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Recipes for stress-free cooking

By Rakhee Vaswani
November 18, 2015 15:36 IST

"Most people use Maggi chicken or vegetable stock cubes in order to season their food.

"However, they don't realise how unhealthy it is and how many preservatives it contains."

In her debut book Picky Eaters And Other Meal-Time Battles, chef turned author Rakhee Vaswani tells you simple tricks to cook healthy, restaurant-style food at home.

Do you know how to make vegetable and chicken stock at home?

Or the secret to cooking non sticky fried rice?

Picky Eaters book coverCelebrity chef Rakhee Vaswani's latest book Picky Eaters And Other Meal-Time Battles (pictured left) is full of experiences and anecdotes from her personal and professional life.

With a foreword from one of her star students Malaika Arora Khan, the book offers healthy, handy tips to hassle free cooking that aims to appeal across demographics and quick recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We bring you an excerpt from the book:


First, I am going to give you a couple of simple recipes to ease yourself in the kitchen.

These are the most basic of recipes but following them correctly can still be a task.

Why is it that when you make fried rice, it sometimes becomes clumpy and mushy?

I get this and many other similar questions from my students, hence the following tips:

Vegetable and chicken stock

You are probably wondering why I am giving you the recipe for stock.

The thing is that most people use Maggi chicken or vegetable stock cubes in order to season their food.

However, they don't realize how unhealthy it is and how many preservatives it contains. Therefore, I'm going to show you how to make your own stock.

Vegetable Stock

For a simple vegetable stock, all you need is a medium sized carrot, a couple of beans, some mushroom stems, two stalks of celery, one onion, one clove of garlic, a couple of peppercorns, one bay leaf and, of course, water.

Put all the vegetables in a pot with 750 ml of water and bring it to a boil.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes until the water reduces to 600 ml. Strain and use as required.

Chicken Stock

Take 100 grams of chicken bones and add to 750 ml of water. Bring it to a boil.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes until it reduces to 600 ml. Strain and use as required.

Red chilli paste

This is a really simple yet essential ingredient to keep in your kitchen.

What you need is 15 to 20 Kashmiri red chillies and just 1 tbsp of oil.

Slit the chillies and remove the seeds.

Soak them for 15 to 20 minutes in warm water. Grind to a smooth paste, adding a little oil gradually.

Chef's Tip

Always rub a little oil on your hands before cutting or chopping the red chilli. The paste can be bottled and refrigerated for up to a week.

Blanching of vegetables

Broccoli, corn, carrot, baby corn, beans

Take a lot of water in a vessel and add salt to it. Bring it to a boil.

Add every vegetable separately and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.

Take them out and soak them in cold water to maintain their colour, texture and crunchiness, and to prevent overcooking.

Before adding the next vegetable, bring the water back to boiling point and replenish it with salt.

Always start with the whites and then proceed to the greens. This water can also be used as stock.

Rice

To boil rice

Boil rice with lots of salty water, for e.g. 1 cup rice should be boiled with 4 cups of water and a lot of salt.

Cook the rice till it's about 95 per cent done and then strain it in a colander.

Rinse and wash out the starch with fresh cold water, letting it drain for an hour.

Transfer to another dish and refrigerate. (Do this in advance for fried rice and stir-fry.)

Fried rice

Refrigerated rice that is a day old is best for fried rice. Take your vegetables and saute them in an oil of your choice.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Take care that vegetables are not overdone; they should be crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked rice and mix well. Now add soya sauce to it.

The proportion should be half a tablespoon of soya sauce for one cup of rice.

This Chinese fried rice should be cooked for 2–3 minutes and served hot.

Pulao rice

The saltiness should be just right and the rice should not be mushy.

Ratio of rice to water for pulao varies. For example, 1 cup of rice needs 2 cups of water. The water should be salty.

Chef's Tip

Use stock for nutrition and to add an extra punch.

***

Here are two breakfast recipes from the book:

Sua Idli

Sua Idli

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • Urad dal (split black lentils) – 1 cup
  • Ukda chawal (parboiled rice) – 3 cups
  • Methi (fenugreek) seeds – ½ tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sua (dill leaves) – a handful
  • Garlic –2–3 cloves, minced
  • Green chillies – 2, minced
  • Oil – for greasing the moulds
  • Coconut chutney – to serve with
  • Sambhar – to serve with

Method

  1. Soak the urad dal and fenugreek seeds together in ample water for 3 hours and drain.
  2. Soak the rice in enough water for 3 hours and drain.
  3. Blend the urad dal and fenugreek seeds together in a mixer till smooth and frothy (add water little by little as required). Remove and keep aside.
  4. Blend the rice in a mixer till smooth. Remove and keep aside.
  5. Combine the urad dal paste and rice paste together in a bowl, cover and keep aside to ferment overnight.
  6. Once the batter is fermented, add salt, chopped sua, green chillies and minced garlic to the batter.
  7. Put spoonfuls of the batter into greased idli moulds and steam for 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Repeat with the remaining batter to make more idlis.
  9. Serve hot with fried coconut chutney and sambhar.

Chef's Tip

You can use store-bought batter and just add the garlic, chilli and sua to it. I love sua pankis. A spinach puree instead of the sua can be a healthier option.

Spanish Omelette Frittata

Spanish Omlette Frittata

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • Olive (not virgin) oil – 3 tbsp
  • Onions – 1 medium sized, sliced
  • Eggs – 4
  • Potato – 1, sliced
  • Garlic – 1 tsp
  • Fresh parsley – 2 tsp
  • Fresh thyme – 1 tsp
  • Bell peppers (red, yellow, green) – 1/4 each, sliced
  • Salt and pepper – to taste
  • Cheese – 1/2 cup, grated

Method

  1. Slice onions and bell peppers into thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Grate the cheese and set aside.
  3. Peel the potato and cut it in half lengthwise, then slice into thin half-moons.
  4. Heat an oven-proof non-stick pan of 4–5-inch diameter over medium heat and add 1 tbsp oil.
  5. Saute the garlic and onions for a few minutes till they are soft and golden.
  6. Season with the herbs and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Stir together, cook for a few more seconds, then transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining oil and heat the pan until very hot.
  8. Add the potato slices in batches and cook on both sides until cooked through.
  9. Drain on paper towels. Remove excess oil from the pan.
  10. Arrange the potato slices in a fan pattern so they completely cover the bottom of the pan.
  11. Carefully arrange the vegetables over the potatoes. Place the pan on the gas over low heat.
  12. Beat the eggs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Carefully pour the eggs over the potatoes. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the pan to the oven.
  13. Cook for about 20 minutes until the eggs are set. To serve, loosen the edges of the frittata with a spatula, then place a plate over the pan and carefully invert so the potatoes face up. Slice into wedges and serve.

Images courtesy: Shruti Tejwani/Picky Eaters

Published with the kind permission of Random House India.

Rakhee Vaswani
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