Delna Prakashan, who recently launched her debut cookbook Whip It!, takes a Nigella-esque approach to food.
The Dubai-born Indian cook sees her approach as a joyful rebuttal to all the earnest Deliciously Ellas imploring followers to steer clear of gluten, dairy, meat, eggs and more, “or terrible things will happen to us.”
“While we’re all busy trying to change the world, self-care can take a back seat,” says Prakashan. “Being able to cook for yourself is a simple and fun way to remedy this.”
Prakashan studied hospitality and cooking in both Dubai and Europe before moving on to a career in advertising. But she never lost her passion for food, in addition to soaking up local cuisines and getting inspiration from travels around the world.
“It’s magical how food brings people together, creates the heartiest laughter and etches the best memories,” she says.
Here are her top tips for a well-kept kitchen:
- Wash as you go: Clean dishes after every meal or, better still, as you are preparing your meal. Every time a dish is baking or simmering on low heat, use the time for washing up. A basic rule of thumb is to avoid stacking dishes until the next meal, because then you would have two meals’ worth of dishes to take care of. Make it a habit to wash all that’s in the sink, particularly at night, so you can wake up to a fresh start in the morning.
- Fridge management: A picture-perfect fridge, the kind that’s right out of Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, can be your reality too. I call it fridge management, and it simply means assigning a purpose for each shelf. For example, the top shelf for me is for everyday items such as butter, cheese, milk, etc.
- Store properly: Invest in glass or plastic storage containers in different sizes. Use them to store any leftovers, ensuring you use the right size of container to maximise space in the fridge.
Don’t leave any food uncovered. This will avoid unpleasant odours and prevent food from turning dry.
- Daily upkeep: At the end of the day, spend a few minutes arranging the containers in your fridge to optimize space. And always survey your leftovers before whipping up anything new.
- Plan your supermarket visits: There was a time when I whizzed my shopping cart around the supermarket aisles like a Pacman game. With no order to my shopping list, grocery visits were a real mission. The worst bit about a disorganized shopping list is that you end up with everything in your cart except what was on your list.
- List by categories: Write up your shopping lists exactly how a supermarket is laid out. That means listing your items to purchase under the suggested broad categories, as follows: bakery, dairy, fresh meats, dry pantry (tins, cans, packets) and nuts, fruits, vegetables and herbs, frozen food. Doing this means that once you’re at a particular aisle and you look at your shopping list, you see exactly what you need to grab, and you won’t have to double back five minutes later for a forgotten item.
- Smart measurements: Have you ever watched cooking shows where the chefs use their hands so gracefully for measurements? They either sprinkle, add a few, splash, dust, grab a handful, or even combine spices as they go. This is known as estimation, and it comes from a little trial and error, some tasting, and some gut feeling. The first step is to always taste every ingredient to get familiar with it and eventually you will develop the ability to sense if a little more of that ingredient will enhance or mar the other flavours. Second, start visualizing flavours, because you can almost feel it on your tongue. This may seem funny at first, but if you focus and embrace the process, very soon you won’t need a set of measuring spoons. If you want to get sassy in the kitchen, you’ve got to use your hands and trust all your five senses.
- How to estimate:
A pinch: picked up with the thumb, index, and middle finger
A dash: one splash
A knob: 1 tablespoon
One serving of fat: a single thumb
One serving of protein: roughly the size of your palm
One serving of rice: a cupped hand
One serving of veggies: two clenched fists
One inch: one-third the length of index finger
Salts: taste first to see how salty your salt is (they vary)
Seasoning: first add a little, then a little more
½ lime, squeezed: roughly 1 teaspoon of juice
Access: Sort and organise your pots and pans, including the lids to avoid running around the kitchen, opening every cabinet and getting down on your knees to look for a particular pot (I call this doing kitchen squats). Lining up your pots and lids and storing them in order of depth or width will help you pick the ones you want to use and save you the rummaging.
Whip It! is available at Amazon.com and at The Dreamwork Collective Dh130