The neon lit picture of a fat roll of flatbread oozing with bright greens, reddest onions and beans slathered in creamy dip sitting next to bubbly chilled amber beverage, tantalised my senses from the cafe wall, forcing me to hastily gulp the drool that threatened to slobber down my lips. I was at a food court, unable to decide between my options of pizzas, nachos, shwarma, donuts and chhole bhature!
This was one of the weekends in pre-lockdown era. But times have changed. The luxury of eating out has come to a grinding halt. The lockdown has forced us to stay at home and make do with whatever essential ingredients we manage to buy from over-burdened home delivery apps.
While traditional recipes are resurfacing and home cooks are whipping up a storm in kitchens, the longing for fancy foods from across the world still lingers. The mouth-watering images and strange names might make some of us wonder whether those could ever be home-cooked, especially with limited pantry supplies during lockdown. But it would surprise many that there are a lot of common ingredients between western food and ours. And there are some foods from across the world that can be perfectly replicated at Indian homes with regular basic ingredients during these times to break the monotony of taste and cooking same food every day.
The rice and bean burrito (pronounced bur-i-toe), originating in Mexico, for instance, is a food on the go with tortilla (pronounced tor-tia with a soft ‘t’) or maida chapatti stuffed with cooked rice and black beans in thick gravy.
With most of the Indian households equipped with self-rising flour or maida, garlic, chilli powder, cumin or jeera, rice, black rajma, onions and tomatoes, this Mexican food is super easy to concoct in an Indian kitchen and that too without compromising much on taste.
Hummus and falafel from Mediterranean and Middle East regions are prepared from the humble chhola or kabuli chana of Indian pantry.
Hummus, a creamy dip prepared from a paste of boiled chickpeas or chhola, lemon juice, garlic and paste of sesame seeds, is usually served with crudités or thick slices of carrots, cucumber, radish or stiff bread. And the falafel is nothing but a deep fried chhola tikki, to be honest. Soaked overnight, the raw chhole coarsely ground with onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander and salt are shaped into flat balls and deep fried to give falafel which can be either served as is or rolled into a chapatti with onions and tomatoes in form of ‘falafel roll’.
Another food item that once upon a time used to scare me just because of its name was polenta. Polenta originated in central Italy as a poor man’s food. Traditionally it was made from a variety of cereals like buckwheat, millet or wheat. However, in the 16th century, when Americans introduced corn or maize, polenta increasingly became more of a corn meal preparation. Even if cornmeal or makki ka atta is not available in every Indian household, frozen corn seeds are usually easily available. For a bowl of polenta, either cook coarsely ground makki ka aata in a pot with enough water to make a thick paste. Alternatively, frozen corn seeds can be cooked and run through food processor for a creamy polenta served with a drizzle of butter and chopped coriander. People of Maharashtra
prepare a similar dish, fajita, from corn seeds. Bhutte ka kees is also a very popular snack in Madhya Pradesh. The Indian version leans towards a dry consistency though.
Foods like bruschetta, spring rolls, dumplings or quiche and more from far-off lands sound complicated but with raw materials commonly found in Indian kitchens, these seemingly fancy food items are not a tough nut to crack at homes even during the difficult times of lockdown.
Indian kitchens are much richer with a wider variety of grains, cereals and condiments. So instead of getting intimidated, it helps to remind oneself that pancakes and crepes, after all, are but just the names of distant ‘white’ cousins of our desi cheela or uttapams with a slightly different upbringing!
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