Weekdays are busy times for many of us who come back from work late evening and then fix a meal. We want weeknight dinners to be easy to put together, taking little time to move from kitchen to plate. [Not counting the blessed few like Rohit's boss with the gusto to whip up a fancy meal at that hour ;-)]
One could cook loads on Sunday and freeze for the week. But that’s not so exciting, is it? So how does one reach that elusive balance between easy+quick (pre-cooked) and tasty+interesting (freshly cooked)?
Here’s a middle ground.
Make-ahead food parts. Mix and match. Embellish.
Use the Pareto Principle to your advantage: identify the steps in cooking that consume a majority time and labor, and do them beforehand. The chopping of greens. The slow-frying of spices. The boiling of dal. When the time comes to make your weeknight dinner, all that remains to be done is the remaining 20% of cooking that produces 80% of the result.
A quick-cooking curry with kachcha kela (raw bananas or plantain) that’s easy enough to make for beginners – no intricate slicing, no artful pounding/grinding, no watchfulness needed while the dish is on the heat. Everything chopped or grated "roughly", all spice measurements open to personalization.
The only detail to take care of is to avoid the blackening of plantain when it is peeled and sliced – there’s a simple tip below to prevent that happening, which doubles up as a way to keep the stickiness of the plantain at bay.
The tart sweetness of roasted cherry tomatoes and the freshness of coriander leaves come together in this lovely chutney.
Garlic and dry red chilies give it that extra zing.
Traditional cooks who, when prompted ‘upma’, say ‘semolina’ in a word association game, will probably raise quizzical eyebrows at this recipe. Upma without its core ingredient! No doubt the brainchild of someone with a large loaf of bread on hand along with a batch of tomatoes and an allergy to sandwiches. Bless the sandwich-hater for this brilliant recipe – "bread tomato upma", the nicest way to use bread when it’s best-before date has arrived.
A curry with easy-to-chop, quick-to-cook veggies – mushrooms, spring onions and tomatoes - and a dash of Italian spices, for a weekday dinner.
Mushroom spring onion curry doesn’t require much watching over while its cooking and is ready in the time you make half a dozen chapatis. Just what you want on a day when you don’t have much time to spare for the kitchen.