Written by AATora Agarwala
“Panic,” says food and travel writer, Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, “is the last reaction you need in this situation.” The Mumbai-based Sanghvi is referring to the situation caused by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown. As essential supplies fly off the shelves faster than you can say ‘Corona’, Sanghvi, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, New York, says that a little thought and planning is enough to set up a well-stocked pantry and tide over these troubled times. Here are some tips on how to stock up:
Basic, nutrient-dense foods
Apart from rice and dal essentials, Sanghvi recommends keeping rajma (kidney beans) and chana (chickpeas) handy. “If nothing else, these can always be made into a chaat, as a snack,” she says. She also suggests sprouting a lot of dal. “They make for great vegetable replacements, especially now, when fresh greens might not be as easily available,” she says.
An India kitchen cannot function without a set of basic masalas: turmeric, coriander, chilli and asafoetida, as well as whole mustard and whole jeera. “But given the diversity of India, every community will stock their own spices and masalas,” she says. Sanghvi also recommends a couple of easy masala mixes, like chana masala and tandoori masala, to keep handy for quick cooking. “You can boil chana, cut some tomatoes and add chhole masala. Or, you can cut potatoes, onions, tomatoes and add some tandoori masala,” she says.
Puree fruits and freeze
Fresh vegetables might not be easily accessible during the lockdown, so Sanghvi suggests opting for ‘hardy’ ones, which do not perish easily. These include, apart from onion and potatoes, arbi (taro root), beetroot, etc. “Arbi is fantastic — it stays forever and is so versatile,” she says. Fruits and vegetables can be pureed, frozen and stored too. Sanghvi has a number of suggestions: tomatoes can be puréed and frozen, taken out in helpings as and when required; bananas can be mashed and frozen, then had with yoghurt; apples can be stewed with jaggery, put in a jar, and had with rotis.
Pots and Pans
For many who depend on take-out, the lockdown has forced them into the uncharted territory of a kitchen. While it may seem daunting in the beginning, Sanghvi says that for basic functioning, one just needs three-four things: something flat, a tawa or skillet, to make rotis, dosas, or to reheat items; saucepans of different shapes; a couple of ladles and flippers to flip omelettes; a kettle to make tea. For many, it can be a great time to experiment. “For me, being enclosed in my apartment means one thing: cooking, experimenting with flavours I had always wondered about, cuisines I have been curious about.”
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