Taking a pot shot at traditional cooking

Updated: Oct 20, 2019, 08:16 IST | Nasrin Modak Siddiqi |

Mumbai is gradually building a fan base for One Pot, One Shot cooking where colours are brighter, food fresher, and kids are collaborators. Committed loyalists and its Chennai founder tell you why you need to spend less time in the kitchen

Thane resident Yaman Banerji Korgaonkar and daughter Ruhani, 7, make paneer bharwa bhindi using the OPOS technique.
Thane resident Yaman Banerji Korgaonkar and daughter Ruhani, 7, make paneer bharwa bhindi using the OPOS technique.

Cookbooks don't sell if you aren't a celebrity writing them," said the CEO of a large publishing house when B Ramakrishnan first tried publishing a manual of standardised One Pot, One Shot (OPOS) recipes a few years ago. When he argued that it wasn't a cookbook, but a revolution in the making, she yawned, called for coffee and said, "I do this when the maid does not come. Just put everything in a cooker and finish cooking fast." The Chennai-based man decided to self-publish the book. It went on to become an international bestseller.

When Ramki—as he is fondly called—launched the OPOS compatible kit in collaboration with a kitchen appliance company, everything they manufactured got sold out. It still does. OPOS refers to a patented flash cooking style that uses a standard pot or cooker, knife, blender, grater, measuring cups and spoons. It expects the cook to align ingredients in a set fashion and use only standardised recipes so that the results are the same, anywhere, anytime. The recipes are available on United by Food, a Facebook group that Ramki heads.

Users have converted a host of their own recipes to OPOS-certified versions, like Korgaonkar has with paneer bharwa bhindi. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
Users have converted a host of their own recipes to OPOS-certified versions, like Korgaonkar has with paneer bharwa bhindi. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

The technique to pressure cooking, blending and mixing doesn't require great skills either. OPOS is about cooking food in its own juices, at high heat for a short time. The trick is standardisation. "The 26 core techniques of OPOS can be written on a single sheet of paper. But they are powerful enough to help you rewrite most of the world's cookbooks. Volunteers have repeatedly reported that their babies preferred OPOS food, attracted by the bold colours, better flavours and non-mushy textures. We received reports of significant health gains, decreased fuel bills, decreased oil, salt, spice usage and increased use of vegetables," says Ramki.

In a journey spanning 15 years, Ramki has built a community of 79,000 passionate users, some of whom are more possessive about the system than he. "I'm overwhelmed by the ways it has touched people, bonded families, empowered women, excited children, and has got men into the kitchen," he says in a telephonic interview from his Kodambakkam home.

Users have converted a host of their own recipes to OPOS-certified versions, like Korgaonkar has with paneer bharwa bhindi. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Thane resident Yaman Banerji Korgaonkar first learnt about OPOS through a mommy group on Facebook last year. "It's a liberation from being chained to the kitchen, sweating like a maniac, while toiling in tedious, time consuming ways to 'kill' food by overcooking it. OPOS made me realise that it is okay to not know how to cook, but it is awesome to know how to put a nourishing meal on the plate. In the time we take to place an order for food delivery, healthy, home-cooked, zero-waste warm food is ready," she adds.

Like most, Korgaonkar was confused about the technique when she started. Having a close friend vouch for it and troubled by a fussy and irregular cook, she took the plunge. "The idea is nothing like we are used to seeing in traditional kitchens. But when it works for you, and blows your mind, you are happy to experiment and convince others of its success," she adds. She started her lessons with a normal 2L pressure cooker from a reputed brand. After a few trials at lesson 2, she was sold.

Users have converted a host of their own recipes to OPOS-certified versions, like Korgaonkar has with paneer bharwa bhindi. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Ramki and his team have painstakingly put up 30 lessons on their Facebook page, to start off newcomers. These help demystify the 'technique' and science on which OPOS works. "Once you understand it, the rest is cakewalk. After cooking with this method for a few weeks, you don't really need recipes. The paneer bharwa bhindi is my own creation. My daughter loves the colours of the pressure-baked mix veg salad and the pasta," Korgaonkar adds.

OPOS has also helped her aspiring zerowaste lifestyle. Now, staples like tomato ketchup, jams, ginger-garlic paste are all made in a jiffy at home, without the guilt being unhealthy or harming the environment. "Treats like noodles and pasta are now about loading and waiting for the deliciousness to be ready to eat in a few hoots."

Users have converted a host of their own recipes to OPOS-certified versions, like Korgaonkar has with paneer bharwa bhindi. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Users say, the reason they swear by OPOS is that it is fail-proof. Chennai resident Dr Guru Thamaraiselvan has used the technique for four years and finds it, "absolutely easy. "The first dish I made was chicken fondue. It turned out well. Load the magic pot, set the timer and it's done. I love making chicken/cauliflower fondue, and healthy gajjar ka halwa," he adds.

Thamaraiselvan has a suggestion for new users. "Stick to the recipes to the T—they have been validated a zillion times. Also, invest in a 2/3 litre magic pot and an induction stove with a wattage of 600W, 900W and 1200W. And, you are set for a culinary experience of a lifetime." Korgaonkar admits she had a few fails in the beginning, but those were when she overlooked or tried recipes ,which were non-standardised. "When you stick to playing this game by the rules, you emerge winner every single time."

B Ramakrishnan and OPOS supporters continuously test and refine the recipes. Their validations are recorded daily on their FB groups. Pic/Siddharth K
B Ramakrishnan and OPOS supporters continuously test and refine the recipes. Their validations are recorded daily on their FB groups. Pic/Siddharth K

Bhagyashree Samant, who started using OPOS last month, loves how after work, she can cook three veggies for the next day in no time. "It has helped me reduce my unnecessary rice intake. Once when I was making aloo gobi without learning the steps, I burnt the onions. But then you find all the support you need on the FB group. There are plenty of recipes tried-and-tested by others, and the moderators are very helpful," she adds.

Interestingly, Ramki was never a good cook. He survived several working years on food from the canteen or roadside vendors. Self-cooked meals almost always ended in a disaster until he went to Bahrain, riding the dotcom wave. "I discovered the pleasure of cooking free, without being bound to recipes. Soon, I was hosting parties. But the dotcom bust meant I lost my shirt, and slunk back to Chennai, and began cooking like a maniac."

"I had a simple goal—to create a set of recipes that work the same way for anyone, anywhere, anytime. It is easy now with the support of a vast, committed community and knowing that we are changing lives." The years went in a blur with Ramki reading, writing, cooking and feeding people from across the world.

"My home in Chennai became an open house through which hundreds of foreigners from over 90 countries passed through. Some came to learn, some just to stay and some ended up teaching me. They helped me see the underlying thread uniting all cuisines and cooking became an obsession. It was magical to see a handful of themes giving rise to infinite recipes. The obsession grew. I tried catalouging them in my blog, One Page Cookbooks," he adds.

It took him a decade, with virtually no readership. In India, where food preparation has remained mostly unchanged for centuries, getting thousands to cook every day in a dramatically different way, using the very same recipe, with the same equipment, took a lot of persuasion. The OPOS project started with paneer makhni in 2014, Ramki vowing to create the simplest cookbook ever written.

"For the next four years, I used United By Food to track a recipe to its roots, uncovering its key building blocks, showing how it has changed over time. This was necessary to demolish bad recipes hiding under the traditional and authentic cover. We spent the next year fine-tuning the recipes, burning our way through dishes and blowing up safety valves on a daily basis," says Ramki.

A group of followers took up the burden of interacting with hundreds of members every single day. Magic began when people from all over the country started simplifying their own cuisines. The OPOS cookbook range now includes Tamil Brahmin Cuisine, Non Veg Delicacies, Millet Recipes and Veg Lunchbox Recipes, co-written by Ramki and OPOS stars from across the world. Ramki believes he has been given a gift and it would be silly to hold it back from those who need it. "This thought still drives many of us to put in 12 hour workdays every day, to ensure blood, sweat or tears have no place in the kitchen."

Contact the Mumbai OPOS support group at
facebook.com/groups/161382157846145
Buy the OPOS cooking kit on oposkit.com

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