Kitchen disasters are common while preparing a meal for a big number. Radha Prathi provides tips on how to avert a few critical ones
Cooking for a large number of people can be a formidable task, especially if it involves entertaining at home. You may plan ahead and prepare a practical menu and work on it methodically, but then there is always a lurking fear that things could go awry.
Many a time, something may go wrong, leaving you wringing your hands in desperation because you may have salted your dish too much or too little, or may have overcooked or under cooked the food. Here are a few tips that can emerge as saviours and get you through the night without breaking into a sweat!
*Add a small piece of tamarind into the frying pan when you do deep frying in already used oil, for the tamarind will absorb food smells which the oil may have retained.
*Bake two or three large potatoes and keep them aside. If you find that you have salted some dish generously, you could mash these potatoes and mix it with the dish and it will absorb the extra salt without altering the taste of the dish to a large extent.
*You could use tomato puree to balance out the flavour of the dish in terms of salt, sourness or spice.
*Add a tiny pinch of sugar when you cook salted food and a pinch of salt when you cook prepare sweet dishes as this practice will not only retain the natural food colour but will highlight the flavour too.
*Add washed and freshly-cut curry leaves and coriander to the dishes after you put off the flame to retain the smell and flavour.
*Keep a litre of boiling water ready while cooking. If you feel the gravy is getting thick or your vegetables appearing dry in the pan, add small quantities of that boiling water to help it cook in the same pace.
*If you find your gravy getting very thin, take a tablespoon of rice, wheat or corn flour and mix it with cold water and make it into a thick, fine syrup and add it to the gravy while it is still cooking. Stir the contents till it simmers even as it thickens.
*If you have under salted your dish, you could dissolve the salt in some boiling water and add it to the dish and mix it well to help it blend.
*If you find your dish falling short of some spice, you could add it in the form of powder or paste to help it mix easily. Keep pastes of ginger, garlic; chilli and coriander ready as they mix easily with the cooked food and improve flavour.
*Do not hesitate to throw away seasoning which you may have burnt inadvertently as it could alter the taste of your dish to your disadvantage.
*Make sure you don’t use burnt cashews, raisins, ghee, channa dal, or for that matter any ingredient as it can upset the native flavour of the dish.
*Use natural food colours like turmeric powder, kesar or beetroot juice to highlight your food. Artificial colours may sometimes spoil the food and your digestive system too. For instance, use saffron powder or turmeric for colouring sweets and savouries respectively.
*As far as possible avoid synthetic food flavour and use a pinch of the original spice, fruit or nut to lend flavour.
*If milk curdles accidentally, you could use it to your advantage. Allow the milk to curdle further on a very slow fire, once the whey separates add a spoonful of corn flour for every half litre of curdled milk, add a lump of jaggery and a pinch of powdered cardamom and turn it into an instant sweet dish.
*If, for some reason, the dish you are preparing gets burnt at the bottom of the vessel during the process of cooking, make sure you put off the fire and transfer the contents to another vessel before continuing with the cooking otherwise the taste of the burnt dish will linger on and spoil the aroma.
*Use saffron powder or turmeric for colouring sweets and savouries respectively.
*If you find out that you have undercooked the rice or vegetable, sprinkle water and pressure cook the entire contents and season the dish lightly once again.
*If you feel that there is not enough chutney to go around at the last minute, grind some popcorn or salted biscuits along with some chillies and salt and mix them with the chutney before the final seasoning.