Be the creator of condiments
It takes no more than 15 minutes to make your own oils and dressings
While dining at Asian restaurants, one serving of condiments is never enough. At European diners, servings are always generous but they only come with a drizzle of vinaigrette and flavoured oils over food. While we are not eating out, all it takes is 15 minutes to make a batch of your own condiments. And you won't have to wait to be served a refill.
Gayatri Bhatia launched Saucery, which sells gourmet dips, spreads and sauces, in 2016, "At home, if you balance acidity in the recipe, it can extend the shelf life of a sauce. This can be done using salt, chilli, sugar and lime or vinegar," she explains, pointing out that while Indians are champions at pickling, today, people want to control their oil content. "A balanced salt addition will do the trick. Adding rosemary or green tea extract also helps," says Bhatia, adding, "When it comes to flavours, garlic is a great aromatic and I personally feel, always makes food taste great." A light chilli oil is made using groundnut oil and Schezwan sauce, and black pepper sauce is best made in sunflower, canola or groundnut oil. The cuisine doesn't use olive oil, so it will taste like a misfit in the food.
She leaves us with a storage trick: "The method of hot fill, which involves transferring the sauce that is still warm into a jar and putting the lid, is a great trick for extending the life span of any high acidity sauce like tomato and chilli sauce."
A vinaigrette is an oil and vinegar-based emulsion used as a salad dressing, or even a marinade. "It is important to add the oil slowly while whisking the dressing at the same time to help emulsify [incorporate] it better. When products don't have emulsifiers, or are not well emulsified, that is when they will split. Well-emulsified dressings have that creaminess that we all crave," Niharika Goenka of Arugula and Co that makes artisanal salad dressings tells us. Her pro-tip: "Use herbs freely. There is nothing like the taste of a fresh herb in a salad dressing. My favourites are parsley, oregano or spring onions."
While many combinations can make for a dressing, it is all about maintaining the correct ratios. "A standard recipe of two parts oil and one-part acid will serve you well. Examples of oils are avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil or sesame oil. Vinegars can consist of a simple squeeze of lime [can never go wrong with that], balsamic vinegar, orange juice [when in season], apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar," says Goenka.
When creating a vinaigrette, it's helpful to place it in the context of a cuisine. So, for example, if you're aiming for Asian cuisine, use a base of sesame oil (two parts) and rice vinegar (one part) and layer it with herbs and seasonings such as spring onion, chilli and garlic with salt and pepper as per taste.
Quick hack: To achieve a similar result you can even use chilli flakes instead of the chilli paste, if you don't have Kashmiri chillis available at home.
6-7 Kashmiri chillies
3 tbsp water
3/4 cup regular oil (preferably sunflower or groundnut)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Take the Kashmiri chillis, and blend to a paste with water and garlic. Heat oil in a pan with the bay leaf. Add the chilli paste, soy sauce, vinegar, salt and sugar. Cook until the chillies and oil change colour to a dark red. Remove the bay leaf. Let it cool. Adjust seasoning.
1 red bell pepper (deseeded)
8-10 Kashmiri chillies
1/2 cup olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1 lemon (juiced)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Set the tomato and bell pepper on fire (literally) until all of the skin is completely burnt and can be removed. De-skin the vegetables and discard the black skin. In a blender, put the tomato, bell pepper, oil, chillies and remaining ingredients. Blend till it becomes a fine paste. Adjust salt for taste. Eat as a delicious fresh hot sauce or to marinate your paneer/meats.
Ginger lemon vinaigrette
Total time: 10 min Serves: 2
¼ cup lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp ginger, freshly grated
1 medium-sized clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp mustard paste (kasundi/English mustard/any mustard paste will do)
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all of the ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl and whisk. Add the oil and whisk so as to emulsify it to make the vinaigrette. It should look creamy. Now, add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.
Total time: 15 min Serves: 2
½ cup fresh basil leaves
2 garlic pods, roughly chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon
½ teaspoon lime zest
½ tablespoon honey
Combine the basil, garlic, lime zest, and pine nuts in a blender. Pulse until coarsely chopped. While the machine is running, drizzle in the olive oil, lemon juice, and honey. Season to taste with black pepper and salt, and blend until smooth and creamy.
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