Food is an important part of all our lives. Apart from generally giving us the energy to go about our daily lives, it also gives many of us much joy.
During this lockdown, food has evoked a range of emotions among many — for those who like to cook it has been an opportunity to whip up their favourite dishes, but for many others it has been nothing short of a nightmare.
A lot of us are squarely dependent on our cooks (bless them) for daily meals, and the lockdown means we are struggling to juggle our jobs and household chores. In tough times like this, all a hangry heart wants is a good meal. A look through YouTube or other popular cooking websites also boggles the mind as they demand the sun and the moon, making cooking look like sorcery.
So, at Huffpost India we decided to crowdsource a bunch of easy-to-cook, hassle-free recipes that we have learnt from our mothers or grandmothers that bring back good memories from happier times.
If you’re someone who has been pining at your friends’ Instagram stories humble bragging about gourmet meals, while you resort to a bowl of Maggi, this list is perfect for you.
Now, these may not be gourmet, they will definitely sooth your soul.
1. Budget Birthday Party Star Dish
This was the first chicken recipe I learnt from my mother when I moved into a rented house in Bandra, after leaving Kolkata, and everything around seemed to cost a kidney and a half. I remembered my mother cooking this delicious chicken with minimal ingredients for quick weekday dinners, more elaborate Sunday lunches and once even at a picnic back in Bengal, for nearly 60 people. The best part was, it did not involve chopping onions through a cloud of tears just to eat a great meal. It became my budget birthday party star dish, my go to for dinner parties where we inevitably spent more on booze than food. Considering I could cook this back when my biggest cooking achievement was frying onions and adding them to Maggi, this should be easy for everyone.
500 gm chicken, medium to small pieces (cooks better and caramelises easily), with bones
200 gms curd
Garlic, 10-12 pods finely chopped or made into a paste (you can add more, I often do)
Sugar, 2 tablespoons (add more if you like sweet)
Dried red chillies ― 6-8
Red chilli powder (depending on your spice tolerance)
― Marinade chicken in curd, a sprinkling of salt and chilli powder. You can add a little garlic powder or garlic paste to it if you like. Keep the chicken in the marinade for at least an hour.
― Heat oil in a pan (you can add a little ghee to it for more flavour)
— Toss in the red chillies and once they crackle, lower the heat immediately
— Add garlic and sugar
— The sugar has to melt completely (that’s where the gravy gets the red colour)
— Now when the sugar has caramelised and garlic has browned, pick out the chicken pieces and add them to the hot oil.
— Turn on the heat once more, and let the chicken brown a bit for a couple of minutes
— Then add in the leftover marinade. Add salt to taste.
— Then on a low flame, cook the chicken, covered.
— The chicken cooks in the curd, no water is needed. But if you have added less dahi, check and add a sprinkling of water.
— Which the chicken falls off the bone and the gravy has thickened, it is done. It should taste spicy, sweetish and garlicky.
Often, when you add curd into hot oil, it tends to split. Tastes fine, but doesn’t look great. To avoid that, when the chicken is browning, mix one and half teaspoon of maida in a little water and add it to the leftover marinade. Mix it and add to chicken. Maida helps bind the curd.
— Piyasree Dasgupta
2. Sabse Simple Beans
If you feel like you aren’t eating enough vegetables, this dead simple beans is the easiest way to put some green on your plate. Plus, it goes with pretty much any cuisine. Plus Plus, you don’t need to chop the beans. Plus, Plus Plus: you can do the same thing with coarsely chopped broccoli.
250g French Beans with the ends snipped off
Whole Black Pepper — freshly ground in a grinder/mortar pestle
Garlic — finely chopped
Mustard Seeds (Optional — if you want the dish to taste more India. I usually don’t add mustard seeds as the dish can turn bitter if you aren’t careful)
A bit of oil — any oil will do, though olive oil is better for option 2.
Boil a large pot of water, chuck in the beans and swirl them around until they turn bright green.
Now you can go two ways:
A) If you like the beans crunchy, Remove beans immediately after they change colour and dunk them in a pot of cold water.
In a kadhai heat some oil, add the garlic and heat till the garlic turns golden.
If you want to add mustard seeds and dry red chilly, now is your moment.
Once the garlic is done and the mustard seeds are popping, put in the beans, swirl them around and add salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Don’t cook it for too long, just enough to give it a proper chhaunk. Squeeze some lemon on the top and you are done.
B) If you like the beans well done, and also like garlic a lot, and have olive oil at home.
Before you put the beans in the boiling water, put the garlic in a flat bottomed serving dish and add a generous amount of olive oil, and salt. Now chuck the beans in the boiling water, and once they are cooked, pull them out, quickly drain them, and dunk them into your serving dish with the oil and garlic, whisk them around a bit, and then just cover the dish and leave it for about 10 min.
The heat from the beans will soften the garlic (though it will still be pretty strong).
After about 10 min, remove the lid, add the freshly ground black pepper, squeeze lime and you are done.
— Aman Sethi
3. Comfort Pulisheri
This simple, curd-based dish is absolute comfort food for me—during my college days, when I was back in Kerala for vacation, I’d ask my mother to make pulisheri, payaru thoran and fish with rice, and even now, that taste reminds me of the joy of coming home. It was also one of the first dishes I learnt how to cook, since it’s so simple (there are versions with coconut as well, and you can make it with mango, pineapple etc). My mother’s version needs only a handful of ingredients, and I frequently adjust those here and there depending on what I have in the kitchen (only the dahi, haldi and salt are non-negotiable). It’s also very easy to digest, making it the perfect accompaniment to your rice in summer. I’m pretty sure I’ve converted a lot of non-Malayalis, including my husband, into pulisheri fans.
The amounts in the recipe below are approximate:
Ingredients (this will serve 3-4 people):
2 cups curd
1 cup water
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tsp jeera seeds
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil
1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped
2 green chillies, slit
Put the curd and water in a bowl, whisk well together to remove any lumps. Add the haldi, jeera seeds and salt and mix well together.
Now heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and fenugreek and let them splutter.
Add the ginger, garlic, green chillis, onions and curry leaves and saute for a couple of minutes. Make sure they don’t burn.
Now switch off the flame for 5 minutes—this is to ensure the pan cools down a little so the curd mixture doesn’t split as you pour it.
Now add the mixed curd and let it simmer on a low flame. As it heats, slowly stir it. When you see the gravy beginning to split at the sides, switch off the flame (make sure you don’t step away from the stove, as the curd mixture can split in a matter of seconds).
Serve with rice and any other accompaniments of your choice.
— Sharanya Hrishikesh
4. Lazy Person’s Paneer Kulcha
Okay, truth be told, I am quite lazy when it comes to cooking. I am always looking for recipes that require minimum effort and ingredients. This particular recipe is the easiest one I have come across — it involves kulchas without a side dish — like chhole. If kulchas are hard to find, you can substitute it with bread.
2 teaspoon Butter
200 gm paneer
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
Garam masala powder
Salt as required
3 teaspoon coriander leaves
2 green chillies
Wash the onions and tomatoes and finely chop them. Next, grate the paneer in a large bowl and keep it aside.
Next, place a saucepan over medium flame and pour 2 teaspoons of butter in it. Once it is hot enough, add the finely chopped onions in it and saute for a few seconds. Then, add cumin powder, salt, chilli flakes and garam masala in the pan. Stir once and let the spices cook for a few seconds.
Now, add the chopped green chillies along with tomatoes in the pan and saute. Add the grated paneer and coriander leaves, mix all the ingredients together and turn off the flame.
Next, take a kulcha and spread the paneer mixture on it, cover it with another kulcha. Grill this in a griller and transfer it to a plate when done. Cut them into halves and enjoy with tomato ketchup or mint sauce.
— Akshita Jain
5. Baigan Ka Bharta
If you are working with limited supplies and/or cooking skills, you should consider the eggplant roast. Relatively easy and less time consuming—30 minutes should suffice—this dish also requires few ingredients to make. It is tasty, can be made quickly and generally has no adverse impact on health. If, like me, you were raised in the western parts of the country, this may have some nostalgia value as well. It certainly does for me as it is a shortcut version of a recipe my mother uses to cook this dish at our home.
2 medium size eggplants (round, black coloured ones)
2 small onions chopped
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon red chilli powder (more if you like a sharp taste)
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Chopped garlic (as per requirement)
Any cooking oil
Clean and put the eggplants to roast on burners. Keep a watch on them to see how much each side of the eggplants gets exposed to the fire and keep turning them frequently to ensure they are evenly cooked. Parallely, you may chop onions and garlic to save time. Roast the eggplants on the burner for a good 15, even 20, minutes to ensure they are properly cooked from all sides. One sign of an adequately cooked eggplant is that it will leak a small amount of liquid and its black cover will turn brittle. That’s ideal. Once all the eggplants are adequately roasted, switch off the burner, take them down into a plate and remove their black cover in entirety retaining only the soft and oily interior.
Now heat cooking oil in a pan, pour half tablespoon cumin in it and let it heat for a couple of minutes. Once the cumin is mildly heated, put the cut pieces of garlic into the mix and stir till it turns one shade darker. Follow this with putting chopped onions in the mix and stir well till it turns a darker shade but take care to not fry it excessively. Now add the eggplant to this mix and top it up with red chilli and turmeric powder, mix and stir in the pan vigorously for about five or ten minutes. Add salt to the dish. This tastes good with tava roti as well as sliced bread.
— Akshay Deshmane
6. Winner Chutney
As a new bride, wedded to the Olive Green, I faced the uphill task of hosting frequent dinner parties with completely new recipes. The most cumbersome task was to make different chutneys and despite trying hard, I was not able to make the momo chutney.
After lot of brainstorming sessions with a friend, I came up with a unique all purpose chutney that literally goes with anything. From momos to plain chapatis to pakoras and even with aaloo pooris and vegetable pulao, this is really awesome and takes only 5 minutes to make.
4 to 5 tomatoes
10-15 cloves of garlic,5 to 6 green chillies
Fresh Coriander leaves: To add a dash of green colour to the tomato puree.
Salt to taste
1 lemon (medium sized)
Put all the ingredients (except lemon and salt) in a jar and churn it well to a consistency that is not too solid and not too runny. Add salt and the juice of one lemon to the mixture and serve it with anything you like.
— Rachna Khaira
7. Bengali Aloo’r Torkari With A Twist
If you’re Bengali, you HAVE had the shada aloor torkari at home a million and a half times. My mother would make it with a bit of a twist — with tomatoes. This was a staple in our home, and it goes well rotis or paranthas. It requires little effort and the ingredients are available in most Indian kitchens. This is my go to when I don’t have the energy to cook proper meals.
4 potatoes peeled and cut into small squares
2 tomatoes finely chopped
2 teaspoons of oil (any kind)
1 teaspoon kalonji (black cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
A pinch of hing (asafoetida) — optional
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnishing — optional.
Heat a the oil in a kadhai and once it’s hot put in the kalonji. When it starts to crackle, put in the potatoes, turmeric, salt, and red chilli powder. After frying for a few minutes on medium-high heat, put in the tomatoes and fry on high heat. Keep stirring so that the potatoes don’t stick to the kadhai. Once the tomato starts to cook a little, put in a pinch of hing, and cook on low heat, covered till the potatoes are cooked. Garnish with coriander if you have some in your fridge.
— Rohini Chatterji