Sunday mid-day's recipe hacks for the lockdown

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 09:25 IST | Jane Borges, Aastha Atray Banan, Gitanjali Chandrasekharan, Anju Maskeri, Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

From dhaba-style egg curry to Konkani chicken curry, the team of amateur chefs tried it all by sourcing recipes from the friends and the Internet

Dish: Kheema fry
Tastes best with: Pav /// Cook: Jane Borges

Innovation is the key to preparing a dish that you think, you will enjoy. It's also why I don't follow a recipe to the tee, making tiny tweaks as I go along. As someone who cooked regularly at one point—I lived out of the country, away from family for two years—YouTube tutorials, and my mother's recipes, were a mainstay. Now, that I am back to living with them, I enter the kitchen rarely, and only to experiment. The lockdown is a good excuse to try something new, I thought. My go-to dish is chicken kheema, and I have tried all possible variants in chicken as well as mutton, including the Dhaba style, Hyderabadi (garnished with boiled eggs) and Irani specials. This time, I attempted the North-Indian style Chicken kheema fry, as shown by Pakistani vlogger on her channel Yasmin's Cooking.

Kheema fry

Since I didn't have chicken mince, I diced a portion of chicken breast (mum says it helps retain the juices of the meat instead of mincing). The original recipe involved letting the chicken kheema rest in a curd and green chilli-ginger-garlic paste marinade. Since we've cut down on shopping over the last two weeks, I had run out of curd, which gives the dish a tang. I compensated by adding tomatoes. In Yasmin's recipe, the kheema is fried in oil along with whole spices, before she adds the onions and tomato paste. I did it the other way around, because we like our onions and tomatoes fried well. I also diced my tomatoes, because I didn't want the final dish to look like a gravy. It was ready in 20 minutes, Another kheema recipe ticked off my list.

½ kg chicken kheema
2 large onions
4 diced tomatoes
1 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsp garlic paste
2 green chillies
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp oil
2 green cardamoms
1 black cardamoms
3 cloves
7 black peppercorns
2 small cinnamon sticks
1 small piece of mace
½ a lemon
Chopped fresh coriander for garnish
Salt to taste

Marinate the chicken mince in a paste of ginger, garlic and green chillies. Add turmeric and salt to it. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Grind the whole spices. In a frying pan, add oil, and the spices followed by onions. Once the onions turn golden brown, add chopped tomatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add the mince, and the remaining masala powders. Mix well. Add half a cup water, and let it cook on low fire. Once ready, garnish with coriander; squeeze half a lemon and serve.

Dish: Paneer Simla Mirch
Tastes best with: Parathas /// Cook: Aastha Atray Banan

Aastha Atray Banan

I have figured out what good cooking really needs. It's patience. Patience to let the onions fry, and then give time to the masala to roast, and the dish to come together as a whole. Before the lockdown, if I did cook, I would rush through steps, leaving the dish tasting meh!

A Google search for a piquant recipe for paneer simla mirch led me to the YouTube channel of someone who simply calls herself Kabita. It's easy, with all ingredients available in the fridge. If you like your spice, add a dash of the hot and sweet ketchup like I did.

Paneer Simla Mirch

1 sliced onion
2 sliced tomatoes
Ginger-garlic paste to taste
1 long sliced green pepper/capsicum
100 grams paneer, cut into cubes
Red chilli, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste
1 tbsp Maggi hot and sweet sauce

Fry the onions in a tbsp of oil for a minute. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for another two minutes. Then, add the masalas and roast. Add tomatoes and salt, and put the lid on to let the tomatoes cook on low flame. Once done, add the sauce and green pepper, and cook for five minutes with lid on. Finally, add the paneer. Let it cook for another two minutes and garnish with coriander leaves.

Dish: Mor kuzumbhu
Tastes best with: steamed rice /// Cook: Gitanjali Chandrasekharan

Gitanjali Chandrasekharan

When the lockdown began, and friends and relatives started sharing pictures of what they were cooking, a Tamilian friend put up a picture of Mor Kuzhambu. If you're not familiar with the pronunciation, try the Internet. It is a typical Tam dish, that I last enjoyed perhaps at
Andheri's Tanjore Tiffin Room. Not easily available, it's a nostalgia-inducing comfort-giving dish that I needed. With a curd base, it comes closest to perhaps the kadhi. The friend's recipe required that I add vegetables to the mix. So, on the next market trip, I bought drumsticks, which I was cooking for the first time, and most importantly, curd. Also, the original recipe didn't come with proportions. Like all home cooking, it is based on "andaaz". The proportions are mine; feel free to add, deduct as you please. The dish serves two. The best part? It takes around 20 minutes to make once all ingredients are on your kitchen counter.

Mor kuzumbhu

2 drumsticks
Turmeric powder
Fresh grated coconut, half a shell
1.5 tbsp raw rice
8 red chillies
2 tsp cumin
2 cups curd
1 tsp methi seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
Curry leaves
Coconut oil

Cut the drumstick into two-inch pieces, add salt, turmeric, two cups of water and cook. You will know they are done when you can run a fork through the skin. Separately, grind or grate the coconut, raw rice, 4 red chilies and jeera along with the slightly sour curd. The raw rice will help thicken the kuzhambu. Pour the ground liquid into the pan of boiled drumsticks and bring it a boil. Then turn off heat. Make a tadka of mustard, methi, curry leaves and red chilies in coconut oil and add to the coconut mixture. Add salt to taste.

Dish: Dhaba-style egg curry
Tastes best with: Chapati /// Cook: Anju Maskeri

Anju Maskeri

While the initial idea was to prepare a dhaba-style chicken curry, the online meat shop bailed out at the eleventh hour, making me consider substitutes. Improvisation is key when resources are limited. I dredged up fragrant masalas from my mother's inventory and made a similar gravy using eggs. A recipe of the Punjabi anda curry posted online by came handy. It was surprisingly simple and quick. The gravy was a comforting mix of onions, tomatoes and spices. A dollop of cream I added in the end lifts the taste. For those 30 minutes, I was absorbed in the process. So, if you're looking to channel nervous energy, how about anda curry for lunch?

Dhaba-style egg curry

4 boiled eggs
2 chopped onions
2 tbsp oil
3 chopped tomatoes
2 green chillies
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
¼ tsp kasuri methi
4 tsp cream
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Whole spices (optional)
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala

Heat oil in a pan. Add whole spices and sauté. When fragrant, add onions and saute until golden brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook. Throw in green chillies, the spice powders and salt. Mix well and cook for two minutes. Add tomatoes and cook till soft and the oil rises to the top. Add water and cover the pan to cook for five minutes on medium heat. Add half-booked eggs and chopped coriander. Add some cream. Cover with lid and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Dish: Konkani-style chicken curry
Tastes best with: White rice | Cook: Prutha Bhosle

Prutha Bhosle

Self-isolation has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for someone like me who has barely lifted a spatula in months. Ordering in was not an option, and then came the mom-made chicken curry craving. So, I dialled in my mother's Konkani kitchen. We prepare masalas pounded with coconut, but I didn't have the equipment to keep it authentic. My mother suggested an alternative, which now that I have tried, I can guarantee is foolproof. I used the simple ingredients available in my kitchen, and the curry tasted as good as the original recipe. The key, I realised, is to balance the quantity of chopped onions and tomatoes at the time of tempering.

Konkani-style chicken curry

1 kg skinned chicken pieces
1 onion finely chopped
3 large puréed tomatoes
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
Ginger-garlic paste
Red chilli powder
Everest chicken masala

Marinate chicken in ginger-garlic paste. Fry the onions with black cumin seeds and black mustard seeds in oil for 2 minutes, Add tomato puree and mix well. Add the chicken to the mix. Don't add water; let the meat release its juices. Now add the Everest chicken masala along with a pinch of salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Stir well. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook for 30 minutes on low fire. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves and lemon slices.

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