Cooking may be the last thing on many (uni) students' minds. The fresher's culture in particular provides ample persuasion in the form of L1 drinks, 7-stop bar crawls, clubbing, house parties and of course sleeping all of that off, in preference of freshly cooked food. It probably doesn't help that campus supermarkets are often expensive and probably not the best stocked (least so for Indian groceries). Some students may just not know how to cook.
There are so many reasons why cooking vegetarian Indian food at home is the way forwards
o You may find yourself homesick. Although you may have been bursting to get away from home, being at home does have its virtues; at least you get a good home cooked meal.
o If you live of junk food, you will gain weight!
o You may find the vegetarian options limiting, depending on where you have gone to university or you may simply yearn for Indian food which is perhaps harder to source, depending on where you are.
o A diet that's poor in nutritional value will leave you feeling tired and lacking lustre, you may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate in those lectures. Then of course there are the spots and greasy hair that may come as a result of a bad diet
o Cooking vegetarian Indian food in your student home will be a great way to impress people and make friends. The very first meal I cooked for my now husband was when I was a fresher; channa masala (and I used tinned chickpeas).
Here I give you 12 delectable, really easy and speedy recipe ideas for vegetarian Indian dishes. Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, these ideas are real winners. I will also give you an idea of the basic spices to keep in the cupboard (don't worry; they have quite a long shelf life!)
Curry out of a can
Tinned Legumes and pulses can be stored in the cupboard and it's really easy to whip up a curry with them. Try Butterbeans ; fry off onions , garlic, cumin, and a sprig of curry leaves in a couple of tablespoons of oil, add turmeric and salt, add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and half a can of coconut milk. Then grate in 10g of ginger. Mop it up with some bread...its heart-warming.
Sweet corn curry is a popular favourite. Using the same spices as the butterbean curry, but this time, minus the coconut milk and add a couple of dark red chopped tomatoes and a handful of ground nuts to the mix. It's very Moorish. You can create more or less gravy simply by adding water. I like it quite dry with some yogurt.
Chickpea curry is a classic. I like to add a few twists to it, like spinach wilted in at just before I take it off the heat, or maybe some shallow fried tofu, or soya mince. I like to add a couple of teaspoons of dried fenugreek leave to chickpea curries; some people recognise this as a general curry aroma. If you want to avoid any of the spice-adding decisions, you can buy channa masala spices in a box from Indian grocers.
Fresh quickie Curries
Yes, fresh Indian ingredients can be hard to source, but that doesn't mean to say we can't use widely available vegetables to make a curry. Here is a great one for detox; spinach, dill and fenugreek curry. It's so aromatic and easy on the tummy. It contains Iron and fibre. All you do is chop then up, fry off a large onion and couple of spring onions in cumin, mustard seeds and a little garlic and then and all of your ingredients with a couple of chopped tomatoes. Spice with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric. Cook in on a low flame for about 15mins and then sprinkle 1/2 tsp of garam masala at the end.
Here is another cheat, inspired by a traditional Gujarati recipe. Potato curry in thick, rich gravy. Take a mixing bowl; add one can of chopped tomatoes, 70g of coarsely ground unsalted peanuts, 1/2 cup of gram flour, then add 1/4 tsp turmeric, salt and chilli powder to taste, 1 tsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder and 1/2 tsp of garam masala and 1 1/2 tsp of dried fenugreek leaves. The next bit is magic, all you do, is fry off an onion in some cumin and a sprig of curry leaves and then add a couple of cloves of garlic. Then add about 700g of baby new potatoes and coat them in the oil. Then add the mixture of tomatoes, gram, peanuts and spices. Add water to cover, and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily.
There are other simple ideas that can be made from readily available vegetables, such as cauliflower curry (don't add any water), aubergine, cabbage (again, no water), or a simple avial which is made with julienned vegetables with desiccated coconut and curry leaves. Although many recipes call for traditional vegetables like tindori, you can make this with carrots, courgettes, baby corn.
I love the versatility of aubergines. I have three varieties in my fridge at the moment and I got them all from my local supermarket (not an Indian one!). With the largest aubergine, I'm going to roast it, scoop out the flesh and mash it a little with a fork. I'm then going to fry off onions, garlic, green chillies and a then soften a couple of fresh tomatoes and add in just salt and turmeric and a squeeze of lemon. With the Japanese style aubergines, I'm just going to make two slits opposite directions upwards from the base and then use the thick potato recipe with the aubergines, just with a nice helping of coriander. With the baby aubergines, I am going to half and then roast them and then submerge them in spicy tomato gravy.
Pasta is also really versatile and you can stock up on it. I've heard many people say that they could eat pasta every day of the week...but for that, you'd need lots of inspiration...including some Indian inspiration I reckon.
One of our family favourites is what I call 'samosa filling pasta'. A couple of medium potatoes chopped, 1/2 cup of peas, a small carrot, maybe 1/2 cup of sweet corn kernels and a very large onion make the basis of the mix, spiced in chilli powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds and a squeeze of lemon. Simply add in your pasta and there you have a meal for at least 2-3. Sometimes, I add cheese on top, and funnily enough, it works.
You could try shallow frying some vegetables like 1/2 head of a small cauliflower, some sweet potato and a cup of peas and then adding a gram flour and yogurt mix (400g of yogurt and 2 tbsp of gram flour). Just add some curry powder and that's how easy it is.
Indian Sandwich Ideas
One of my favourite sandwich recipes requires investing in some chat masala. It's not hot, but it's punchy and brings life to salads and sandwiches. I really recommend a 3 layer sandwich. Peel a potato and then slice it thickly. Boil until cooked, drain and cool. Then use ingredients like a little chilli sauce, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes. If you have some coriander, grind together a couple of handfuls with a couple of chillies, a little lemon and salt and a tbsp of water. Spread this on the bread...it's amazing. This sandwich throws my mind to the streets of Mumbai...anyway...Layer the vegetables on toasted bread, sprinkling chat masala gently.
I'd love to know how you get on with these user-friendly recipes. I'd love to hear what you think.