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Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus

In the last month, the world seems to have gone crazy around us. Not only has coronavirus created an unprecedented health emergency, it is causing us to relook at our lifestyle and life choices like never before. Most people I know are working from home and because I live in Mumbai and work out of a startup hub, I am getting increasingly aware of another kind of panic gripping my friends and colleagues.

If you think that eating out puts you at risk and you have never cooked before, chances are you are scratching your head on what to eat for dinner. I know of some fine folks stocking up on copious amounts of gin and 50 packets of maggi right now. But in case you are looking for a bit more variety and nutrition, here are some ideas for things you can cook even if you are an absolute novice cook. Also, read to the end for a nifty list on what to shop for when you have a pantry devoid of any supplies. It's a short list and I'm going to show you how to cook a whole week of meals with just that in hand. Let's get started.

Day 1: The easiest of all: toast with some butter.
Day 2: Make grilled cheese - slap a cheese slice between two slices of bread, lightly butter both sides and cook in a pan until browned
Day 3: Let's make eggs today. Boil 2 eggs, peel, slice and stuff between two slices of bread, just like you did with the cheese yesterday to make an egg sandwich. If you are the sorts to have mayonnaise or mustard lying around, this is the time to bring out those condiments.
Day 4: getting bored of bread? switch to granola with milk.
Day 5: You are getting to be a seasoned cook now so make an omelet. It's easy really: break two eggs into a bowl, beat with a fork alongwith salt and pepper. Heat oil in a pan, add the eggs and let cook until set. Then flip and cook the other side. If it all breaks while flipping, scramble it up and call it an egg bhurji. Eat either of the things with toast.
Day 6: Try this super simple poha
Day 7: End the week with another healthy dose of granola, with fruit and yogurt this time.

Lunch and Dinner
I'm going to assume you aren't up for cooking 3 times a day so let's just make sure you make enough to have leftovers for another meal. In that spirit, 7 easy ideas for lunch and dinner.
Idea 1: Dal with plain rice. A very simple recipe follows.
Idea 2: Lemon Rice
Idea 3: Pulao
Idea 4: Khichdi
Idea 5: Pantry Staples Pasta
Idea 6: Curd Rice
Idea 7: Pasta with store bought sauce: boil pasta as written on package, heat store bought sauce, mix. Bonus points for adding any vegetables; to do that, steam/boil the vegetables until cooked, then add to the sauce and let heat up before adding pasta.

How to Make the Simplest Dal and Rice
For dal: Measure 1/2 cup dal and 3 cups of water. Put dal in a bowl and wash. In a pressure cooker, add both the dal and water alongwith 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/4 tsp chilli powder. Cook for 5 whistles, then let the pressure drop. Check to see if the dal is cooked to your liking; if not, cook for another 2 whistles. In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp oil or ghee. Add 1 tsp each of cumin and mustard seeds, let splutter, then add to the dal.

While your dal is cooking, measure 1/2 cup of rice, put in a bowl and wash. Add the rice to a pan with 1 cup water. Start off cooking on a high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let the rice cook for 15-odd minutes. Check to see if there is any water left; the rice should be fully cooked by the time the water is absorbed. Add a tsp of ghee to amp up the flavour if you like.

What to Buy
Cheese Slices
Cumin Seeds
Mustard Seeds
Tomato Puree
Arhar or Masoor Dal
Ghee or Olive Oil
Arrabbiata Sauce

Onions, Potatoes, Lemons plus any fruits you love


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