The merry showers have brought a smile on everyone’s face. But, monsoon has its share of woes too. Say for instance, you’ve just taken a bowl of crispies to pair up with your ginger tea, and you find them soggy. Or, you feel like eating hot khidchi to beat the cold, but you find worms creeping in the rice and pulses, and fungus around the spices.
Spoilage of food due to microbial growth is a common problem in this season. But there’s a way out. And, who better to know the tricks than chefs who have to store large quantities of various food items in their kitchens. So, we talk to a few city chefs to find out how to keep food fresh and crisp during the rainy season.
The appearance of mellow green moulds on the bread is very common in monsoon. The best thing to do it away is to buy small packs of bread that you can use up quickly in a day or two. If you must keep it for a longer period, leave them in the refrigerator, wrapped properly so that air or moisture does not seep inside. Also, do not forget to heat and
toast the bread well before you eat. Learn to bake fresh bread at home, and have it oven fresh.
Sugar and salt
Basic ingredients, such as sugar and salt, often melt and become runny during the monsoon. Keep the jars away from a damp area or in direct contact with a concrete shelf as that is usually cold in the monsoon. Ditch plastic/aluminum jars and store them in glass bottles. Tighten the lid every time after you’ve used them. Throw in a little raw rice into the container so that the moisture inside is absorbed.
Biscuits, cookies and chips often get soggy and limp during the rain. Wrap them carefully in blotting paper and store in a dry container. You can also keep crispies in between the wax papers if you are layering them in a store box. Open packets of biscuits or potato chips can even be stored in a refrigerator and before eating, put them in the microwave for a minute.
Grains like wheat and pulses often invite worms in the rainy season. Spread them out in a newspaper under the sun at least once a week, and before storing back, microwave them for a few minutes. Cool and store in a dry, air-tight jar. You can also store the packets of pulses in the fridge to prevent bacterial growth. Tie camphor pieces in a piece of cloth and put them in your rice jar to keep worms away.
Vegetables often rot faster in monsoon than other seasons, and thus need special care. Wash them well, and wrap veggies such as cauliflower, spinach, coriander, beans, carrots, cabbage and capsicum in newspapers and seal them in zip lock bags as a foolproof method to keep them fresh. The newspaper will soak up the moisture and keep the veggies fresh for long.
Sun-dry your spices when there’s some sun amid the showers. This will free the spices of fungal growth. Roast whole spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, pepper etc for a few seconds on the tawa, cool them and lock them in air tight containers, with a dry bay leaf each. To prevent the growth of white layer of fungus on powdered spices, such as red chilli powder, add a few cloves to prevent clumping. Most importantly, never use a wet spoon to take out the spices from the jars.
(with inputs from chef Ramesh Sharma, Coopers Grill and Bar; AS Pundir, food and beverage manager, Wokamama; and chef Bhishan Negi, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon)