Chef off the shelf

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The focus these days is on ready-to-eat foods available in grocery shops

The very world of Indian food and the way in which Indians dine have changed almost dramatically over the past 10 years. The culinary adventurism that seemed to prevail earlier in the 1970s and 1980s, which saw even home grinding and mixing of all spices, has given way to convenience, speed, and nutritional concerns that affect almost every food-buying decision. Not that we are any less adventurous in our eating habits.Quite the contrary. In fact, with Indians of all ages travelling across the world as never before, our culinary horizons have never been broader or more diverse. The difference is that we are not as likely to try and cook the food ourselves anymore, or at least not totally from scratch. Of course, this trend has helped a burgeoning assortment of products intended to assist the home cook in the form of readymade sauces, spice mixes, and other ingredients. Not only that, there is a huge variety available right on the shelves, of food which just needs to be heated rather then cooked! Consider an all-time great palak paneer! First it was the buying of freshest of palak leaves from the local market, cleaning , washing the leaves three times over, boiling, grinding to the right texture, and then long cooking as per the recipe, without any shortcuts! Well, another way now to eat palak paneer is that you just go to a supermarket and pick up one ready-to-eat palak paneer, just heat it up and enjoy! Consider pizza. This once family outing food, freshly cooked with the choicest of ingredients, can now be purchased in most supermarkets across the country, packed in a see-through container. But then the pizza is not alone. In the same supermarkets, one is likely to find shahi paneer, chicken korma and any number of curries, satays, enchiladas, empanadas and other foods from around the globe. In addition, stores are featuring an ever-expanding array of international ingredients and partially prepared foods that enable consumers to concoct exotic treats at home. It is a long-term trend towards new and different foods. They see the trend influenced greatly by a steady and ever increasing number of internationally travelling Indians who are learning/have learnt new tastes. So the trend now is `convenience', and food stores do know it and are cashing in on it. Personally, I see nothing wrong as long as the food that one gets from the shelf is safe, hygienic, nutritious and consistent in taste. But no matter what, you just cannot get rid of a chef! Maybe you too are picking up food from the shelf, but it still is produced by a chef! Now the recipe for this week, and it happens to be a popular dish from South India.


Ingredients cabbage (small and chopped),
1 carrot (peeled and grated)
3 large onions (chopped)
2 grated coconuts
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp zeera powder
1/8 tsp curry leaves
Few long grained rice
2 tsp oil
5 tsp lemon juice
Salt as per taste MethodHeat the oil in a frying pan. Add the rice. When it turns to light brown, add the chopped onion and saute for three minutes. Add the grated carrot, stir for two minutes and then add cabbage, chilli, turmeric, zeera and salt. Add the grated coconut and place a lid over it and cook for two minutes. Remove the lid and add the lemon juice. Stir it occasionally and let it become dry. Add curry leaves on top. Serve hot with steamed rice.RAKESH KUMAR

(The author is Executive Chef, Crowne Plaza. He can be emailed at




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