Graduated in Comparative Literature, sold computers and software education, transformed…
One pot meal, though not a new idea, is a blessing for those less inclined to prepare an elaborate meal, says culinary consultant Sumita Ganguli
With no end in sight of the Virus, people are now adapting to live-with-it long-term. So we continue to bear our caregiving responsibilities besides our professional commitments. Typifying the adage – ‘What Bengal thinks today…’, I discovered several ‘one-pot meal’ recipes from old notes, left behind by my grandmoms, aunts, and friends.
Why did I do this? Well, there has been a significant effect on the financial situation for starters due to this Pandemic. The employers and employees, students and pensioners, every stratum of society is undergoing a change. Food is an integral part of life, and everybody has embraced change in their own way.
The ‘one-pot meal’ has been a blessing. We stylize it as a trend, and Google defines it as a simple cooking method that effortlessly combines all the dish’s essential ingredients in one pot while cooking.
The ‘One Pot Meal’ is a simple, tasty dish that is fast to cook and good for health – where both the pot and the meal aspects are equally important.
It is sometimes pointless to splash out on a personal trainer when one can exhibit a little restraint and eat Spartan instead. You will save time cooking, and time saved can be utilised elsewhere.
The Virus has had a profound impact on our daily routine too. The pattern of Cooking has changed. Earlier we had convenient cooking, hobby-based cooking and need-based cooking. Now need-based cooking has a new subcategory – Pandemic Cooking. Pandemic Cooking includes time management, entertainment, caregiving, finance management, and less or no domestic help around, it also includes household management.
As an entrepreneur (restaurateur), a culinary consultant, and a number cruncher, I think cooking on a budget should not inhibit creativity. One can be extremely creative in discovering dishes that will be lapped up by the family, and it should lead to a discussion at the dinner table (adda as we say in Bengali). Food and adda is a digestive combination that no antacid can replace.
Let me share two recipes for the One-pot Meal:
Rajshahi Morog Pulao
My Thakuma (grandmother) used to talk about Chinigura rice, which was used for pulao. Rajshahi Morog Pulao is made originally with this rice. I replicated the recipe that she told me many times using the more readily available Basmati.
I will narrate the recipe in a story format, as I heard it the same way. Morong or Cock, if you want, can be replaced with chicken. This is a dish with minimum spices, slow cooking method, and the end result is brilliant.
Step 1: Prepare the Garam Masala or (Spice mix)
Dry roast Cinnamon stick, green cardamom, black cardamom, clove, cumin and coriander seeds, black pepper till it emits aroma. Let it cool and make a powder.
Step 2: How I make the pulao
Prepare a beresta (fried onions) and retain the remaining oil. You would need about 5 -6 onions for beresta. Marinade the chicken with salt and red chilli powder. Add some ghee (clarified butter) to it (more the merrier) and temper with whole red chillies and whole garam masala which includes cinnamon, green cardamom, black cardamom and chopped ginger. For a little spice, add two-three chopped green chillies to it.
Add 4 chopped onions if you are taking 1 kg chicken. Keep frying it till it is translucent. Add 1 tablespoon of ginger and ½ tablespoon of garlic paste and stir in medium heat. Add 4 tablespoon of beaten curd. You can use a mix of curd and sweet curd. But beat it well before using it. Fry the onions along with other ingredients till oil separates. Add the chicken pieces. Cook chicken till it is soft. Add salt and sugar to taste and mix half of the garam masala powder kept separately.
Once cooked keep the chicken pieces aside. In a separate pan, add a few bay leaves and fry the soaked rice. Adding a little green cardamom in the ghee is optional – that gives an aroma. Then mix the rice with gravy and add the chicken chunks. Add double the water to the number of cups of rice. Slow cook for 10-15 mins. Check salt and sugar as per taste and then add the remaining garam masala and close the lid.
Serve it with Raita. The ‘One Pot Meal’ for Sunday lunch is ready.
Those who know me would know that I was born in a foodie family, and I got married to a foodie – blessed I am! But every Thursday, we turn vegetarian, as that is a tradition in the family. I always try to make something interesting for my otherwise carnivorous family, who consider ‘potato and coriander leaves’ are perhaps the only edible vegetarian food!
Many times I found that not a single vegetable is enough for one dish for all. So I found this dish for our Thursday dinners.
Take any vegetable that you like. I generally use cauliflower, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, brinjals, carrots, beans etc. Dice them in big sizes. Wash them well. Put a deep fry pan on the stove and add some oil. Add chopped onions and 3-4 pods of chopped garlic. Add some green chillies.
At the whiff of the first aroma, add all the diced vegetables (except brinjal) and cover it. The vegetables will moisten. Sauté them till they are soft. Slow Cooking is the way to get there without adding water. Fry the brinjals separately and keep them aside.
Once the vegetables soften, add coconut milk to them and cook. Salt and sugar is to taste. Add some green chillies. This is a white gravy. Add water if you need. Check for the consistency. Add brinjals and garam masala. Give a 5-min standing time and serve with steamed rice. It tastes heavenly.
So pick up that khunti and get set to whip up more amazing recipes for the ‘one-pot’ meal. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
Photographs(Rajshahi Morog Pulao) by Ishan Ganguli
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Graduated in Comparative Literature, sold computers and software education, transformed into a hobby chef and evolved into a restaurateur-entrepreneur. Loves to research the culinary influences on the huge repertoire from the Bengal peninsula. Sumita lives in Kolkata with business connections across the world.