Friday, January 23, 2009

Stocking up your kitchen

They say you should not go shopping when you are hungry 'cos you end up buying stuff you don't really need. You shouldn't buy too much stuff because firstly, it occupies precious space, secondly it could rot and rotting food is very stressful. Puts you in a bad mood, which is something you don't want in a kitchen.

The safest thing to do is have a meal, then get a pen and paper and make a list. You may need many things for different rooms and purposes, but we are concentrating on food here. Kitchen stuff.

I find the easiest way to get a groceries list done is to work it by meals. Breakfast. If you eat a heavy breakfast, get eggs, porridge, milk, cheese, salt, pepper, butter, bread, tea, coffee, cocoa, juice, sugar, cold meats, fruit and oil for cooking. Its smart to keep eggs in your fridge at all times, they come in handy for a quick omlette any time of the day or night. The rest can be bought by the pack with maybe a kilo of sugar and salt and half a kilo each of tea and coffee.

Then make your list for lunch and dinner. If you eat rice, buy a couple of kilos. If you eat chappatis or rotis buy a couple of kgs of flour. A balanced meal would need a portion of carbohydrates rice or chappatis or bread. Bread is convenient but not very healthy. A portion of meat or fish. A vegetable. A fresh salad. Dessert. Fruit.
You will need ginger-garlic paste for your meat dish, powdered spices, cloves, cardamoms (elaichi, bay leaves, pepper, red chilli powder, coriander (dhaniya) powder, cummin (jeera) powder. Once you get adventurous in the kitchen buy whole spices which you can roast and then grind and cook. YOu will need some herbs like curry leaves, green coriander and green chillies. Lemons are a good idea. A little fresh lime squeezed into a meat or veg dish just before taking it off the stove gives it that extra special lift. When you buy any meats, whether it is beef or pork or chicken, buy it from an outlet which has a quick turnover. Check the quality of the meat to see that it is fresh. Chciken should be pale and plump, firm to the touch, if the skin is wrinkled and has a grey tinge return it with thanks. Beef and mutton should be red and firm, liver should be a dark burgundy, pork should be pink and firm. Use your finger or any blunt implement. If you press down on the meat it should slowly spring back into shape not stay depressed.

You have to be careful while buying fish. Check that the eye of the fish is not sunken in. Lift the gill flap of the fish and check that the gills are a nice rich red colour. Fish with pink and grey gills are to be avoided.The freshest fish is when you hold it by the head with the tail straight up. If the body of the fish remains erect, it is fresh. If it flops limply it is stale. Prawns should not be limp and should not have an unpleasant smell. Crabs should never be bought during the full moon. Remember this rule: When the moon is full the crab is empty.

Vegetables. Never mind if it is not brightly coloured or shiny. They say those are the ones that are treated with chemicals and even polished with oil. In fact veggies with caterpillars they say are good for you. Not that you are encouraged to eat caterpillars. Look on any resident caterpillar in your cauliflower or ladyfinger as your personal food taster. If the veggie has not killed the caterpillar, then there's no chemical pesticide on it and it definitely won't kill you in the long run. Just gently place the caterpillar on a bush and let it carry on with its activities. Vegetable should be firm and fresh. That's good enough.

To cook most veggies you will need a base of onions, a touch of garlic, tomato, powdered spices, a couple of green chillies, some fresh coriander and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Dessert. Icecream and or fruit is the easiest. Fruit should be firm and not bruised.

Once your shopping's done my next post will be all about storing your groceries and meats. If you store your stuff properly, it makes life so much easier. Later we'll get round to cooking. With each recipe, I'll also impart some of the hard lessons I've learned in the kitchen and some of the cosmetics one can use straight out of the shelf.

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