Stay home, stay safe. These are not just buzzwords. In today’s difficult climate they are a recipe for survival. As Sindh goes into a state of lockdown in compliance with government directives, we at Foodistan have retreated to our kitchens to cook up a storm. However, in order to whip up meals that not only tickle our taste buds but pack a full punch when it comes to nutritional value, it is essential that we stock our pantry with the right ingredients and condiments. Having a well-stocked kitchen means fewer trips to the market and meals that cater to the requirements of the entire clan, which by the way is no mean feat. Here is a quick run- down of all the essential ingredients and staples that you might need to fill up your cupboards, as you and your loved ones stay safe at home.
What Pakistani kitchen is complete without lentils? You can’t go wrong with a simmering pot of yummy home cooked dhal. High in fiber and low in fat, lentils are a powerhouse of nutrients ranging from protein and minerals, to iron and vitamin B. Stock up on local varieties such as green gram (mung), red lentils, brown lentils, split Bengal gram (channay ki daal) and Black gram (Uradh ki daal). They are an excellent accompaniment for most desi menus and an ideal choice for vegetarians.
Beans and chickpeas are another versatile option that can be used in a variety of ways. Add cooked beans to soups and salads or serve them as a side dish. Chickpeas can also be used to prepare dips like hummus. Store dried varieties in airtight jars for optimum results.
Rice and oats provide an excellent base for a well- balanced diet. Oats are a heart friendly breakfast and lunch choice. The soluble fiber in oats acts as a mop ridding the body of artery clogging bad cholesterol. Store it in an air tight jar where it can easily last for a few months.
Spices such as turmeric, red chili powder, cumin, mustard and carom seeds as well as coriander powder not only provide medicinal value but are also a great way to infuse a delicate flavor to any dish. Apart from the usual suspects keeping ginger, onion and garlic powder at hand is a good way to save those trips to the grocer when these items are not available fresh.
Flour and Pasta
Flour is a multi- purpose ingredient in any desi household. Store ample quantities in canisters to keep those piping hot rotis and parathas coming during your extended stay at home. Pasta harmonizes well with most menus and moms breathe a sigh of relief, as it is quite popular with children. Starchy carbohydrates form a major portion of our diet. Keep popular varieties in your kitchen such as spaghetti, penne, fusilli and macaroni.
The right choice of condiments can make or break a meal. Store jars of ready-made Bolognese, pasta and white sauce when you are pressed for time to dress up or dress down that pasta. Soy sauce and ready- made Thai curry paste are also a good addition to your pantry to add an exotic zing to any plain stew or gravy.
While we are on the subject, here is a low down on those yum in- between meal fillers aka snacks.
Nuts and seeds: Stock up on heart healthy walnuts, iron- rich cashews and almonds. In addition to being a mouth- watering snack on their own, they can also be added to breakfast cereals. Don’t under estimate the power of seeds. Roasting Vitamin- E rich sun flower seeds gives their flavour an extra punch. Munching on pumpkin seeds might pump up your mood because of their zinc and vitamin B content as well as omega 3 fatty acids.
Sandwich pastes: A simple sandwich spread can be concocted with boiled and shredded chicken pieces, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. It lasts in the fridge easily for about a week and can be used as a nutritious and satisfying sandwich filler.
Frozen foods: Keep your freezer stocked with home -made chicken and potato cutlets and beef shami kebabs for those erratic cravings. Ready- made frozen items provide another quick solution.
Instant Soups: Keep instant soup sachets and packets for a cozy and soothing pick-me- up.
There you have it folks, all the grub that you need to make it through these tough times with tasty food on your dining table and in your tummies. Now don’t forget to wash your hands before those meals!