The art of preserving food so you don't have to keep running to the supermarket
Simple tips to extend the shelf life of your favourite foods
There’s never been a better time to become a masterchef. With supermarket queues stretching down the street, avoid wasting time or getting into fistfights with panicked buyers by taking nani’s advice and preserving food.
Not all vegetables were created equal. Some can withstand a quarantine for weeks with minimal interference, while others need TLC or they shrivel up after a few days.
Try boiling vegetables like broccoli, peas, French beans and asparagus for 30 seconds before freezing them.
This tip for preserving food will ensure they don’t turn brown, says food writer Caroline Hire.
“Using a slotted spoon, scoop them out into a bowl of heavily iced water. Once chilled, drain the vegetables and scatter them onto a tray lined with kitchen paper. Freeze on the tray, then transfer to a freezer bag,” she recommends.
Preserving foods like breads, milk, butter and cheese in the freezer is easy, but the same doesn’t apply to raw eggs, vegetables with high water content and yoghurt or paneer.
Once you’ve wrapped your food items in plastic freezer bags or foil, label them so you’re not digging through Narnia to find them.
Achar is the abracadabra of Indian cooking, potent magic that can elevate even the most banal khichdi or dry chapati.
Every North Indian home has a bottle of nimbu achar within arm’s reach, while fish pickle has been controlling dinner tantrums in Kerala and Goa for centuries.
And as we recently discovered with our pickle taste test, you can even use this method when preserving foods like chicken and mutton.
You can pickle vegetables like gherkin, beans, beetroot, carrot, cherry tomatoes and cucumber in a glass bottle filled with brine (equal parts vinegar and water) and toss in spices, garlic or herbs like dill, oregano or rosemary for added flavour.
Pop them into the fridge and wait 48 hours before opening them, provided you have the self-control.
If you’re ready to put your chef’s hat on, try this delicious pickle recipe.
Mutton Pickle by Sanjeev Kapoor
500 gms boneless mutton, diced and pressure-cooked with salt
3-4 tbsp oil
2-3 dried red chillies
2 tsp mustard seeds
18-20 curry leaves
2 inch ginger, sliced
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup vinegar
Heat sufficient oil in a kadai. Heat 3-4 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan. Roughly chop dried red chillies and discard the seeds.
Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, cloves and ginger to the oil in the pan and mix well. Add red chillies and mix well. Switch off the heat. Add turmeric powder and mix again. Let the mixture cool down.
Add the mutton pieces, a few at a time, to the hot oil in the kadai and deep-fry till crisp.
Add cumin powder, mustard powder, 1 tbsp red chilli powder and salt, mix well.
Drain and add the mutton pieces to the pan and mix well. Add lemon juice and mix.
Let this mixture cool slightly and add vinegar.
Transfer the pickle into sterilized bottle. Serve as required.
Whether you can’t function without your morning glass of OJ or you’re trying to get fussy eaters to eat their fruits and greens, juices can come to your rescue.
When preserving food in juice form for over 72 hours, pop them into glass airtight containers immediately after juicing, then stick them in the deep freeze. Leave a little space in the container to account for expansion.
You could even consider storing them in the form of ice cubes or popsicles, especially if you plan to serve them to kids.
Though it’s a perfectly acceptable healthy dessert (4 pm snack/ lazy breakfast) option for adults too…
When supermarket shelves are being cleared out faster than Usain Bolt, it’s time to figure out how to reuse the leftovers in creative ways.
Making a delicious broth that can be used to flavour soups, pulao and curries is easy with whatever bits and bobs of vegetables you have left.
In fact, you can even use carrot peels, onion skins, wilted beans, celery leaves and ends, and other items that would have flown straight into the garbage bin to enrich your vegetable broth.
If you’re a meat eater, use the bones to add protein and intense flavour.
Vegetable broth recipe from Savory Lotus
- Any old veggies
- Carrot peels and small ends
- Sweet potato peels and small ends
- Celery ends and leaves
- Onion and shallot skins
- Green onion (spring onion) or leek ends
- Mushroom stems
- Small amounts of broccoli stems or kale stems
- Slightly wilted greens from fridge
Add flavour by tossing in herbs and spices of your choice, like garlic, pepper, haldi, ginger, thyme, oregano etc.
You can even roast the veggies in the oven for 15 minutes before putting them to boil to extract maximum flavour.
- Add all your ingredients to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the flame and simmer (covered) for an hour.
- Strain the water and transfer to airtight, glass containers. If stored in the fridge, the stock will last for a week.
- You can extend the life of the stock by freezing it in smaller batches.