Good to know

REMEMBER THAT GREAT TASTE COMES FROM GREAT PRODUCE EVEN IF ITS LIGHTLY SEASONED ! 🙂

CREATE DELICIOUS DISHES WITH MODERATE AMOUNT OF OIL!  AIM FOR 1 tsp of oil per serving OF THE DISH ~~ 

 

This page is regularly updated with useful tips….so keep visiting!

 

TIPS while following my recipes:

  • I use STANDARD measuring SPOONS and CUPS.
  • The size of vegetables and fruits suggested in most recipes is MEDIUM, unless specified.
  • You can substitute red chili powder (cayenne pepper) with paprika if you prefer a less hot variety. The red chili powder that I have used in my recipes is medium spicy, taste is closer to cayenne pepper.
  • There is a lot of REGIONAL VARIATION in the taste of ingredients. As such, you may need to adjust the use of some ingredients. For eg. I have tried ginger from different stores and different regions (East coast in US vs. West Coast in US, Ahmedabad vs Mumbai) and have realized that the flavor is stronger is some regions and lesser in other parts. Same goes for most fresh produce.
  • LOW-FAT milk is either 2% or 1% milk. I preferably use 1% milk. In India, low-fat milk can be referred to as cow’s milk with its cream layer removed.
  • ONE CUP of dry beans soaked overnight or for ~10 hours will yield roughly 2-3 cups of cooked beans depending on their type or will be equivalent to 2 store-bought canned beans (about 15 oz, ~ 450g). Preferably purchase CANNED BEANS that contain no artificial preservatives & sugar. Most canned foods contain salt, so be careful when you add salt to the dish or if you are on a salt-restricted diet.

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TIPS to preserve maximum nutrition:

  • AVOID DISCARDING WATER used for soaking or cooking BEANS. Use it for your curry or gravy or a soup. It contains the B-complex vitamins that get dissolved in the water and also the oligosaccharides that benefit your colon health. Never add salt or soda (sodium bicarb) for cooking beans. Salt increases cooking time and Soda reduces cooking time, but it also destroys B-complex vitamins.
  • AVOID DISCARDING any water used for steaming vegetables in microwave. Use as little water as possible or use the water that remains after steaming. Microwaving is a convenient way for heating or steaming, rather than cooking all the way.
  • It is safe to use MICROWAVE OVEN for RE-HEATING / STEAMING purposes, as long as the time is short. I would rather cook food on the stove than in the microwave if it requires 5 minutes or more.
  • All vegetables, fruits and fresh spices/herbs should be WASHED THOROUGHLY BEFORE CUTTINGDO NOT WASH after cutting them. That way you prevent the loss of nutrients from the exposed cut surfaces. For broccoli and cauliflower heads, remove the leaves and cut off the large stalks. Then cut it into florets retaining some part of the stalks and immerse in water. Do not soak them in water for long; just immerse, clean and drain. If you can think of any other vegetable that needs to be washed after cutting – write in the comments!
  • TRY TO AVOID OVERCOOKING your vegetables so as to retain maximum nutrients. Keep your cooking time as short as possible. Most vegetables have high water content, especially leafy vegetables and cook within 5-7 minutes. Never pressure cook leafy vegetables as it will destroy the nutrients and the texture of the vegetables.
  • USE FEWER GOOD QUALITY INGREDIENTS, that are reasonably priced for your family budget. I like to use fewer (compared to most Indian recipes) ingredients and prefer to adopt a cooking style that will bring out the flavor and taste of those ingredients. It’s best not to let any ingredient go unnoticed! As such, I suggest you use fresh and good quality ingredients, whether it’s the herbs we use or the fruits and vegetables or non-vegetarian items.
  • I recommend that you DO NOT DEEP-FRY any foods. You lose fat soluble vitamins into the oil and also excess oil = excess calories. While deep frying oil inevitably reaches its smoking point which is not good for your health as it leads to changes in the chemical composition of oil.
  • USE MODERATE AMOUNT OF OIL in your daily cooking. If oil oozes out of the dish when served on your plate or if you see a layer of oil covering your food – you know you have used excessive oil. Food can be easily made delicious with the right technique and balance of ingredients rather than using excessive oil. Non-stick pan frying yields great results as well. Very low oil cooking is also not beneficial for health.
  • NEVER let the oil reach its SMOKING POINT for your daily cooking. Smoking the oil gives a nice smoked flavor to food, however, it destroys the nutritive value of the oil and generates some toxic substances. As such, I recommend that you do not heat oil too long till it produces smoke. Add the ingredients carefully when the oil is hot. Move your palm safely over the pan (6″ above the pan) and you can tell if the pan is too hot or just right. Canola has a decent smoking point and has the right balance of fatty acids. I use Olive oil for recipes that don’t require tempering and for pastas and salads.
  • Use foods WHEN FRESH. Storage reduces the nutritive value.
  • If you buy a large quantity of great produce from the farmer’s market or from your own garden, you can prep and FREEZE THEM. Freezing inactivates bacteria and preserves nutrients. Packaged frozen fruits and vegetables are okay to consume as long as it helps you to eat more vegetables and fruits, especially when you don’t have much time to prep them but still want to eat healthy.

 

COOKING   TECHNIQUES

Indian cooking requires a few different cooking techniques which are quite easy to learn.

TEMPERING Indian cooking requires tempering of certain spices in oil. It basically involves heating required amount of oil till it is hot enough to add the spices to crackle. In order to not let the oil reach its smoking point and break down, assess the temperature of the oil by moving your palm above the pan/ pot. If its not too hot, then you know it is the right time to add the spices. If it is very hot, then turn off the heat and let it cool a bit, otherwise it could burn off the spices giving an off flavor to your dish. After adding the spices, you can turn off the heat. Usually we add dry ingredients to the oil. However if you are adding rinsed curry leaves or chopped chili, anything that may have considerable moisture, pat dry them a bit before adding to the oil and then cover the pot/pan with a lid so as to prevent any rigorous splatter from reaching you, if you are trying for the first time. Don’t worry, soon you will get the hang of it.

Tempering

 

USE OF PRESSURE COOKER :  In general, cooking with a pressure cooker is a very efficient method as the cooking time is shortened considerably.

Indians cook a lot of pulses and legumes and other foods in a pressure cooker with stackable steel containers. This has an advantage of cooking more than one item in the same amount of time and fuel – one can prepare rice, dal, potatoes and/or vegetables for soup at the same time.

Red meat can also be prepared in a cooker. Pulses, rice and soup vegetables cook very well within 10 minutes on low heat after the first whistle (Indian pressure cookers) or when the pressure regulator starts to rock (US pressure cookers). These are available in Indian stores and on Amazon.com

STEEL PRESSURE COOKERS ARE BETTER THAN ALUMINIUM PRESSURE COOKERS as Aluminium can leach into your food.

 

THICKENING A GRAVY/SAUCE : For thickening a gravy/sauce you can employ any of the following  depending on what dish you are cooking and the ingredients would complement each other. I tend to prefer these alternatives over corn flour or all-purpose flour or white bread (which is just empty calories).

  • whole grain wheat bread/ high fiber bread crumbs
  • powdered oats
  • chick pea flour
  • mashed potato or other tubers
  • milk, yogurt
  • blenderized onion or tomato
  • coconut milk
  • dessicated or fresh/frozen coconut (in small amounts)
  • nut paste (walnut/cashew/almond/peanut)
  • ground seed paste – sesame seeds, poppy seeds
  • roasted and coarsely ground spices

PAN-FRYING PANEER : I prefer not to deep-fry paneer. It absorbs a lot of oil and makes it very unhealthy. Instead make home-made paneer or use store-bought panner, cut it into rectangles/ squares and pan-fry on a non-stick pan without any oil on medium heat. You will see the milk fat in the paneer melts and glazes the pieces which turns brown in a uniform manner. Turn the pieces once the bottom side has turned brown enough for your preference. Don’t pan fry on low heat or for a long time, as it can dry out the paneer and make it tough. Then transfer to paper towel/napkin to absorb some milk fat and then use it for cooking or freeze for future use.

COOKWARE: Invest in good stainless steel cookware set and a few highest grade non-stick pans. Choose non-stick cookware that has Dupont Platinum Plus non-stick coating. This type of coating is most durable and does not chip off easily. 

PlatinumPlus

Take good care of your cookware. A few tips will go a long way:

  • Use only wooden or plastic utensils with your non-stick cookware. 
  • Do not wash non-stick cookware with wire wool as it will scrape the coating.
  • Replace your non-stick pots and pans when they develop scratches.
  • Do not put hot cookware (any material) under running cold water; they tend to warp. Let them cool down naturally in order to maintain their shape.
  • Do not heat the pan on high heat. Do not overheat them.
  • Use non-stick when you need to cook food without addition of water or in less oil. For all other purposes, it is better to use steel cookware.
  • Buy PFOA free non-stick cookware.

Ikea 365 series has a good collection of steel and non-stick cookware of excellent quality. Cuisinart steel cookware is also great.

Coming up….Anodized cookware & Cast Iron cookware (Stay Tuned)

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