5 Lunch Ideas

I’m trying to return to the kitchen, and coming back home to cook every afternoon is one of the ways in which I’m trying to get back to cooking. These were our lunches for this past week.

I recently realised (yet again), that I’ve virtually stopped cooking. To fix this, I’ve now started returning home in the afternoons and fixing lunch for Indu and Cherie. This mostly means cooking up a reasonable lunch with whatever’s on hand, with at least a modicum of nutrition too, or face Indu’s wrath.

So, here’s what hapenned these past few days.

Lunch #1: Grilled Platter
[singlepic id=1367 w=220 h=140 float=right]A very simple meal to make, with nearly no additional fats included, a grilled platter is usually your failsafe, should you ever forget to prep. My grilled platter included smoked sausages, roasted potatoes, grilled tomatoes, bell peppers and cottage cheese, served with a bowl of mayonnaise-yogurt dip. If you’re vegetarian, skip the sausages and replace them with courgettes or something similar.

  1. The potatoes were large, cut in half, brushed with a little oil and popped into the oven along with the halved smoked sausages and left to fend for themselves. They were halved, so they would cook along the same time as the sausages were done, else they would have taken a really long time… by which time the sausages would have been good as drawing charcoal sticks.
  2. The tomatoes, bell peppers and cottage cheese were grilled on a grill pan with a dash of olive oil.
  3. The dip is obvious, but would have been nicer with a dash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper. Perhaps you could try it?

Lunch #2: Steamed Head of Buttery Cauliflower with Spiced Baby Potatoes
[singlepic id=1369 w=320 h=240 float=right]It’s nice to have meals where the food is largely done unattended, and it’s the same with this dish. It features a lovely, tender, steamed head of cauliflower, on which I sprinkled some butter and grated some cheese, then finished under the grill. Accompanying the cauliflower in the steamer were a few baby potatoes too. The baby potatoes were later rolled in a little butter and sprinkled with a mixture of finely chopped garlic, salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Toast went well with this.

  1. Cut out a whole head of cauliflower (about 6 inches in diameter) and wash really well. Scrub some baby potatoes ( less than 1.5 inches in diameter) and pop them into your steamer. I don’t have a steamer and use a covered colander-ish utensil perched on a pot of water. Make sure the water isn’t too high, else it’ll splash the food above. This doesn’t matter all so much in this case, but does with some foods, so it’s a good practice to follow. Check the potatoes and if they’re done, it’s all done.
  2. While the steaming is happening, finely chop some garlic and crack some black pepper. Mix them together with a bit of salt.
  3. Keep a hot oven ready.
  4. When the steaming is done, drizzle butter and grate some cheese over the cauliflower and pop it into the oven to grill for a bit… just till the cheese melts and turns slightly brown.
  5. Roll the potatoes in a bit of melted butter and sprinkle the pepper-garlic mixture over them.
  6. Serve the buttery, grilled cauliflower and spiced potatoes with whatever toast you prefer.

Lunch #3: Spanish Rice with Curried Beef
[singlepic id=1366 w=320 h=240 float=right]I’m a bit obsessed with all things old and culinary. It’s a kind of sine-wave obsession and I’m currently at the peak. I found a bunch of lovely cookbooks at the ‘Feed America Project’ and some more at Project Gutenberg, of which I found these recipes in a 1905 book, compiled by the Los Angeles Times and another called The Khaki Kook Book, written by an American missionary lady in India around 1917. I’ll replicate them here.

Spanish Rice
No. 30 Spanish Rice –  Miss Madge Cummings, Santa Paula, Cal. –  To make enough for 12 persons, proceed as follows: Put two tablespoons of lard in a frying pan, and slice thin one small onion and let fry together with two cups of rice until cooked a little; then add three-fourth of a can of tomatoes, and cook until rice is done. Season highly with salt, pepper (cayenne) and keep this mixture quite moist by adding sufficient hot water, when it becomes dry.

Curried Beef
?2. Beef Curry.
Cut a pound of fresh beef into bits. Any cheap cut does well for this. Slice an onion very thinly, and fry together in a dessert-spoonful of fat of any kind, the meat, onion, and two teaspoonfuls of …curry powder. When they are nicely browned add several cups of water and simmer gently until the meat is very tender and the onion has become a pulp, thereby thickening the curry gravy. This requires long, slow cooking. More water may be added from time to time. If one has a fireless cooker, it should always be used in curry making. Serve with rice prepared according to taste. In India, curry and rice are always served in separate dishes. The rice is served first and the curry taken out and put over it. Usually chutney (Chapter VIII) is eaten with curry and rice.

Lunch #4: Beef Goulash on Rice
[singlepic id=1365 w=320 h=240 float=right]Browsing through another old recipe book I found a recipe for Beef Goulash. This one, ‘The Complete Everyday Cookbook’ isn’t quite as old as the ones used in the previous recipe at 40 odd years, but delivers tremendous value with hundreds of no-frills recipes listed within, one being for Beef Goulash. It seemed a little insipid for my Indian palate, so I increased the proportions of chili and pepper, and also substituted normal red chili powder for paprika as I didn’t have any. If you’re not a chili-hot-food person, I suggest using degi mirch instead of paprika if you don’t have any.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large Onions, diced
  • 50 gms vegetable shortening [/ Oil]
  • 900 gms beef [/buff/mutton], fat removed, cubed
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Generous amount of paprika
  • Cooked Noodles [/Rice]

Method:

  • In a large pan, saute onions in shortening [oil] until soft but not browned.
  • Add meat, stir, cover tightly, cook over low heat for 1 hour. Add water as needed.
  • Add salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Cook 1 hour or longer until meat is very tender.
  • Serve over noodles [/rice]

Lunch #5: Steamed Butter Garlic Vegetables on Pan Baked Cornbread
[singlepic id=1368 w=320 h=240 float=right]Right, so most of these recipes are vegetarian. Which is good really… healthier than some of our diets where we eat meat every day. Definitely enjoyable, but a predominantly vegetarian diet is better I think. I goofed up a bit in this meal. The beans should have been blanched rather than steamed, but laziness or memory, I steamed them. The cornbread was made using makki ka atta, which is the second choice to coarser cornmeal, which gives the bread a better texture. What the heck though, we cook with whatever’s available, else half our meals wouldn’t happen, waiting for the right ingredients. I baked the cornbread in my omelette pan, which worked out just fine, using a batter of makki ka atta, milk and eggs. As I usually cook by the seat of my pants, I really don’t remember the exact recipe, but if pushed, I’d say 300 grams of makki ka atta, 1 beaten egg and enough milk to make it into a batter that requires just a little persuasion to drop off a spoon. I only used carrots and beans for this meal. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll find yogurt will work just as well as egg, but I suggest looking up the net for yogurt cornbread recipes, of which there are plenty.

  1. Set up your steamer. As mentioned earlier, I use this large strainer with a handle, over a pot of water as my steamer. Pop in the carrots, cover and steam on low.
  2. In the meanwhile, make your cornbread batter (as above or you could look up the hundreds of recipes on the net), heat your pan, brush it with a little oil and pour in the batter. Smoothen the top of the batter if required, cover and place it on the lowest possible heat to cook. Later, you may need to flip it over, depending on the heat of your burner. If it’s too hot, the bottom of the bread will begin burning. If you notice this, just flip over the bread and let it cook again. Shouldn’t be long at this point.
  3. When the carrots are done, take off the heat, raise the water to a boil, then blanch and drain the carrots.
  4. If you time it properly, you’ll find your bread done at the same time as the beans, so you can use the same pan to quickly toss the vegetables in a spot of butter, finely sliced garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt and white pepper.
  5. Cut slices off the corn bread and serve piled with vegetables.

Please please have a little slice of the bread drenched in butter. You’ll love it!

– Sid