This red capsicum curry (red bell pepper curry) is among the quickest dishes you can make on rushed days. It doesn’t take long to cook and more importantly, doesn’t demand meticulous slicing: cut the vegetables into large irregular chunks and you’re good to go.
I discovered ridge gourd only after moving to south India. The first time that I bought it, my motivator was curiosity – I had no idea how this vegetable, which looked a cross between sponge gourd and bitter gourd, would be cooked, or what it would taste like. Pushcart vendors outside my apartment stocked ridge gourd in heaps, and it seemed to be the freshest, most abundantly available vegetable on sale. One day I walked up to a vendor, pointed and tried to ask him in gestures (I did not know Kannada) to name the vegetable. In response, he swiftly wrapped two ridge gourds, held out the package to me, and named the price.
And so I returned home, ridge gourd package in hand, and typed into Google image search: "long green Indian vegetable with spikes". Google did not disappoint – I found not just the name but also many ways to cook ridge gourd.
For a really good baingan bharta, getting the eggplant perfectly roasted is half the battle won. And for a perfectly roasted eggplant, the ingredients you need most are patience and balance – patience in cooking the eggplant on a low, open flame through till the core, balancing the heat all around without charring, leaving no spot raw or burnt.
The proportion of other ingredients and spices, the duration of post-roasting sautéing, can vary, but if the heart of the dish – the mashed eggplant – is nicely done, baingan bharta turns out delicious.
With that thought, on to my baingan bharta recipe in all its smoky splendor :-)
Capsicum and cherry tomatoes are tailor-made for worknight meals, with simple chopping needs and small cooking times. Combine with some pre-cooked tomato masala and you have a capsicum cherry tomato curry that looks so regal, it’s hard to believe how easy it was to create.
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.