How to make a little go a long way - use your ingredients efficiently

May 24 2022. views 1240

Thanks to the current economic and political unrest in our country, resources are either scarce or hard to come by, therefore we’ve become a lot more mindful of how we cook our food and how we can use the ingredients to their maximum potential. Here are a few things you can do to utilise your precious ingredients mindfully, get more for less and overall be a conscious cook.

Hydrate your rice and pulses
The staple and most revered carb in any Sri Lankan household is rice.  Let us tell you a trick many restaurants and hotels use to increase the yield, they soak it in water overnight. Even if you forget you can soak the rice for an hour or so. This rehydrates the grain, gives you more for less and the outcome is a beautiful batch of fluffy rice. This method also reduces the cooking time by a significant amount therefore you use less cooking gas or electricity. You can do this for any type of dried item like masoor dhal, green gram or chickpeas.

Use the whole vegetable wherever possible
We don’t even give it a second thought when we grab our knives or peelers and slash away removing the peel of any vegetable. The peel happens to be the best part and contains vital nutrients so why throw it away? All you need to do is wash your vegetables thoroughly under running water, use a clean sponge when necessary to get rid of all the dirt and impurities and you are good to go. Things like sweet potatoes, ash plantains, carrots, and zucchini can be used whole in their respective dishes.
Some roots like radish, turnip and beetroot come with the leaves still intact. Instead of throwing it away, incorporate it into your dish. Better yet, make a salad or mallung now you have two dishes from one source- now that is smart cooking!

No onions? Don’t fret
Use shallots or the white stalk of the leek if you do not have onions, it can add a similar flavour profile to your dish that an onion usually adds.

Cook curries that can be kept longer
There is a reason, food like seeni sambol, polos (baby jackfruit) ambul thiyal ( sour fish) are made and taken on trips that require you to travel for a few hours. The use of oil and lack of coconut milk makes the curry last longer. Any curry cooked “mirisata” can be kept for at least 6 hours or even a day or two without refrigeration. However, please remember that humidity and cooking conditions play a huge role in the longevity of food so always use clean containers for storage and practise high standards of hygiene while cooking.

Go Coconuts
If you use scraped coconut in your cooking, try either tempering it in oil for sambols, or roast the scraped coconuts. This removes the moisture thereby decreasing the probability of it spoiling.You can use this for “pittu”and “pol roti”. Additionally, it will result in a rather pleasant smoky and nutty flavour.
After extracting the coconut milk do not throw it away. You can store this and use it for things like roti, pittu and sambol ( the flavours will not be the same of course) but if that is something you don’t want to do, use it as a cleaning aid. Our grandmothers and mothers would sprinkle this shredded and used coconut on any oil stain or curry spills and get sparkling results.

Pickle your troubles away
Given that most or some of us eat just one or two curries these days, why not add a rice puller to your plate? Pickle anything from limes, onions, green chillies and enjoy it with your meals. Another bonus is that this can be added to your curries too and is excellent for lunu miris and sambols or mallung.

Give it a zing
Lime is the traditional medium used to add sourness to our dishes but what if you run out of it? You can use garcinia or tamarind instead. Simply add a little water and make a paste and mix it in, you will hardly notice the difference.

Keep away for a rainy day - under sand
Now this was something our grandmothers did, so your neighbour gave you a jackfruit and you really aren’t in the mood to use the seeds just yet? Bury and dry it under the sand, the seeds preserved this way are also called “wali kos” you can do this with lime and certain types of potatoes too. With unpredictable power cuts, these age-old methods sure come in handy.

A dash of salt
Even though we are an island, fish has become quite expensive, so how can we make this last longer? Have you heard of Jaadi? It is quite a popular way of preserving fish which started on the southern coasts of our beautiful island. Basically, the cleaned fish (herring, tuna and seer are said to work best for this) is placed in a clean dry clay pot, then layered on top with an adequate amount of salt and garcinia and then these layers are repeated and then sealed off and kept for a few weeks till it is ready for consumption. This can be done at home, a simple search on YouTube will give you many instructional videos. Jaadi curry is said to be extremely flavourful and this method is a perfect way of stashing away some fish for the future.

Sugar and spice and everything nice
We must give an honourable mention to chutneys. If you have some mangoes, billing (cucumber tree) or ambarella (June plums) in your garden or you find them for a good price, make chutney. An amazing rice puller, it can be used creatively as a base for curries, sauces, on your sandwiches... the possibilities are endless.

We hope these little tips will ease even a small burden off your chest. Right now,  it is in our best interest to use our resources as efficiently as possible and this includes our time as well.


Charindi Meegastenna

A fashion designer by profession with a flair for all things related to food and lifestyle. She is also an adrenaline junkie, animal lover, vegetarian and island girl through and through.


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