It’s all very well to aim for beautifully plated meals that feature sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, and bechamel sauce. Dishing out delicious food to the family everyday, however, is another kettle of poisson fumé altogether. What can you dish out on a daily basis when the hungry hordes are rebelling against dal-chaawal-chapati? My sister-in-law recently put this question to me. Here are five ways to spice up your table with very little effort:
Place on table:
- curd that’s been hung for min-half an hour then seasoned with lemon juice and salt
- shredded cooked chicken, or cooked minced lamb/beef/pork, or shredded beef/lamb/pork that has been cooked and seasoned only with jeera powder and salt, and maybe garlic if desired.
- cooked rice (leftovers work great!)
- finely chopped raw onion, tomato, and coriander, mixed and seasoned with salt and lemon juice
- sweet corn niblets
- shredded iceberg lettuce
- cooked rajma, seasoned with salt (optional)
- one or two maida rotis per person (if you’re lazy, pressed for time, or can’t make maida rotis, either buy fresh roomalis from a takeaway or buy a packet of tortillas and heat ‘em up)
Each person assembles their own burrito based on individual taste. Start by spreading the yogurt in a strip down the center of the roti; follow with meat, rice, and other ingredients. Roll up, enjoy! Concept works for pita pouches as well. Just substitute pita bread and hummus for roti and curd, and omit the rajma altogether.
. Chicken salad with bread
- two cups cooked, shredded chicken seasoned with salt
- finely chopped onion to taste
- handful of finely chopped celery
- a handful of sliced black olives
- garlic to taste
- two tablespoons of olive oil
When ready to eat, use scissors to coarsely cut a bowlful of washed, mixed lettuce leaves, place chicken mixture on top, toss with enough mayonnaise to moisten but not drown. Works well with tuna or boiled egg as well. Potato, if you’re a vegetarian. Serve with a good quality multigrain bread. This is a very filling meal! Add a milkshake… or finish with a bowl of cut fruit. Yum!
Place minced lamb or beef in a food processor with salt and pepper, and process forseconds to incorporate the fat – but not mince the meat too finely. You need the meat to contain between and percent fat. Shape into large but thin patties by hand, or use a burger press. Either grill until done, or shallow fry on medium heat with very little oil. Remember that the heat will cause them to shrink. Do not press while frying. Remove from pan and keep warm.
In another frying pan, lightly fry onion rounds with a little salt and balsamic vinegar until the vinegar caramelizes.
Slice in half and lightly toast enough burger buns to satisfy family.
Place on table:
- Fresh or lightly toasted burger buns (one or two per person)
- Lettuce leaves
- Sliced tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper
- Fried onions
- Cheese slices
- Dill pickles
Everyone assembles their own burgers. Serve with french fries and milkshake. This concept works well for self-assembled sandwiches too. Another idea: hotdogs and fries. Substitute the french fries with potato salad or oven-baked fries, omit the mayo – and this is a healthy meal. Sorry, I do not have a vegetarian option for this one, unless you count making a vegetable patty and sticking it in a burger bun.
This is a favorite fallback in our home. A pasta, some meat, some veggies, white sauce, herbs maybe, top with grated cheese. Bake.
Precook any shape pasta of your choice. Pre-cook the meat with salt (if using seafood or salami, you don’t even need to do that) and cut into bite-sized pieces. Pre-cook veggies like spinach or cauliflower and chop; don’t bother pre-cooking mushrooms or zuchinni. I do not recommend adding onion, peppers, or other seasonings; in my opinion, seasonings should all be in the sauce, and the meat.My rule of thumb: no more than two veggies and one meat; or three veggies, no meat.
Mix the veggies and the meat with the sauce and the pasta. Bake until cooked through, then top generously with cheese. Put back in the oven and bake/grill until cheese is melted.
Veggies that work well: Zucchini, mushroom, sweet corn, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, babycorn, peppers
Veggies that do not work well: Carrots, cabbage, peas
Meats that work well: boneless veal, boneless chicken, boneless firm fish like seer, large prawns, minced beef/lamb, salami, sliced cooked sausage
Meats that do not work well: pork, un-minced beef/lamb
- Before mixing with other ingredients, add bottled pasta sauce to the white sauce for a different flavor
- Make the white sauce with white wine and herbs
- Stir Gruyere cheese into the white sauce
. Thai-inspired chicken mince salad
- Fry chicken mince with garlic to taste, NO SALT, until almost dry. Allow to cool.
- Slice a small onion finely.
- Mix together: Chicken, onion, a handful of mint leaves, one or two finely diced green chillis, fish sauce to taste, lemon juice to taste, and half a teaspoon of sugar. Allow flavors to mingle for an hour or so.
- Meanwhile soak a handful of raw rice in water. Just before serving, drain and crush the rice with a pestle. Sprinkle atop salad. Or, sprinkle a handful or crushed peanuts instead.
Serve with boiled rice noodles tossed in a tablespoon of sesame oil and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
Let me know whether these worked for you – and share your own ideas too!