The Coronavirus pandemic has changed what comfort food means. The absence of our indispensable posse of dhoodh-wallahs, sabzi wallah and local grocery shopkeeper – to maintain safety amid the lockdown announced by the government – is motivating everyone to look at food, especially the kind that makes use of few resources, with renewed interest and in a conscientious way.
This means a lot of us are going to learn how to ration our utilities and make do with what we have. During this period of social distancing, which is paramount if we are to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 spread, improvisation is necessary. As is the need to fight the urge of sprinting out for dhaniya and mirchi, unless you also need other essentials.
That is not say, that you cancel your plans of making pav bhaji, simply because you’ve run out of aloo. All you’ve got to do is, think out of the box, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to whip up something truly wonderful even with leftover rice.
For inspiration, you can turn to a number of chefs, bakers and home cooks who are leveraging their social media handles to educate netizens about the tenets of sustainability and helping us discover ingenious ways of planning meals in an optimal and cost-effective way.
Take for example, Anahita N Dhondy, chef-partner at SodaBottleOpenerWala, Cyber Hub, who is using her Instagram for a series called #TogetherAtHome, where you can learn to whip up interesting eats while minimising wastage. The IGTV cooking sessions provide worthy lessons on using veggies to their fullest or giving the commonplace rajma a nasty spin.
A few days ago, Dhody shared a carrot-leaf pesto recipe on her handle, showcasing how to put carrot leaves to use – a cost-effective tip, that is also nutritious. Have questions? Hit her up on Instagram because she’s taking queries related to her recipes.
Antoni Porowski, the Canadian chef-actor from the hit Netflix series, Queer Eye, has been using all his free time to shoot Quar-Eye, a daily series on Instagram shot from home that aims to raise money for the Feeding America charity. His tongue-in-cheek recipes have funny names like the Farro-Way from Others Bowl, Meet Less Mondays, Quaran-takeout Night, Striped of My Chicken-Sanity and Keep Calm-lette. "An omelette made in isolation is still an omelette," Porowski quipped on Instagram.
In the 10-minute IGTV videos, Porowski teaches viewers how to cook with the limited stock and it’s sure to resonate with the jugaad-democracy that India is. Who would’ve thought you could use peanut butter and coconut milk as a sauce for pan-fried chicken and that artichokes could be a topping on pizzas with pre-made crusts, right?
India’s macaron queen aka Pooja Dhingra, pastry chef and owner at Le 15 Patisserie and the eponymous café-chain has been on a baking spree through the lockdown. One of the first recipes she uploaded, included a chocolate crumble cake, made with a paltry sum of 8 ingredients and single bowl only. The joy of having just one utensil to wash! Her #BakeFromHome lessons are a treasure trove of easy-peasy recipes that will melt your mouth and heart. Think chocolate sea-salt biscuits, Crunchy chocolate clusters and the intelligent fauxnoffee - a banoffee made with Parle-G biscuits and Cadbury Eclairs.
One scroll through Instagrammer Anita Tikoo’s (@a_madteaparty) feed you’re sure to get a foodgasm. Her handle is a smorgasbord of easy, nutritious recipes that make discerning use of ingredients, especially those that most of us have lying around, like urad dal and rajma. It’s like a culinary survival kit and the perfect ally for the lockdown, comprising useful hacks and interesting recipes, like sourdough discard cheela and sourdough crumpet. Be it discovering substitutes, like ghee – in place of white makhan – or, putting excess sourdough starter to use, Tikoo’s feed is perfect.
Chef and food writer Romy Gill MBE, a regular on Ready Steady Cook, has been sharing utilitarian tips with all of her 12.8K followers. From pickling red cabbage, ginger, and garlic to making barfis with gram flour (the besan and almond-flour barfi looks yum, by the way), so far, Gill has been nailing quarantine cooking. Her ginger tea recipe utilises ginger peel, which pairs well with ginger biscuits. But the coolest part is that, if you tweet the names of the ingredients you have to Gill, she may reply with a tailored-made recipe for you. Her new YouTube series, Quarantine Kitchen, shared a chickpea curry recipe using tinned ingredients and kitchen-cupboard spices, on the very first episode. Go check it out.
“We can do this, we can absolutely do this” was Jamie Oliver MBE’s opening line on his new series Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On. Designed to help self-isolators make the most of what they have in the pantry, Oliver’s recipes are flexible. Plus, he suggests substitutes, so, if you don’t have one of the ingredients, you can swap it. We loved the quick two-ingredient pasta, made with flour and water and a simple sauce that makes use of pantry basics, such as tinned tomatoes and garlic. Though originally aired on Britain TV’s Channel 4, Oliver’s useful recipes, swaps, tips, and hacks are available on his Instagram, too.