Last Friday, I came home from grocery shopping to a sink full of dishes and a couple of hungry kids. The time was 6:02 p.m. I had 2 choices – 1) run back outside and grab dinner from a nearby restaurant or 2) get something quick and ready in 20 min. I was able to get dinner in front of the kids at 6:23 p.m. and this is how I did it.
“Please Note – My pics in this post are very dark. I clicked them using my iphone during cooking and they did not turn out well-lit . I am working on reposting them.”
Constraints in getting dinner ready quickly
Rice – Cooking rice needs time
I have used Bulgur (a.k.a bulghur, bulgar) instead of rice. Please note – Bulgur is not the same as cracked wheat (Godumai Rava) that is available in Indian stores. You cannot cook cracked wheat in 10 minutes, it has to undergo pressure cooking just like rice. Bulgur, on the other hand, is parboiled and ground into smaller pieces. The parboiling process gets the grain semi-ready for you to eat, you just have to add hot water as the final step.
Sambar – Needs cooked dal that takes time
Instead of traditional dal, I used besan (chickpea flour) as my lentil thickener in my sambar. The inspiration for this came from the “Avasara Sambar” recipe (literally means hurried sambar) from the wonderful website “Subbu’s kitchen”.
Curry – Cutting vegetables takes time
Why should you spend 10-15 minutes cleaning and chopping fresh vegetables when it is already done for you, in the form of frozen veggies? I love frozen veggies, they are a phenomenal form of food preservation. No chemical preservatives, just cold temperatures that preserve veggies and retain nutrition . Just steam the frozen veggies and stir-fry them. Crunchy, delicious curry ready in 15 minutes, total cooking time.
As soon as I started, I put the frozen veggies in the steamer first. It takes a while to get heated and cooked, so that was my first priority.
Next, I got the electric kettle with hot water started, because once I got the hot water in with the bulghur, I was done worrying about the main carb portion of the meal.
Finally I worked on my sambar by getting the onions ready and then moving on to the blender once the onions were cooking.
Curry (15 minutes)
- Frozen tindora packet – 2
- For tempering (tadka)
- Sunflower oil – 1 Tbspn
- Mustard seeds – 1tsp
- Split Urad dal – 1 tsp
- Red chillies – 2
- Salt – to taste
This is literally the most bare bones version of a South Indian curry.
Steam the frozen veggies for 10 minutes. You can even microwave it covered for 7 minutes.
Once it is cooked, you have to flavor it. Heat up some oil. To this, add mustard seeds and urad dal for crunch, red chillies for spice.
Add the cooked veggies, stir them for 2 minutes and add salt to taste. Done!!
“Rice” (10 minutes)
Bulgur is nutritionally superior compared to rice with more fiber and more protein (12 g protein, 12 g of fiber vs 7g protein, 1g fiber for rice per 100g serving ). It is also very quick cooking. Bulgur disproves the myth that all fast cooking foods must be bad or inferior to the long cooking ones.
- Bulgur – 2 cups
- Hot water – 4 cups
- Add boiling water to bulghur.
- Cover and let it undisturbed for 7 minutes (according to package instructions). I leave mine for 10 minutes or more, no problem.
- Fluffy, hot steaming bulghur ready when you open the lid!!
- Ok, rice done…Next!!
Sambar (12-14 minutes)
What does a Sambar need?
Acidity – From tomatoes and/or tamarind.
Body – usually from lentils , here I used besan for quick cooking
Spice flavoring – typically sambar powder, but this recipe only needs red chili powder, yay!!
Vegetables – onions used here
- Oil – 1 tbspn
- Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
- Onion – 1 chopped
- Tomato -2
- Kashmiri Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Tamarind concentrate – 1/2 tsp diluted in 1/2 cup water
- Gram Flour / Besan – 1.5 Tablespoon
- Salt – 1/4 Teaspoon
Get oil heated. Add mustard seeds to hot oil, let it pop. Add chopped onions. Saute
Into a blender, add 2 tomatoes, besan, red chilli powder and some water and blend. I used Kashmiri chilli powder, since that is milder than regular Indian chili powder and the spice level my kids tolerate.
Once the onion is browned in oil (about 3-4 min), add the blended liquid. Add diluted tamarind (I used store bought 100% tamarind concentrate) to get the typical South Indian tartness taste. Let the stew come to a boil for about 4 minutes. Quick sambar ready.
Ultimate Comfort Food
This super easy dinner was ready in 20 minutes. Granted it is not a spectacular one, but it will do to fill tummies, stay healthy and hang out leisurely with the family for the rest of the Friday evening. The South Indian in me always finds a hot bowl of sambar rice, finished with a cooling bowl of yogurt/buttermilk rice the ultimate comfort food.
Do you use shortcuts for your family meals? Share your ideas with us!!
P.S. – The second photo in the cover picture is yogurt rice (buttermilk rice). South Indians typically have plain yogurt at their home and finish their meal with yogurt rice accompanied by curry or sambar.