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TIPS

Is cooking an art or a science? As per my little experience,cooking is an art as well as a science.Cooking is the symphony of taste,aroma and looks that tickle our senses.For eg.My kids rejects to eat a food item if they finds it not appealing to their eyes.And sometimes by the smell,they reject and move away.However,if the food is a very simple pancake but has a beautiful smiley face on it with a whipped cream,its an eye catcher and kids would definitely consent to take a bite though the taste of pancake may not be that good.This is an art in cooking.But on the other hand,cooking is like mixing up chemicals to get a correct chemical equation.If you get the right ingredients and mix them up to get the desired results which ultimately blends in amazing flavors.In other words,you are definitely grabbing ingredients to formulate a new equation each day.Complicated?? No,I think.But my personal advice to all new comers to the kitchen lab is that you must take up interest in cooking to take it to your next level in kitchen.Interest has to come from within and none can bring in that interest in you.I had been never passionate about cooking until marriage.But with the demand I took up cooking in a positive way and have enjoyed so far.Every new comer in the kitchen needs to know a few basic things for everyday cooking and preserving food items.I have compiled a list of points that I felt might be beneficial to others.I shall add on more points (as I remember).

A few tips to help the beginners in kitchen -
                                                COOKING
*Make your own batch of ginger-garlic paste for a week and store in refrigerator.Makes things easier and can eat things without any preservatives.

* Don't make tamarind based curries in aluminium vessels.Use a mann chatti/clay pot or a non stick pan or steel pan.

* Add a pinch of salt/sugar when sauteing onions as it speeds up the process.

* Add the mustard seeds/ cumin seeds to crackle only once the oil is hot enough.

* Add turmeric in oil when using,brings out the color and raw smell disappears.Always saute all other spices on low flame or else it may burn up.

* When roasting coconut for curries,keep on low flame and on continous stir.

* When you are cooking or baking,try involving kids in the process and this creates a sense of willingness to try out the food.
  * Pre heat an oven just 15-20 minutes before baking or it can be power misuse and end up paying large bills.

* If you plan to make cutlets for a large gathering/party and then shape them and freeze them.Dip it in egg and bread crumbs just before frying.Remains fresh.Similarly,you can do for samosas too.

* If you make dosa/idli batter or make yogurt at home and you find it hard to get it fermented/set then try placing it in a warm dry place.Make use of your oven,leave the lights on.

* Add a tbsp of fresh coconut oil on top of fish curry/aviyal immediately after switching off the flame.Keep it covered for 10-15 minutes,the coconut flavors seeps in well.

* Don't discard the stale bread,end them up by making bread crumbs

* If you have any left overs especailly from breakfast like idlis,bread or any others.Make bread upma,idli upma for a quick evening snack and enjoy.

* Use dark colored jaggery when making ada pradhaman and other jaggery based payasams,gives a nice color.

* If you end up adding extra salt then chop few potato in big chunks and add in the curry.Potato absorbs the extra salt,remove them after cooking if you don't want them in that particular curry.

* When cooking greens or green leaves,add salt once it is wilted else you end up adding more salt.

* You shouldn't cover and cook spinach or keep covered after cooking else the gravy color will change.You should also keep in mind not to overcook this green gravy for long.

* Always rub the fish  in a mannchatti(clay pot)with  coarse salt and lemon juice.Coarse salt removes the dirt and scales,lime removes the odor.

* If you are cleaning fish or prawns or meat at home,use a separate cutting board for this so that it doesn't contaminate.Also,remember to discard the wastes wrapped in proper plastic bags.Discard in the main trash if you stay in apartments.Don't store in home trash,it stinks a lot.

* Add a little sugar to the cooked sambar,improves flavor.Also,serve sambar the next day after making,brings out flavors.

* Don't re use the deep fried oils as it may tun rancid and can cause hazardous effects on health.
                                  
                                        STORING

* Store kerala pappadams in freezer section in ziploc bags,remains fresh for a longer time and puffs up nicely.
  
* If you open up a ice cream pack,then store left overs in the same pack but place the pack in ziploc bags.Remains fresher.

* Storing curry leaves- If you get curry leaves in places where you buy from super markets and want to preserve the freshness,then try plucking the leaves from the stalk and store them in clean,moisture fee glass jars.Close it tightly and replace in the refrigerator section each time after use.Stays good for 4 weeks(my experience).But if you have a few wilted leaves,when you buy discard them or store it separately.Also,look the leaves for any moisture before storing,just wipe them dry with a paper towel.


If you get hold of a big stem of curry leaves,then store in  a bottle of water like money plant.Stays good for 3-4 days,after which the leaves starts to fall off.

* Storing green chillies-Remove the stalk of green chillies,wipe them dry.Take special precaution when you do so with bare hands,apply a little oil on your hands to lessen the irritation.Also,keep in mind not to open the mouth of the chillies,it should remain intact.Stays good for a fortnight.


* Storing cilantro /coriander leaves- Place the bunch in a glass of cold water and place in the side section of the refrigerator.Stays fresh for one week plus.

* Storing mint leaves- Sprinkle a gash of water on the leaves and wrap it in paper towel and place in air tight bags in refrigerator.Stays good for 4 weeks.Always remember to wrap the remaining leaves tight in the paper towel and air tight bags after use.

(the mint leaves in pic are after 3 weeks of storing,looks fresh ryt??)
 
This is another way of storing mint leaves.Just grind the leaves in a blender adding little water to a smooth puree.Pour in ice tray/molds and freeze.Demold and then store in ziploc bags.Use in curries whenever required by adding these small cubes.I personally feel the flavor is reduced by doing this method but still if you have a surplus and wish to preserve then this works too.


* Storing Cilantro/Coriander leaves- Take a long tumbler about 3/4 filled with tap water and dip the cilantro/coriander leaves stalk in water(like we do fresh flowers).Then cover,the leaves with a ziploc or other plastic bag.Leave it in the side rack of refrigerator,stays very fresh.


* Storing greens- Palak,methi leaves and all other greens can also be wrapped in paper towels,first and then place in air tight bags.Stays fresh for long.

(pic taken after 1.5 weeks of storage)
  * Storing vegetables and fruits- If you have bought vegetables and fruits at a low price or on sale,and if you find hard to use up the large quantity,then wash and cut the vegetables in the way you are going to use them.Blanch by adding in boiling water for 3-4 mins and then remove,cool.Store in air tight jars/ziploc bags in freezer,thaw before use.

* Storing chapathis- If you are a working lady,then prefer making chapathis in a large scale on the weekends or whenever possible.Lightly oil them and make a batch required for each day,wrap in paper towels and then place each batch in ziploc bags.Remove one bag a day and steam the chapathis or even microwave them just before use.Microwaving helps to make things faster but has to consumed immediately else it hardens up.

*Storing dough for chapathis-If you plan to make fresh chapathis each day,then make large batch of dough and then divide in each day's share.Store them as individual ball in a ziploc bag in freezer.Thaw and use.

*Making curry powders,rasam powders,garam masala,sambhar powder- Always make small batches that can be used in a month.Remains fragrant and flavorful.

*Cool the pickles before storing in containers.Use clean dry glass jars or ceramic jars to prevent any chemical reaction that takes place when storing in plastic containers and steel jars.Always use clean,dry spoons or spatulas to scoop out pickles or to stir in wine making.Else,you end up with fungus.

*If you plan to make cardamom powder,then don't discard the covers.Add this to the tea leaves bottle and use up when making tea,adds cardamom flavor to tea.If you plan to powder cardamom in very small batch,then powder it along with sugar,grinds well.
             
  BUYING GROCERY
 * Always make a shopping list before you go out in the super markets,reduces effort and time.

* Never go shopping when you are hungry else you end up buying all processed foods.

* Start with the peripheral section of a super market where fresh produce like fruits,vegetables,milk,eggs & meat are kept.Avoid entering the central aisle as they are full of canned and processed foods.

* Take time to read the ingredients before you buy an item.If it contains ingredients that you don't understand that means it is processed with chemicals.The simple rule is the longer the ingredients list,the more it is processed.

* You may not find sugar in all food items listed but they may contain sucrose,glucose,corn syrup,evaporated cane juice which are all derivatives of sugar.

* Buy organic whenever possible especially the greens and milk. 

* Always try to store the seasonal fruits and vegetables slightly longer so that it becomes economical and also they can be enjoyed for a longer time.For eg.Corn(during season time) the prices are so low that you can buy in large quantities and freeze with cob after de husking or shredding the corn from the cob and freezing them for future use.Wash the corn cob after de husking.Then,cut in half and start shredding using a knife.Store this in ziploc bags and freeze.Stays good just like the frozen corn from stores.They can then  be added to curries/pilaf.



                                              CLEANING
* Tea and coffee stains in cups is an awkward scene.Try wetting the cup and rubbing the cup/mug with a little baking soda.Removes the stain instantly,wash and store.


* Try lining your stove top with disposable liners or aluminium foil which makes cleaning much easier.


* Always wash your cutting board,knife and hands very well after handling raw meat and fish as they may contain salmonella bacteria which can lead to food poisoning.


* If you find stubborn stains like food sticking to the bottom of your cooker,burnt milk then cover the pot with warm water and soapy soultion.Leave overnight and then scrub.If you still have left outs,boil water in the pot and the stain gets removed in the next scrub.


* Try wearing an apron whenever possible esp doing dishes or making curries.


* Clean your stove tops and oven fortnightly to reduce scums forming due to oil.


(I will be updating this page regularly to make cooking easier and simpler for all others who use my page.)

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