Brunch is typically an indulgent affair — right after breakfast. However, with quarantine as the major event in our lives (Of course, the COVID-19 takes the cake!), we tend to spend our mornings with house chores and skip straight to brunch — breakfast & lunch. Lazy as we typically are, we look for ideas that can cook in just a few minutes — the hungrier we are, the more impatient we can be!
However, just because you are indulging in a mid-day feast, it does not mean that the meal has to get you bogged down for the rest of the day. A few brunch recommendations will help you keep it light and lovely for your second half.
Spicy Scrambled Tofu Tacos (Paneer can be used if you prefer)
We all know tofu can be flavourless unless you use the correct combination of spices and techniques. This recipe will give your tofu a spicy zing and also give you a nutritious lunch on your hands!
All you need is:
· 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
· 2 bell pepper, cored and diced (normal green capsicum works just fine!)
· 1/2 medium red onion, diced
· 3 tomatoes
· 1 tablespoon chilli powder
· 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
· 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
· 1 firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and rinsed (approx. 500 grams) / paneer
· Juice of 1 lime, more or less to taste
· Base + Toppings
· 8–10 small corn tortillas, warmed
· 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and mashed with sea salt + lime juice to taste
For the Spicy Scrambled Tofu (Paneer)
· In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers and red onion, and sauté for 4–6 minutes, or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally
· Meanwhile, add the Roma tomatoes to a blender and pulse several times to chop and purée. You want them to be thoroughly chopped yet maintain a bit of texture. Set aside
· Add the chilli powder, smoked paprika, and sea salt to the pepper and onion mixture. Continue to sauté for 1 minute, or until the spices begin to bloom and become fragrant
· Stir in the tomatoes and crumble in the tofu/paneer. Simmer for 10–12 minutes, or until the liquid reduces, stirring occasionally
· Stir in the lime juice and continue to simmer for just 1 more minute. Then, turn off the heat
· Taste and season with more sea salt if desired. (I usually add another 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. Proper seasoning is essential to a flavorful tofu scramble and while you certainly don’t want to over-season, don’t be too shy with the salt.)
· Scoop a bit of the tofu filling into each warm tortilla. Top with a dollop of mashed avocado, a bit of cilantro (if using), and a few dashes of hot sauce (if using)
· Serve immediately
· Leftovers can be refrigerated in separate containers for up to 2 days.
Spring Onion Pancakes
· Tired of the sweet pancakes? Here’s a savoury one for your lazy hands and eager bellies. All you need is:
· 2.5 cups flour, plus more for dusting the surface
· Salt, to taste
· 1 tbsp sesame oil
· 1 cup boiling water
· 1/4th cup vegetable oil, plus more for pan if needed
· 1.5 to 2 cups spring onions, thinly sliced
· Vegetable oil for brushing
· Whisk the flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix in the sesame oil, then pour in the boiling water and mix until a rough dough form
· Dust your work surface lightly with flour, then turn out dough onto it and knead until smooth. Add more flour if things get too sticky — this should take about five minutes!
· Cover with a towel or cling wrap and rest on the counter for 1 hour
· Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time: on a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece until very thin (around 10–11 inches in diameter). Brush the surface with oil, then scatter a handful of the spring onions over it
· Starting with the side closest to you, roll the pancake away from you into a tight cylinder. Then, starting at one end, roll the dough into a spiral around itself (like a coil). Cover with plastic wrap and repeat with the remaining dough
· Rest the coils for 10–15 minutes, then roll each one out to about 6 inches
· Heat a little oil in a tava or frying pan over medium-low heat and cook each pancake, turning frequently so they cook evenly without the scallions burning, about 8–10 minutes until golden brown on each side
· Let them cool for a few minutes, then cut into wedges.
Tip: Best served with chilli oil, or quick dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar and chilli flakes!
This would be the easiest flex in your homes for a quick and flavourful meal. The easiest essential available during our lockdown days is bread. Why not twist the original recipe for something bread-y in minutes?
All you need is:
· 3 cups worth of bread cubes (5 to 6 slices chopped in nine-squares)
· 2 tbsp cooking oil of your choice
· 1 tsp mustard seeds
· ½ tsp cumin seeds
· 1 medium onion finely chopped
· 1 green chilli, finely chopped
· 3/4th to 1-inch ginger — finely chopped or grated
· 6 to 7 curry leaves
· 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
· 1/4th tsp turmeric powder
· 1/4th tsp red chilli powder
· 1 ping Hing
· 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (for topping)
· Salt as required
· Chop the bread slices in cubes. Keep aside. Finely chop the onions, green chilli, ginger and tomatoes. keep aside. Chop the curry leaves and coriander leaves. Keep aside
· Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds and let them crackle and pop
· Then add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. Stir and saute till the cumin seeds also crackle and change their colour. Add 1/3 cup chopped onion. Stir. On a low to medium flame, saute the onions till they turn translucent
· Add 1 green chilli (finely chopped), 1 tsp finely chopped ginger and 6 to 7 curry leaves, chopped. Stir and saute till the raw aroma of ginger goes away. About 10 to 12 seconds. Then add 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes. About 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
· Add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder and a pinch of asafoetida (optional). For a spicier taste in bread upma, you can increase the red chilli powder to 1/2 tsp. Mix very well. Add salt
· Stir and saute this onion-tomato-spices mixture till the tomatoes soften and you see oil releasing from the sides. The tomatoes have to be cooked well, otherwise, you will feel the rawness in them. There should also be no liquids or moisture in the mixture and it should be slightly dry. Otherwise, the bread cubes become soggy
· Add the bread cubes. Mix the bread well with the rest of the mixture. On a low to medium flame, saute the bread cubes for 4 to 5 minutes till they become slightly crisp from the edges
· This way there is some crispness in the bread cubes on the edges, along with a soft texture in the centre of the cubes. Then add 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
· Instead of adding coriander leaves at this step, you can also garnish with them, while serving the bread upma. Mix and serve bread upma hot as a breakfast or as a quick snack.
Pan-Seared 10-minute Chicken
This is an easy one and makes for a protein-filled meal with excellent taste. All you need to do is marinate the chicken (choose how much your family requires) with mustard, honey, green chillies, salt, pepper and garlic (all this can be to your taste). Keep the marinated chicken aside for 5–7 minutes. Heat oil in a pan, add the marinated chicken and throw in vegetables of your choice (I recommend a combination of beans, carrots, onions, broccoli and some peppers) and let it cook for 4–5 minutes. Add herbs of your choice at the time of serving the meal.
Filled with water and available at your local grocer all year round, cucumbers make for the perfect ingredient for a summer cooler. Add some mint leaves to the mix and you have a serious “cool” drink on your hands!
All you need is:
· 1 Cucumber
· 3 Tbsp Sugar
· 6 to 8 mint leaves
· 3 Tbsp lemon juice
· 1 tsp black salt (or normal salt)
· Ice Cubes
· 3 Cups chilled water
· Lemon rings & mint leaves for garnish
· Cut 3–4 very thin slices of cucumber for garnishing
· Peel the remaining cucumber and cut into small pieces
· Blend the cucumber in a blender with sugar, mint leaves and 1 cup of water
· Strain using a sieve
· Discard the pulp
· Add lemon juice, black salt and remaining water in the cucumber juice
· Add one thin slice of cucumber in each glass and put some ice cubes
· Pour the drink in the glass
· Garnish with lemon ring and mint leaves
· Serve immediately.
For the mango season we truly love, why not make better use of the raw mangoes that are currently available at every vegetable seller? An aam panna is just what you need for a refreshing afternoon with your loved ones!
All you need is:
· 4 Medium-sized raw mangoes
· 2 Cups water
· Salt, to taste
· 1 Tbsp Fennel Seeds
· 1-inch ginger, peeled & sliced
· 1 & 1/3rd cups sugar
· Handful of mint leaves
· In a pressure cooker, add raw mango and pour 2 cup water
· Cover and pressure cook for 2–3 whistles or until mango is cooked well
· Cool completely, and peel the skin of the mango
· Also, scrape the pulp of mango making sure the skin has separated
· Transfer the mango pulp into a bowl, add ginger
· In a bowl, add fennel seeds and water and let it soak for a few minutes.
For the masala:
· 1 tbsp cumin seeds
· 2–3 cardamom pods
· 8–10 black peppercorns
· Salt, to taste
· In a pan, add cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns and salt to taste dry roast them well
· Once it’s cool down, transfer it into a grinder jar and grind it into a fine powder
· In the same jar, add raw mango pulp, ginger, soaked fennel seeds and grind it into a smooth paste
· Add sugar, mint leaves and a few ice cubes and grind it into a smooth paste
· To serve, in a tall glass take a spoonful of aam panna concentrate and add a few ice cubes
· Pour in ice-cold water and mix well
· Finally, enjoy aam panna garnished with fresh mint leaves.
While we continue to embrace extensions of the current lockdown owing to the situation caused by COVID-19, let’s make our meals more nutritious with the above recipes. In the wise words of Gandhi, the father of our nation, ‘It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver’. However, always remember, too much of anything is rarely a good thing!