Smart and healthy recipes that can make cooking easier amid pandemic

With the pandemic restricting one’s ration and choices, it is a huge task every day to cook healthy and tasty meals. That’s the reason it is important to cook smart and know the tricks to rustle up meals and breakfast with easily available ingredients.

Go slow on indulging

Who does not have a craving to dig into a freshly baked chocolate cake or a cheesy pizza? Although Anurudh Khanna, executive chef, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi, advocates healthy eating, he says most people prefer comfort food to a nutritious one.

“The constant flow of narrative centred on the pandemic has led to people becoming anxious,” says Khanna.

“Locked up at home, they seek comfort in food and overindulge in sweets or packaged food that calms them down for a while only to consume them once again. This leads to a vicious circle. I am not against indulging once in a while as food has the power to make or break your mood, but not on a daily basis,” he says.

He focuses on choosing ingredients carefully and sends out an important message of healthy eating, sustainability and good practices. “We can learn to do much more because the grocery run is few and far between. It is exciting to involve kids in cooking because it is like a science experiment with dehydration and fermenting to create different things,” he says.

COVID pushed most people into the kitchen for various reasons. You agree with Vijesh Modi, senior Sous Chef at The Deltin, Daman, on cooking being an integral aspect of Indian households. “After the pandemic outbreak and WFH, every household has seen a sudden rise in the number of people cooking or wanting to try out new dishes as a way to pass time, reduce anxiety, feel productive or to just eat good food,” says Vijesh Modi, senior Sous Chef at The Deltin, Daman. “Most are unaware of the changes that they should be bringing while doing so.”

Neha Mathur, founder, WhiskAffair, brings the best of the tried-and-tested recipes and helps people discover food and cooking at @whiskaffair (Instagram) and her website (https://www.whiskaffair.com/about-me/) and Facebook page. “Often, I see people overindulging in ready-to-eat, high-calorie food without bothering about the nutrition, which would do more harm in the long run. Having a cheat day is fine, but it should not be overdone,” advises Mathur.

Hardly breaking fast

‘Breakfast like a king’ does not work for many as routines have gone for a toss. The most important meal has been reduced to a quick tea-and-biscuits affair for many. Fixed routine, chef Modi admits, has become difficult to follow these days.

“Most seem to avoid eating breakfast because of late dinners and long sleeping hours. Inactivity decreases hunger and boredom increasing sugar and fat cravings. With a WFH model, most people end up working long hours with not much time for cooking. All of this results in unhealthy snacking.”

Mathur adds that we have become lazy with routine vanishing from our lives. “I sometimes feel it is also a lack of planning for meals. So, one struggles with the dilemma of what to cook that is healthy, tasty and quick. Some even skip breakfast and directly have lunch, which is wrong.”

Chef Khanna sees breakfast being substituted with tea/coffee and biscuits. “Fruits are substituted with sugar-laden juices or squashes. Not only does all this not keep your stomach filled, but also your mind is not able to contribute the way it is supposed to. It is important to note that tea and coffee are beverages to stay alert, and not to fill you.”

Have a huge fruity breakfast

Mathur believes in prepping up a day early on breakfast to make it tasty, healthy and filling. “The day I am not able to plan, I look for easy breakfast recipes that come together in less than 30 minutes. With fresh fruits always in season, I also serve a shake for breakfast. Lassi is another amazing drink you can make within minutes. You could also try one-pot recipes, which are fuss-free.”

Chef Khanna suggests keeping chopped veggies ready to rustle up a quick upma or poha. “If you are a non-vegetarian, store some cold cuts to make sandwiches. Make a spread using grated raw vegetables in hung curd seasoned with garlic salt and pepper. It tastes divine on a nicely toasted sourdough and can be easily refrigerated. Smoothie bowls are a huge favourite in summers. The delicious menagerie of frozen fruits, healthy seeds and nuts is all good health in a bowl.”

Chef Modi recommends a healthy breakfast for high-energy levels for the entire day. “Ensure your breakfast includes whole grains over refined grains, antioxidants, fruits and veggies, minimal sweet consumption, proteins and high fibre. Don’t be afraid to have a huge breakfast.” Eat healthy and stay healthy.

Food Tricks

  • Overnight soak oats or muesli in milk and yoghurt with a little honey and have it in the morning. Top it up with seasonal fruits and peanut butter or pumpkin seeds, dry and fresh seasonal fruits with some almond or cashew butter.

  • Get familiar with healthy substitutes or methods.

  • Measuring the food beforehand is better than cooking in bulk. Stock up on the ration accordingly to avoid wastage and.

  • For garnishing, grow herbs in your home to use them fresh. Prepare and refrigerate ingredients used in Indian curries to save time to prep.

  • Use leftover food. Store them properly for new recipes. This way, you will have no wastage and the ration will last longer.

  • Use the ‘first-bought-first-use’ method to optimise shelf life of products.

Try ‘em out!

Amaranth Bathua Duet with Turmeric Foam

Smart and healthy recipes that can make cooking easier amid pandemic

Ingredients

Bathua – 300 gms

Spinach – 300 gms

Amaranth – 300 gms

Oatmeal – 50 gms

Millets – 50 gms

Roasted gram flour – 50 gms

Coriander leaves – 8-10 leaves

Mint – 8-10 leaves

Turmeric – 2 gms

Cream – 20 gms

Salt – 2 gms

Pepper– 2 gms

Garam masala – 1 pinch

White pepper powder – 1 pinch

Cardamom powder – 1 pinch

Corn flour – 3 teaspoons

Cress – 2 gms

Method

Blanch spinach, bathua and amaranth separately in boiling water and give it a shock chill. Drain and remove the excess water and finely chop it. Blend oatmeal, gram flour and millets in a processor. Add all the dry spices and seasoning to the roasted gram flour. Mix one half of the spinach and bathua with one of the roasted gram flour. Mix the other half of the spinach and red amaranth with the remaining half of the roasted gram flour. Make round patties from the mixtures. Cook the patties on a non-stick pan until golden brown. Pressure blend the cream, turmeric and some water to make foam used for garnishing. To plate, keep the patties on top of each other, garnish with cress and top it up with foam.

- Chef Anurudh Khanna, executive chef, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi

Overnight Mango Chia Oats

Smart and healthy recipes that can make cooking easier amid pandemic

Ingredients

Oats – ½ cup

Low-fat milk – ¼ cup

Low-fat plain yogurt – ⅓ cup

Almond extract – ⅛ teaspoon

Diced mango – ½ cup

Honey – 1 teaspoon

Chia Seeds – 1 Tsp

Method

Add oats to your container of choice and pour in milk and low-fat yogurt. Mix in the almond extract. Add a layer of mango. Top off with a drizzle of honey and chia seeds. Keep it in fridge and enjoy in the morning or a few hours later.

- Vijesh Modi, senior sous chef, The Deltin, Daman

Ragi Idli

Smart and healthy recipes that can make cooking easier amid pandemic

Ingredients

Whole white urad (husked black lentil) – 1 cup

Idli rava – 1 and ½ cup

1 cup ragi flour –

Salt – 2 teaspoon

Cooking soda – ¼ teaspoon

Method

Wash one cup of white whole urad twice or thrice until the water runs clear. Soak it in five-six cups of water for three to four hours. Soak one and half cups of idli rava in three to four cups of water in another bowl. Drain water from the urad, add one-fourth cup of water and grind it to a smooth paste.

Transfer the paste to a big mixing bowl. Drain the water from idli rava and add it to the urad paste. Add one cup ragi flour to it and mix well. Cover the bowl with a lid and keep it in a warm place for eight to 10 hours to ferment. The mixture will double in size after it is properly fermented. Add two teaspoons of salt and one-fourth teaspoon of cooking soda to the batter and mix well.

Keep an idli steamer filled with water on high heat. Grease idli plates with oil and fill the cavities with the batter. Steam the idlis for 10-12 minutes on high flame. Once done, take out the idlis from the plate by sliding a butter knife underneath them. Serve hot with sambar and chutney.

- Neha Mathur, founder, WhiskAffair

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