Lessons from lockdown: Making kitchens more sustainable
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Meals in Indian homes have usually been sumptuous — prepared in generous quantities, with diverse dishes, and accompaniments of papads, pickles and raita to boot. But with the lockdown taking reins of every household, it has become necessary to economise and use the available provisions wisely. “We have to embrace change not only in our culinary methods, but also the way we eat, preserve and save ingredients. Lockdown has taught us the value of sustaining our ecosystem, how to avoid wastage, reduce excess, cook local and home-grown veggies, with plenty of immunity boosting spices and herbs,” points out Dr Anita Mathew, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Mulund. Replace meat with plant-based diet, she says.

Quarantine lessons learnt are re-evaluation of spending habits, rationing of provisions, creative and zero-waste cooking. Wastage of food is a crime, especially in lockdown times, when people are struggling in long queues with limited timings of availability. It is of prime importance to practise responsible and judicious gastronomy and consumption in the future too which will benefit the universe long after lockdown and aid to maintain an ecological balance.

Reduce ‘food’ print

Sustainable food practice implies adopting more vegetables, grains with less usage of meat. It is advisable to avoid eating prepared and packaged food. These trying times should bring out the best in us to make our kitchens viable by taking on ecological culinary approaches and make the available ingredients last longer. Food cooked for two days helps save LPG.

Go for seasonal fruits and veggies. This helps the local farmers and you get fresh farm to home products. Nurture your kitchen garden — coriander, fenugreek, ginger, green onions, tomatoes, chillies can be grown in pots in your verandah. Use organic waste as fodder for plants.

From stalk to leaves

Don’t throw away those radish leaves, cauliflower stalks, leaves of leeks/spring onions, seeds of pumpkin, veggie peels and fruit rinds. They are rich in vitamins, dietary fibre and minerals. These can be made into subzis and rotis or added as garnishes to enhance the flavour and taste of dishes. Tender stems of coriander can be used to prepare chutneys

Dinesh Mhatre, Executive Chef of Hilton Mumbai International Airport, explains how they can be used, “Stems of broccoli or cauliflower are delicious and can be eaten if treated properly. Discard the woody part, peel the skin of the stalks, cut into thin roundels or dice them for a better texture. Stir fry, or roast and add pesto sauce for a bowlful of nutrition.”

Health and nutrition

“Cauliflower leaves and vegetable stalks which are a good source of dietary fibre, beta carotene, folic acid, potassium and calcium can be used while making soups,” informs Dr. Pooja Thacker, Head of Department Dietetic, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai. The stems of cauliflower can also be used to make pickles by adding oil, salt and pickle masalas which can be stored and used later.

Leaves of radish or leeks, high on Vitamin C and calciu, mildly sautéed and tossed with tahini sauce will make for a delicious salad. Beet leaves, loaded with vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium and fibre, can be substituted for spinach. Or simply blend the leaves of these vegetables with ginger to make a healthy juice shot with breakfast.

Sprouts are among the most nutritious and it can be done with easily available lentils like green mung, chickpeas, black-eyed beans.

For longer shelf life

Keep fruits and vegetables fresher and longer with proper storage and attention to ripeness. Store carrots, cabbage and radish in water to retain their crunchiness; delicate greens like spinach, rocket leaves or coriander must be stored with the lining of paper towels in airtight containers.

For long term use we can freeze the vegetables like, cauliflower, broccoli, green peas, celery, lettuce, cucumber. “Freezing vegetables do not kill the nutrients; it increases the shelf life of the food,” suggests Dr. Thacker, “Dehydrating vegetables help to preserve them or to make spices. Such as dry chilies, dry curry leaves. Dry chilies contain antioxidants carotenoids which is healthy. Dry curry leaves, a good source of calcium, can be used to make dry chutney which can be used in the meals.”

Leftover recipes

Creative recipe ideas to rustle up leftover rice, rotis, breads, curd and more into tasty snacks and side-dishes are useful to sustain us for a longer number of days. “Scrumptious fried rice balls, rice crispies or payasam with jaggery are good leftover rice options,” says Rupa Balachandar, a food show host on television from Bangalore, adding further, “bread upma or croutons can be made from slightly old bread that tends to crumble easily. Crumbs from trimmed edges can be used for toppings or to crumb-coat fried snacks, and bread and butter pudding for a dessert are other ways of salvaging leftovers.”

By engaging ways to use your veggies and other ingredients to the max, you’ll be eating more appetizing and delectable fare, saving money and creating choices that are favourable for the environment, animals and society at large.

Radish Leaves Ravioli Recipe

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup semolina

Salt as per taste

6 tbsp hot water

500 gms fresh radish leaves

½ cup processed cheese

3 tbsp oil

2 Finely chopped onion

2 green chillies

Garlic (a few pods, chopped)

Asafoetida powder (a pinch)

Method:

For Pasta dough

In a bowl take flour, semolina, salt, hot water.

Mix well and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

To make stuffing:

Boil radish leaves and grind it to a thick paste. Add oil in a pan and sauté onion, garlic, green chillies to a golden brown colour. Introduce radish paste, asafoetida powder, cheese and salt. Combine them well. Hand roll the pasta dough to make a thin sheet. Cut into circles.

Place 1tsp of the mixture in the centre on one circle. Lightly brush the edges with water and place another circle on top. Seal the edges using a fork. Boil water in a large pan. Add the pastas and let them cook for four to five minutes. Transfer them to cold water. Drain the pastas. Toss them with any sauce of your choice (garlic butter, tomato, cheese sauces).

--Recipe by Chef Dinesh Mhatre, Hilton Mumbai International Airport

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