Saturday, January 24, 2009

The trick of storing groceries

The first thing you do when you get your stuff home is handle the perishables first.
Put the eggs, bread, butter, cheese and milk in the refrigerator. Keep the meats and fish near the sink.
The oil goes into a cabinet or shelf. Empty the fruit into a colander and run water over them, wash 'em and let 'em dry out in the colander itself.

You can roll the fresh green coriander tightly in a newspaper or paper towel and stow it in the veg tray of your fridge. What I do is chop off the roots, though there are some great cooks who like using the coriander roots for cooking. I don't. I find it eeky. So, off with the roots and the stringy stems. The tender ones i break off and dump into a box with holes for air to pass through. I always place a folded newspaper at the bottom of the box so that the coriander leaves at the bottom don't get blackened. Every time you use coriander leaves for cooking or garnishing a finished dish toss the remainder in the box so that the top leaves go to the bottom and vice versa.

These should best be washed cut and cooked immediately, but if you don't have the time or inclination, wrap each bundle tightly in newspaper or paper towels and bung it into the veg tray in the fridge for a day at the most. I'm talking of spinach, methi, red leafy vegetable that we call tambdi bhaji in Goa, spring onions or leeks. Wrapped in newspaper, spring onions last for four days even.

You get these neat nylon knit bags with draw strings on the top for storing vegetables. You should get about a dozen of these; each holds a different type of vegetable or fruit. French beans, runner beans, ladyfingers, carrots, capsicums or green peppers - each species in its bag. Brinjals, cabbage cauliflower separately. The heavy veggies go to the bottom of the drawer, tomatoes and capsicums at the top. The rest in between. Segregation is the name of the game in a veggie tray.

The trick is have a place for everything and put everything in its place. Saves a lot of time.

Trim the meat first if you haven't already done it at the cold storage or butchers. Then cut the meat into half kilo sections if you are cooking for four, or quarter kilo sections if you are cooking for two. You can cut one section into chunks, another into slices, a third can be kept as it is for a roast.
Apply salt, ginger-garlic paste (max two tablespoonfuls), two tablespoons of curd/yoghurt (curd is a handy item to have in the house, healthy and tasty); it's the easiest thing is the world to make your own curd. Take a spoonful of good firm curd not the runny type that has given up its fight. Curd is a good life lesson actually. Making proper curd is like parenting. Good parents using a fair amount of warmth get good children. If you have the 'parent' start-up curd of good quality, you get good quality curd. If you have a poor weak runny and not firm start-up curd, you get this awful baby up-chuck stuff whether you apply the right kind of heat or not. Step 1: Take a spoonful of good firm curd, place it in a stainless steel bowl. Step 2: pour half a litre of milk into it without smashing up the curd. Step 3: Place it on a very low fire until the milk becomes warm not hot. Too much heat will ruin the curd. Just like parenting see? Do it last thing at night and it's ready for you in the morning.

But back to the meat. You have salt, ginger-garlic, curd. You can add a tablespoon of meat sauce like barbeque sauce or Bancal's sauce available in Goa, a tablespoon of soya sauce and any powdered spices of your choice. Massage the mixture into the meat thoroughly. It's great for releasing tension. Imagine it's your current bully's face. Take a fork, stab the meat viciously all over so that the marinade can seep into the meat and not stay on top. Or you can take a sharp knife and score diagonal lines all over the roast piece. Of course you don't need to do any stabbing for the chunks or the slices. The slices can be pounded first then the marinade applied.

Once that is done, pack your portions of prepared meat into clean plastic bags and stash them in boxes in your freezer. When you need it pick what you want and cook it.

If it's chicken or duck, you can get it cut in pieces at the cold storage itself, or you can cut it yourself. Take the cleaver grab the leg and feel for the joint, place the cleaver on the joint, make sure you take your finger away and press down, or chop. Then go to the joint between the thigh and the hip, chop. Place the bird on its back and chop off the bottom area. I find the idea of cooking chicken bum disgusting, though there are some people who would kill for that piece. Then hold your cleaver sideways and slide it between the ribs and the back and slice upwards until you reach the shoulder. Keep your hand away from the blade. Do the same on the other side. Separate the breast from the back. Now slice the breast into pieces you like; you can have two four or five pieces.
Make the same kind of marinade for the chicken or if you want it bland just use salt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon and pepper. Pack it into plastic bags and store them in boxes.

You can get fish cleaned at the fish market itself or at the cold storage. If you can't -- no big deal. Place the fish on its side.Grab the tail with one hand and with the other hold a sharp knife at an angle against the body of the fish and scrap the scales off upwards. Flip the fish over and scrap off the scales on the other side. Take your kitchen scissors and snip off the fins and the tail. Or you can take the cleaver to the tail. Then you can do the easy thing, cut off the head of the fish and scoop out the organs from the stomach cavity. Sprinkle a little salt on the fish, and lemon juice, pack it in plastic, box it and bung it in the freezer.

You can get plastic, aluminum or steel boxes for your freezer. You can pack different parcels of seafood in one box, poultry in another, and beef, pork, mutton in their boxes. I use stainless steel boxes for storing cooked food in the freezer. Apartheid again but it makes life so much easier.

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