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Most of us feel that cooking a tasty meal is all that is needed to become a good cook so that the food that we prepare is a gastronomic delight. But is it so? Today with the advent of diabetes and hypertension and the risk of these lifestyle diseases attacking people in their early 30’s, one has to careful about what we cook.

Cook in a limited way but not in a manner that leaves people hungry after the meal
A few years back we had gone to a relative’s house. The men were requested to dine first. The spread was sumptuous. But by the time ladies’ folk sat down to have their meal, the curry was over, the sambar was just about sufficient and the curd had to be converted to butter milk. On another occasion, the rice wasn’t just enough for everyone in the guest list.
So learn to cook in the right manner. Don’t cook so much so that your maid gets used to the habit of taking the leftovers from your home…

Cook – but in a hygienic manner!

It is important to keep the kitchen clean at all times especially after the cooking is over. One of the principles of 5S – a place for everything and everything in its place is important in kitchens. Pressure cooker is available, but where is the lid? Where is the tyre? Tiffin boxes are available in the kitchen but without the lids. So, if you have to search for the utensils early in the morning, it leads to so much wastage of time. Washed utensils must be dried and stored well. They must be rinsed with water before you start cooking.

Wash the fruits and vegetables in running water. Cauliflower, green leafy vegetables and yam need special washing.  Do not overcook vegetables. Use pressure pan to boil vegetables and save on fuel. Use oil to a limited extent possible.

Resist the urge to splurge on ghee/ oil (Oorallathu neyye, en pondatti kayye – is a famous Tamil slogan).

Planned cooking

Instead of wondering what to cook every day morning, plan your menu the night before. It is easier if you can cut the vegetables the night before.

Lean in the kitchen
Your fridge is not a cupboard that you stock vegetables for two weeks. Buy fresh vegetables and fruits every 3-4 days. Store coriander leaves and curry leaves properly in air tight bags. If tomatoes are wet, it makes sense to dry them and then store in the fridge. Dump the vegetable waste in your garden.

Grated beetroots are easy to cook and easy to digest! Beetroots are good for health too.
Even the groceries need to be purchased in limited quantities. You do not have to abuse the concept of “Lean” and “Just in time” so much so that you have to go the shop daily even for buying mustard seeds and cumin seeds. At the same time do not buy mustard seeds and cumin seeds that would last a year.

While cooking dal, add a teaspoon of ghee or til oil so that dal gets cooked faster. Also, start the burner when you keep the pressure cooker with water in it. By the time you clean the rice and keep it inside, the water would be hot enough and you can cook rice in a shorter time.

Use of utensils

To prepare sambar, rasam, curry, butter milk and salad there is no need to remove each and every utensil in the kitchen.  A broad mouthed pan for sambar. Then transferring this to another utensil before serving the food and then transferring it to another utensil to store the left over  is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Use a four-step tiffin carrier to store cooked vegetables and salads.
The less utensils you use, the less water you consume and so you do your part in protecting environment through water conservation.

Innovation in the Indian Kitchen
Indian kitchens have been as innovative as they get. Cooking is therapeutic and one can witness a creative surge when you are busy cooking. Our ancestors were innovative. They substituted coconut with gram dal for making chutneys when the former was not available. The same food that you cook every day can be made more appealing through garnishing. What to do if guests arrived suddenly? This is how they invented rava upma, aloo-poha, karama upma, rice upma and the famous “adai” (“persarattu” in Andhra).

The combination in which masalas are grounded deserve special mention. If you just taste the sambar made in different households (using home made sambar powder) the taste is bound to be different. Some add asafetida powder to the sambar when it is boiling and this gives it a unique taste and flavor! Tamarind rasam is a great appetizer especially when it is consumed hot.
One of my uncles used boiled potatoes in sambar and the sambar always tasted the best! Ginger rasam and lemon rasam are other innovations that can tickle your taste buds. Capsicum-potato mix vegetable curry along with a pinch of garam masala will make you yearn for more! Butter milk can be prepared in 15 different ways! Tomatoes can be used to make curry too. Just try them once!

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