"Fast Food" - a rough guide to hack cooking

Though as much as I love being at home and pretending to be a domestic goddess - the truth is far from that. I was not made for housework and that includes cooking, I do cook -  but I prefer cooking food that does not take time and has few processes and nice to eat.

Here are my own personal "fast food".

Lunch:

Lunch is always served with rice, plus gravy, two veg side dishes. At times, I will add extras depending on my mood. But its usually 4 items  - basic.

1 -  Always prepare the rice first. Stove top wise, pressure cooker wise, microwave or rice cooker wise -  whichever is faster -  do it first. My Philips rice cooker takes 25 mins to cook and that when its set under Quick Cooking. I think pressure cooking it cooks faster. Anyway -  once this is done -  50% of food is ready.

Note: Try not to consume leftover rice the following day. Somehow I read this contributes to diabetes. Cook enough.

2 - Gravies prepared without pre-prepared/toasted/grinded into powder or paste masalas. They infuriate me. I keep a few pulse based gravies where it takes me 10 mins to prepare - without including the time to cook the pulses. I will keep gravies for 2 days max -  and after that -  they are discarded.

Easy peasy gravies -  take 10 mins to prepare.

3 -  Side dishes.
This is prepared along with the other dishes. Its all usually cutting and chopping and slicing anyways. I usually process all these via my food processor. They do a good job all the time. Same method of cooking -  different vegetable for the day. I will make poriyal (stir fry) out of beetroot, carrot, cabbage, brinjals, ladies finger and etc. This is done within 10-15 mins as well. I will usually prepare this when its about time to have lunch.

I will usually have 2 side dishes. One root based and the other leaf based. Again -  same method - different veg. Takes another 5 mins to prepare. Usually these two are done at the same time.

4. Eggs

I am allergic to eggs. But when I have not much veges to go for -  I will make omelettes out of it for the family. Omelettes are simple. Heat a pan, spray oil, mix eggs separately in bowl with salt and pour them over in a pan. Dash some good amount of pepper in it and them serve it a minute before serving lunch. Eggs should be eaten hot.

They are huge varieties of omelettes -  so try them out. When I have the ingredients, I will usually add in milk and some cheddar or mozzarella grated into the egg mix and fry it up. Or for more grandeur -  add chili powder, salt, pepper, shallots sliced, tomatoes into the egg mixture and then pour it into pan of seasoned oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves and green chilies. They sizzle as well. Only if you have the time. No time? Just drop the damn eggs without the shells into the hot pan with oil.(enough oil).

5. Pappads ( poppadoms)
I noticed that preparing these in advance - keeps my work simple. If there's pappads  on the table,I feel I have lots of food on the table. So prepare them in advance and keep them in air tight container.

6. Pickles.

They always are on the table. Ready made.

7. If I can't go through the Indian meal -  I will usually serve aglio olio. Olive oil, salt, garlic, pepper and pasta. That's it. Lunch is served.

8. If I don't want any carbs for the day -  and I am feeling lazy ( and If I have the ingredients) -  its usually baked salmon. Just clean the salmon fillet with salt, place it in a aluminium foil, season it with salt, pepper,olive oil and lots of lemon and garlic -  fold it into a packet and dump into a hot oven for about 15 mins. In another tray -  cut out chunks of broccoli, potato, garlic and carrots -  spread them out on a greased tray -  season with with salt, pepper and olive oil. Dump it on the next tray along with the salmon.

Serve the salmon with baked veges garnish with coriander leaves. Simple. Minimum work, minimum clean up- maximum pleasure.

Note: Instant noodles are life savers and should only be used if you are poor. When you have nothing in your larder and in your fridge and your salary is not in? Then yes -  buy instant noodles. And don't serve it to your child. I don't. Raihaan gets a whiff of instant noodles once in 6 months.

9. Bloody hell -  if you have nothing in the fridge - at least stock up on vegetable or chicken stock cubes. Heat the oil in a saucepan, throw in cumin seeds when hot and then sizzle it with smashed garlics and one cube of chicken or veg stock add in hot water. If you have frozen mixed veg  - add them in. Serve the soup with coriander leaves and black pepper powder and have it with hot rice. Its still a meal - its called clear soup. You can serve it with rice, yellow noodles or white mee.

Tea

I don't usually have special tea time or anything. But with the in laws here -  they have a mandatory tea time passed down through generations from the British Raj -  so I will work on this when they are here -  or when hubby is at home.

I don't like deep fried food. And to make matters easy  - I just buy ready made frozen paus. Simple ones. Steam them and they are ready with tea or coffee whichever you prefer.


Dinner

Its always Chapati. We feel rice is heavy for the tummy and for health reason -  its always chapati.

1 -  I will always prepare the dough for chapati by 6pm. And I always always prepare the dough in my food processor. Pretty simple stuff. Wheat flour, salt, a tablespoon or more of veg oil. Mix them all up with warm water and voila -  chapati dough is ready!  I will just oil it and leave it covered for maybe an hour or so when dinner needs to be prepared.

When its time for the chapati -  I will prepare the dough into palm sized balls first. I will then heat up my Chapati Maker -  yes you read that right -  the Chapati Maker. I will heat it up -  when its just hot enough -  I know it by the red light that pops up -  place one small ball there. Press it and voila again - a perfectly round shaped chapati appears. No oil needed. If you have added enough oil -  you will not need it again later. I will complete all the dough and place them in a thermal pot so that it will retain its heat in time for dinner.  So 90% work is done.

2. Gravy
Gravy or side dish for chapati is usually the gravy from lunch. Unless you have fussy family members who will not eat the same food twice a day -  then you can prepare very simple gravy with just tomatoes and onions. Its more like a chutney.

Usually -  if I have to prepare something - its usually tomato based. The tomatoes and onions are chopped via food processor, sweated in oil in frying pan or kadai, then add the trinity masalas (turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder) or fish curry powder, some water or tamarind water and that's it. I will add a can of sardines in it and serve it garnished with coriander leaves and dash of lemon juice. The gravy can be served without fish as well -  as long as the sour taste is there.  So dinner is complete.

Since Raihaan is not a fan of gravies yet - its usually Chapati rolls for him. Just spread a teaspoon of Nutella (only teaspoon -  and not more) on the chapati, roll it and serve. He will eat in threes.

If there's enough gravy for left over -  I will serve that as side dish for the idli and thosais  the following morning.

Breakfast

Since my in laws are here - its usually thosais ( indian pancakes) for breakfast. Or if I have ready made grated coconut and bananas, then it will be puttu. If no thosai and puttu -  it will uppuma. Uppuma is my lifesaver -practically. The ready made one. The only work needed is sliced onions.

Heat the kadai with oil. Add in the sliced onions, when its sweated enough, pour in maybe half a cup or so of boiling water into the kadai and when it starts boiling/bubbling away -  lower the heat and slowly pour in the contents of the ready made uppuma and stir at the same time till no lumps are there. Cook covered for a min and then serve. Hubby loves it. In Laws are usually at awe.

With all that said -  I usually prepare heavy process foods such as Biryanis on Fridays for my in laws. That takes a lot of time -  but its usually easy -  prepare all ingredients and then dump them all in one pot, along with the basmati rice, water and cook. That's one quickie. If you want to make the layered ones-  advance planning is required.

Meals that require grinding, advance preparations like pre soaking and all -  is not a usual feature in my kitchen -  like I said - I am not a big fan of slogging away in kitchen. But as and when I want to try out new recipes and when hubby is at home - I will work on it.

So people -  figure out your "fast food" meals. You should aim to complete all dishes an hour within starting -  not including the clean up time. Clean up is another post of its own.

Do let me know if you have any other "fast food" recipe that does not contain processed food,and is healthy -  drop me an email.

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