Sharing with you some tips that I have learnt from my elders or myself over time. These tips have helped me save time while cooking Indian food without compromising on the flavors.
Pre-prepare the spice blends
Spices are a very important part of Indian cooking and bring the right flavors in the dish but they can be a pain to make.
So it’s better to have them prepared and ready to go if you use a homemade blend or you can buy one too.
Blends like garam masala, sambar masala etc. are easily available at Indian stores. Here is a list of commonly used masalas that go well together and also resources to create your own blends.
Most of Indian cooking consists of beans, lentils, chickpeas i.e. grains that take longer to cook.
Cooking them takes longer and these cook much faster if soaked overnight.
Overnight soaked beans cook much faster in the pressure cooker and slightly faster in an Instant Pot. So always pre soak the beans, preferably overnight. In case you forget they can be soaked for 2-3 hours in hot water as well and should cook just as well in the pressure cooker.
Use a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
Even overnight soaked beans will take much longer to cook without a pressure cooker or instant pot. Cooking rice, lentils or beans is not very time and energy efficient and a pressure cooker or instant pot will always cook them faster and better.
Comparison of all the cooking options
To prove that soaking overnight and using pressure cooking saves time drastically, we did some test runs.
We have listed below all the different ways of cooking beans based on different cookware, meal prep options. These options are arranged in increasing order of time they take.
|Option||Meal Prep||Cookware||Time Taken|
|Option 1||Soak Overnight or Quick Soak||Instant pot||15-20 mins on High Pressure|
|Option 2||Soak Overnight or Quick Soak||Pressure Cooker||20-25 mins|
|Option 3||No Soaking||Instant Pot||30 mins on High Pressure|
|Option 4||No Soaking||Pressure Cooker||45 mins|
|Option 5||Soak Overnight or Quick Soak||Stove top in a pan with lid||60-70 mins|
|Option 6||No Soaking||Stove top in a pan with lid||90 -120 mins|
*We have provided a range for time taken because it varies slightly based on the water type, pressure cooker and type of beans.
Based on all these combinations listed in the table above Option 1 i.e. to soak them overnight and then using instant pot is the fastest way to cook beans but it requires some planning and also specialized pressure cooking cookware.
Pot in pot cooking
You can use your pressure cookers and instant pots even more efficiently by doing pot in pot cooking(PIP). Pot in Pot cooking helps us cook multiple things at the same time so you can cook rice, lentils and boil your potatoes at the same time and less than 20 mins.
When cooking South Indian food, I plan my Pot in Pot layers such that I am able to cook my lentils, boil veggies for sambar(while ensuring they don’t get mushy), cook tomatoes for rasam and boil potatoes for dosa filling all in one go and in less than 20 mins.
Invest in a food processor
I have been a big fan of manual chopping and the fact that it requires less cleanup than a food processor so I stalled buying one as long as I could. I believed that it wasn’t worth it and boy was I wrong!
The key is to do bulk chopping over the weekends and keeping it in the fridge to be used as needed.They can be slightly pricey but you can save for one and it doesn’t have to be top of the line with all the bells and whistles just something sturdy that gets the job done.
Pre make staples like ginger garlic paste, tamarind paste, tomato onion base for the curries
As part of the meal prep you can make staples and store them in the fridge or freeze. I usually make a batch of ginger garlic paste(good for 2 weeks) and tamarind paste(lasts for 1 month).
The staples also are cooked in the pressure cooker again and take me around 30 mins to make both start to finish.
Use Hand blender
Indian cooking especially North Indian curries requires blending of cooked veggies to make a smooth gravy, whether it’s malai kofta, palak paneer or a paneer dish.
One usually has to cook the veggies and wait for them to cool down before you can grind it in a grinder, this used to increase my cooking time.
So instead of waiting for it to cool down and transfer it in a blender, simply blend it in the cooking pot using the hand blender.
It saves time as you don’t have to wait for food to cool down to be blended and also less things to clean.
Dry Roast and store flour (like Semolina and Chickpea)
Semolina(sooji) and chickpea flour(besan) are usually roasted before being used so you can roast and store them in containers once cooled or you can buy roasted ones from the store to save time.
This cuts down the time spent roasting the flour and helps save time while cooking Indian food and dishes.
Make idli dosa batter
The idli dosa batter is a very versatile and healthy option for quick meals. The batter can be prepared over the weekend and can be used to make multiple dishes throughout the week.
The same batter can be used to make idlis, dosa, paniyarams and uttapams. It’s a must to stress free meal planning and the weeks I am not able to make it, can really feel the pinch and regret not making it.
Batch make dough
If you make chapatis a lot then you are no stranger to the dough making process, it can be messy and takes time.
When you pull out the food processor for bulk chopping, at the end put some flour in and make dough. This will make sure that the veggie juices left in the food processor are used in the dough.
Don’t make dough for more than 2-3 days as it tends to oxidize and turn black.
Don’t chop if you are going to grind later
When making curry there are lot of times when you chop veggies, then cook them in spices and then grind them in a grinder. I used to do the same until I found another way to achieve the same results but much faster.
When making curry, I keep while tomatoes, onion, ginger and garlic in the pressure cooker with 1/2 cup water and cook them for 10-12 mins in the pressure cooker.
When you open the pressure cooker, they are already mushy and then just grind them using a hand blender. Your curry is ready in less than 15 mins.
Chop things smaller if you want them to cook faster
This one is obvious and no brainer right? But have seen it being missed so many times. When boiling potatoes, if you are in a time crunch chop them into smaller pieces.
Whenever I am boiling potatoes, frying onions or cooking any other vegetable; I always chop them small so that they are done sooner.
Can’t remember the last time I boiled a full potato, we get huge ones here and these would take forever to be done.
Use scissors to chop herbs
Have a pair of scissors marked for kitchen that you use for chopping the herbs. Its faster and less messier so saves clean up time later as well.
No more huge chopping boards to clean for a small job.