Tips, tips, tips ……………………………..! (2)

(Continued from the first part)

In cooking, the cardinal principle is: “Never prepare first time anything in huge quantity. Little always guides.” Unless you have perfected an item, be at pilot level following trial and error method. Prepare the item in small quantity and check if at all you have erred, where erred, what is needed, what is to be omitted, what is added more, which is to be lessened, whether it needs more cooking time or whether it was to have been reduced further etc. Once it has come very well in all respects, note down or remember the ingredients used and the quantity, cooking time and the procedure followed. Repeat for at least two more times and if you achieve hat trick, then you can start making the item in large or required quantity by just increasing the proportion correctly.

001. Vegetables are to be washed well before they are cut into pieces in order to preserve their tastes and natural constituents. It is better to throw the pieces that are infested or spoiled. Soak the pieces in water mixed with a little turmeric powder and then cook, especially the greens. This will not only retain their natural colour but also destroy the bad effects of the pesticides as well as harmful microbes.

002. If you make ‘suNdal’ from dAls, do not roast but make directly by boiling them in more water. Then when it is cooked three fourth without becoming paste, drain the excess water and add it to other ingredients to be sautéed. This keeps the grains separately and distinctly instead of making the suNdal a paste. It also adds a fine aroma to the product.

003. While making ‘bONdA’, if you mix a little corn flour with the chanA flour, it keeps the bONdAs crispy. If you want a little glaze, then you can add a little tapioca powder.

004. To avoid the cracking of chIdai and other tight snacks, ensure that you do not mix the salt directly but adding the clear saline liquid only, after dissolving it in a little quantity of water and allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom. This also avoids them bursting due to improper mixi9ng of salt. Also, when we make chIdai, we must always fry sufficient chIdai i.e. never fry less quantity in more oil but quantities almost equalling the quantity of oil to avoid bursting. More chIdai fried in less oil without immersing them in it will not fry properly. This applies to other items that are fried. In such a case you need to turn them frequently. In any case constant turning and watching is necessary for all fried items to prevent them from charring and discolouring.

005. Never store any fried items and closed the lid of the containers in which they are stored unless they cool fully as otherwise they will not be crispy but hard. Similarly, when you make soft chapAttis, you can keep them over a clean cloth or tissue paper and cover them fully by the cloth or the paper even when they are hot to enable them to remain soft when you serve them after some time.

006. When you prepare powder from curry leaves, micro wave them for a minute and then powder instead of roasting it directly on a pan.

007. Sometimes the ‘mOdhakams or kozhukkattai’ crack when they are steamed. To avoid this, while preparing the raw kozukkattais before steaming, keep them in a vessel closed well with a wet cloth. Even after steaming and taking them out, keep them in a vessel covered by a wet cloth.

008. If you want to grind any solid material into a fine paste, first grind it into dry powder and then grind again after adding water needed to make it a paste.

009. Often we are not able to break the coconut into two halves correctly.  The technique is to dip it into water and wet just the half portion and then break hitting on one of the three vertical lines. I have seen some persons warming it on the flame of your stove just for a few seconds and then break. There is also a practice to refrigerate the coconut 1 hour before breaking and then break. You can choose one of these methods. Experience alone gives perfection here.

010. If fresh cream is not readily available, just whip up a little butter with milk.

011.  If by chance you had added a little more salt to any preparation, if it is a liquid, you can add a little quantity of tomato puree or a few pieces of peeled potato and then boil. If it is possible, dip a little rice or corn flour or AttA, tied in a clean cloth. If you like you can also mix coconut milk or lemon juice a little and stir well.

012. When you make any soup, to make it thicker, you can add a teaspoonful of powdered roasted pressed rice and boil for a few minutes. Sometimes, I find certain non-starchy vegetables do not allow you to have thick consistency when you prepare their ‘kUttu’. For this, I take a little of that vegetable after it is boiled well, grind in a mixie and add the paste to the kUttu and boil.

013. Idli is made from both raw rice and boiled rice. Raw rice is less hard and needs less water than the boiled rice. Similarly, if you want to prepare idli from raw rice and want it soft too, then soak rice and black gram dAl in the ratio 1:½ in warm water before grinding.

014. While preparing SAmbAr or kUttu, it is preferable to boil the vegetables along with the dAl to increase the taste and aroma. However, you must note that if you boil anything after adding salt then the thing will not cook well as such salt should be added only just a few minutes before switching off the flame, i.e., after the vegetables or the thing is cooked and mixed well with dAl and other ingredients. Always add a pinch of turmeric and a few drops of oil to the water used to boil dAl to hasten cooking.

015. Sometimes you may not like the smell of cabbage, nUlkOl, radish or similar such vegetables when they boil. To ward off the smell, you can add a little milk while preparing its curry or kUttu.

016. As a busy woman, sometimes you may not be able to prepare uLundhu (black gram) or medhu vadai immediately after grinding the paste resulting in the paste becoming very loose in consistency instead of being thick. This is true in the case of all batters. In such a case, you can grind a little pressed rice into coarse powder and add to the batter and mix well before using. However, this may reduce the taste a bit.

017. If you find the bitter gourd too bitter, then you can mix with the cut pieces a little salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for about 30 minutes after sprinkling diluted tamarind juice before preparing curry or roast.

018. While preparing sEmiyA (vermicilli) pAyasam, we normally roast it with a little ghee (Clarified butter). Still we find at times the strands stick together in the pAyasam. For this, before straining the roasted sEmiA after is it boiled and cooked, strain after adding a cup of cold water. This is also true in the case of noodles sticking together.

019. In case you find difficulty to keep the sEmiA or aval (pressed rice) soft after preparing sEmiA or aval kEsari using sugar or ‘vellam’ (jaggery, gur), you need to add the sugar or vellam after the sEmiA boils well and cook till the entire mass solidifies but remove from the flame when it is still in semi solid form and before it becomes too thick.

020. When you want to fry aval, ground nut, corn flakes and similar fragile things, do not fry them directly in hot oil as they may char. Instead, place them over a closed mesh deep strainer and dip it in hot oil for a few seconds and take out.

021. If you want any gravy to have golden colour, before preparing it, pour a little oil in an ‘iluppaichchatti’ (wok/KadAi) and when it is warm add a little sugar, dissolve till it is golden colour. Then add the ingredients for the gravy.

022. Sugar is the best friend to enhance the taste of rasam, soup and vatral kuzhambu where tamarind or sour items are used. While preparing them, add ½ to 1 tsp sugar to enhance the taste of these.

023. After cutting ladies finger (okra) keep it aside under fan or in warm sun for a few minutes before frying. This will hasten frying as well as consume less oil while keeping the pieces distinctly separate.

024. For pAl pAyasam, it is better to use either new ‘Govindh bhOg’ rice available in Bengal or ‘Basmati’ rice. A few strands of saffron mixed well in raw milk added to the pAyasam before boiling will enhance the taste.

025. While making halwA from ash gourd and bottle gourd, for best results, we need the harder variety and not the tender one. However, if you cannot get, then the tender pieces can be refrigerated for half an hour on a plate and then grate to have uniform shreds.

026. When you sauté vegetables in oil, add a little turmeric to the oil and then do. This not only acts as a germicide but also retains the colour of the vegetables.

027. Generally any preparation takes more time to become stale in winter than in summer. If you want to carry idli for your journey, then to make it less sour and last long, reduce the quantity of uLundhu (black gram) a little than what you use for normal circumstance. Also add a ladle or two gingelly oil to the batter and mix well before steaming the batter.

028. Fill up the ice cream cups with ice cream after placing them for 5 minutes in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator so that it remains in tact for long without melting.

029. We use to test coconut by just tapping by our finger (by the nail side) harder. If we get a sharp ‘tik’ sound and if the shell is deep brown in colour, then the coconut is good for cooking and the kernel is not tender inside. You need to check also the three circular spots if they are in tact and no liquid is oozing out, to ensure that the coconut is not stale inside. The white kernel should be hard to have better yield while making barfi. If we add a little thick milk to the barfi contents while preparing it just before 5 minutes to switching of the flame and stir well, we get tasty as well as soft barfis. Some people add roasted ravA (semolina, sUji) but I do not advise this as it spoils the taste.

030.  In case you have to sauté anything in oil, then be careful to follow the following procedure:

  • If the ingredients are dAls, mustard and some vegetables including green or red chilly and onion, then the order should be to sauté first the dAl and when it becomes golden brown in colour to put the mustard immediately and add the chilly immediately after the mustard splutters and lastly the vegetables.
  • If onion and garlic are to be sautéed together, then onion should precede the garlic and the latter should be added when the onion becomes slightly pinkish in colour, since garlic is tenderer than onion and gets charred if placed before the onion.
  • If you sauté vegetables, then never add more water as they become paste. After putting them over the sautéed dAl and mustard, add turmeric powder and chilli powder and turn once or twice. Then close them with a lid for a few minutes and turn again. Like this continue till you get them well sautéed.  As said earlier, add salt and the garam masAlA only just a few minutes before switching off the flame. Never touch the lid by hand but with hand covered with glove or with a kidikki (pincer/chimtA).

031. If you add ½ a tsp mendhium (fenugreek/mEthi) with uLundhu (black gram) soaked for dOsA and grind, the dOsA will be tasty and have fine aroma. It will also be soft. Some persons add a few pieces of ladies finger (okra) but I have never tried.

032. I have seen people adding 2 parts of chanA flour, I part of rice flour and 1 part of roasted pea flour to get bilging bajji. In my opinion, this consumes more oil. It is better to add a ladleful of hot or cold oil to the chanA and rice flours (roasted pea flour is not necessary since it consumes more oil), mix well before adding water to make it batter.

033. If you soak any dAl or whole grain in water, then drain the water and wash them well so that the toxicants they release or the pesticides used over them do not go into our system.

034. Some people use oil instead of flour to smear over the chapAtti or pUri dough balls before rolling to avoid the flour sediment in the iluppaichchatti (wok/kadAi). I find smearing oil enables the balls to slip over the rolling board due to non-resistance. We can always drain out the sediments and store the oil and use that for cooking purpose unlike people who throw it away thinking it harmful. It becomes harmful only when repeatedly heated but using it just second time there is no harm and we need not waste money. However, never store this oil for long but use it within two days.

035. If the idli batter is very thick it will not rise on fermentation. Therefore, it should be a sort of semi solid and flow from a ladle. This does not mean that it should be thin. Unless the batter rises, the idlis will not be bulging and soft.

036. Always wipe the appaLam or pappadam with a dry cloth before frying as it may have flour on its surface and fry red. This will also avoid sediment in the oil after it is fried, even though no completely but to a larger extent.

037. If you do not get paneer cubes, then you need to cut the master paneer into small cubes. To have homogeneous cubes, keep the knife in hot water for a few minutes, wipe and use. This is also the true if you want to slice a master cake, bread or bun without any deformation or wastages.

038. Due to the acid content in them, apple and plantain fruits turn brown after cutting them into pieces. It is advisable to keep their slices or cut pieces in water mixed with a little lemon juice if you want to retain their whiteness in fruit salad. In the case of raw plantain, brinjal (egg plant), banana flower, banana stem and similar discolouring vegetables, I have seen people to place the cut pieces into water mixed with a little turmeric powder or butter milk.

To be continued



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