The world is under lockdown. While in some cities across the globe groceries, fruits and vegetables are available, they are scarce in others. “I think it is important to make the food tasty and there must be some variety to lift the lockdown gloom,” says veteran culinary expert Chandri Bhat. The octogenarian, who lives in Malaysia, says that a balanced meal is important to boost immunity, but the challenge is making the most of what ingredients are available.
Guide at hand
Hong Kong-based food blogger Jeyashri Suresh (www.jeyashriskitchen.com) echoes this, recounting how her followers in the US were seeking help, as there was a shortage of Indian groceries. Jeyashri has compiled a downloadable PDF ‘cookbook’ with the easier of her recipes, on her blog. She especially focusses on Indians living overseas with limited access to traditional ingredients. “I realised that couples working from home had to manage work and their children, and were looking for recipes that could be prepared with whatever ingredients were available. From my website, I compiled about 90 recipes, including breakfast, lunch and dinner ones, that would also be useful for students and bachelors: beginners who might be living alone,” says Jeyashri.
Nagercoil-based food blogger Aarthi Satheesh (www.yummytummyaarthi.com) says that there have been a number of requests from people in the US, Singapore, the Middle East and all over India for simple and quick-to-prepare recipes. “People may have the time, but there is no possibility of cooking elaborately or making something exotic, as special ingredients are hard to find right now. I compiled a list of 83 dosas which I had already published on my website,” says Aarthi. “As everyone is stressed out, I have chosen dosa recipes which can be made instantly with minimal grinding or fermentation, but are at the same time nutritious,” she says.
Spaghetti cheela, bread dosa, wheat adai are some of her recipes which can be made easily. “For spaghetti cheela, we need to just boil the spaghetti, add in some sooji (semolina) and rice flour, chopped vegetables and green chilli. Mix with water and the batter is ready. Bread dosa can also be prepared using the same technique, but the bread and sooji have to be blended together with water in a mixer grinder,” explains Aarthi, adding another example: “If there is ground and fermented dosa batter available, some chopped vegetables can be added to it. This can be spiced up with green chilli, ginger and coriander leaves, and poured into a waffle-maker for a crispy dosa waffle.
Says Chandri, “South Indian dosa varieties are comfort food and help us feel good that at least some things are still normal. Adai and pesarattu provide the much-needed protein and fibre; easy to prepare, minimum wash-up.” Chandri also says that curd/yoghurt is a must-have during this time, as it is simple to make, tasty, healthy and nutritious.
Similarly, she says that chickpeas can be used to make hummus, which can be used as a bread spread or as chutney for idli/dosa; it can be frozen and used for channa masala or just made into sundal as a snack. “Peanut rice using the store-bought roasted peanuts, dry red chilli, desiccated coconut and rice is a delicious and nutritious dish for the family, and it takes no more than 20 minutes and requires less ingredients. Whatever the preparation, the ingredients used would be no more than three or four,” says Jeyashri.
“I observe that many families are going back to their grandma’s recipes during lockdown,” says Bengaluru-based blogger Chitra Sendhil (www.chitrasfoodbook.com), who has put together an Indian vegetarian lockdown cookbook on her website. “As people of different age groups are now actively cooking, I have focused on vegetarian one-pot meals for lunch and dinner. Sambar rice or pressure-cooker vegetable biryani can be made in less than 30 minutes. My recipes are appreciated by young exhausted mothers who have infants and are working from home, and also by bachelors and beginners,” says Chitra. Rice, dal, tomato, onion, a mix of vegetables and ready-made sambar powder can be cooked in a pressure cooker for a delicious meal, she says, “Kondakadala (channa) kurma is a popular one-pot dish, which can be stored for a few days.”
“The lockdown has made youngsters understand the effort that goes in even to make the simplest dish, and I notice that they have gradually started showing interest in cooking,” says Jeyashri. Food bloggers around the globe are happy to note that families are spending a lot of time cooking and trying to experiment with newer recipes. They also help by suggesting recipes that can be made using the limited ingredients their followers have access to during the lockdown. “Cooking is a survival skill and now it is all the more relevant around the globe, and I am glad that bloggers are recognised much more during the COVID-19 crisis,” Jeyashri says.