle was unhealthy & expensive, but also because I lived in a quiet residential part of the city with restricted access to fancy eateries, and with my timings having a cook was not practical.

I am not someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, even today. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy, economical & healthy cooking for one can be. So if you live away from home and still rely on your cook/ eating out and wish to start cooking, but don’t know how, read on. Some things which will make your life easier are:
  • An induction cooktop – Trust me this is the best way. You will have a terrible time scheduling deliveries of your LPG cylinders. An induction cooktop is something which is portable, runs on electricity and cooks fast.
  • Induction compatible kadhai, pressure cooker & frying pan
  • A refrigerator
  • Basic masalas, spice mixes
  • Frozen vegetables (yes, I know they are under the scanner for supposed carcinogens,but they are so incredibly convenient)
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Bread (brown bread makes an excellent alternative to rotis)
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Blender (a cheap hand blender will do just fine)

Some quick & easy meal ideas that saved my soul were:
  • A mixed vegetable khichdi – This is incredibly easy to make & can be as healthy as you want it to be. It can be virtually oil free. You can find a million recipes for this online. Choose one that suits you and get cracking. I love one pot meals and this is one of the best. You can use any rice (brown/ white) and any daal and throw in handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables to up the health quotient. A cooker full of this would normally last me a couple of days spread across meals.
  • Gravies – This was a smart tip from a friend who suggested I make and freeze a week’s worth basic gravy and use it as and when required. So on some Sunday nights I made a basic North Indian gravy with onions, tomatoes, garam masala and the sorts and froze it in ice cube trays. Throughout the week I just popped in a couple of cubes with frozen mixed vegetables/ boiled eggs/ paneer for a very quick curry.
  • Smoothies – This is where the handblender proves handy. This was my go-to meal for quick breakfasts & dinners on days I wasn’t particularly hungry. Low fat dahi, low fat milk, some fruits & some drinking chocolate – you will love it.
  • Eggs – Eggs are the most versatile of all foods. If you have a microwave – nuke it for the fluffiest omlettes. On days when I needed something spicy with my tea, a masala egg bhurji would take not more than 5 minutes. On most days breakfast included a poached egg with toast. On adventurous but lazy Sundays lunch was a frittata or a Spanish omlette. I have made both of these with no fancy ingredients, but broad beans, tomatoes, cheese etc.  You can boil & freeze eggs for a week’s supply of a quick snack. And an oozy cheesy cheese sandwich is the stuff of dreams.
  • Sandwiches – A tuna sandwich with canned tuna is the breeziest thing to make ever. For a person who rarely enjoys non vegetarian food, this was a rare delight. Of course grilled cheese is every girls dreamiest indulgence. It is incredibly easy to make even on a frying pan and is the most soul satisfying food ever.
  • Anything Italian – Pasta, stir fry vegetables, omlettes, cheese sandwiches – everything takes on a different ‘Italian’ dimension if you just sprinkle oregano pizza mix on them. I used to hoard the ones that came with Dominos.
  • Deserts – When you don’t have an oven or most desert-y ingredients and have an insatiable sweet tooth, you improvise. Some of my best days have been with a bowl full of yogurt, drinking chocolate & nuts, or pieces of ‘no cook fudge’ made with milk powder in exactly 10 minutes. My easiest chocolate sauce to pour on ice cream was a mix of milk powder, drinking chocolate & water. Pieces of fruits drizzled with honey/ homemade sauces (made my melting strawberry jam with a little water) just took things to another level.

On most days I never spent more than 30 minutes from preparing to cooking to clearing away and serving. Of course there were lazy Sunday afternoons when I made a proper three course vegetarian Bengali meal (Rice, daal, sabzi) or weeknights when I got home at 10 and simply ordered pizza, but mostly it was me cooking away. If you are a non vegetarian please consider grilling chicken on tawas/ making chicken salads etc, but I can’t suggest any more options there.

Of course if you like cooking even a little, please avoid using any frozen ingredients/ spice mixes as much as you can. But if you are like me, please make things as convenient as you want.



1 comment:

  1. Rather late to comment here... But, a good read!
    I have not yet had to cook for myself till now by virtue of staying with family members who are experts in that area. But would definitely suggest the khichdi and gravies tips to my brother.

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