Take the cool way out
Chefs tell us how to freeze essentials to avoid food wastage amid a lockdown
We may have stocked up our pantries to brace for the lockdown, but there's always that niggling thought at the back of our minds: what if all those vegetables start to rot and you can't head to the market as often as you'd like to? Actor Sameera Reddy recently took to Instagram with a post where she shared that in order to preserve the essentials and cut down on the time and effort spent behind cleaning the dishes, she has started freezing essentials, including everything from onions to bagels. Taking a cue from her, we spoke to some chefs about freezing food the right way.
Sameera Reddy, in her post, suggested a simple way to preserve onions — by sweating them down with some ghee or oil, cooling and freezing them. As tomatoes, too, are an integral part of our diet, chef Gracian De Souza says it is best to chop them, cook them down with some basil, sugar and water, and blitz to make a purée. One can then cool and freeze it in small batches. "What we are doing now is making large portions of marinara sauce, or Bolognese sauce, or even north Indian bhuna masala and freezing the same in small portions as these make for quick meals," suggests chef Shilarna Vaze of Gaia Gourmet. De Souza adds that cauliflower, broccoli or peas can also be turned into purée. "Wash the cauliflower or broccoli in salted water. Cut it and boil it in milk. When you blitz it, add the milk in which it was boiled, and then freeze in batches. This should stay for 15 to 20 days," he adds. Air-tight, reusable Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers are ideal for this purpose.
Gracian De Souza and Dr Ushakiran Sisodia
Dr Ushakiran Sisodia, clinical nutritionist and head of dietary department, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, says that while eating food that has been frozen for too long is not ideal, these are extraordinary times. "Boiling vegetables and meat, cooling them and then putting them in the refrigerator is fine, but one should try to store produce only for a week," she says. One can chop and freeze bell peppers, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cucumber and eggplant. "Blanch them before sticking them in below-freezing temperatures. Blanching neutralises bacteria in food, delaying spoilage," says corporate chef Roger Gonsalves of Esora. As for fruits, De Souza says it is best to not keep those with high water content, like melons, in the fridge for long. "Mangoes, strawberries or plums can be turned into paste and go in the freezer. If bananas are going bad, you can always add it to your milkshake or bake a cake," suggests Assamese chef Gitika Saikia of Pakghor.
Mint to stay
What can one do for herbs like coriander or mint? "Don't trim the stem. Put them in a container in a vertical position, pour water near the stem and store in the fridge," suggests De Souza. If the stem is cut off, it can be covered with a damp muslin cloth to keep it fresh.
Roger Gonsalves and Shilarna Vaze. Pic/ Instagram
"It's best to fry fish halfway in a bit of turmeric, cool it and put it in the fridge. Turmeric increases the shelf life. I usually store it in banana leaf," shares Saikia. De Souza says that for chicken, one can boil it in small portions and then freeze it. Dairy products can also be frozen for about a week, asserts Gonsalves. He adds that the best way to preserve bread is to keep it at room temperature for a day or two, and then wrap and freeze it. "When you thaw it and heat it up, it will taste like it's freshly baked again."
A chutney a day
Try these simple chutneys to eat with meals, salads or even bread:
Gather a chopped mango, an apple, coriander, mint, a couple of chillies, an orange and some lemon, roasted cumin and ginger in a blender. Blitz to make a paste; add sugar and salt to taste. The chutney can be frozen in air-tight tubs or jars.
Chef Vinayak Patil, Shiv Sagar
Grind 200 gm soaked masoor dal with some garlic and chillies to make a chutney.
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