Kitchen Tools You Can Do Without!

One day, when my colleague and I were getting ready for a class to teach simple machines, we asked our students to look around the classroom, school and their homes to look for simple machines. The next day, I brought in my kitchen tools to class. I love kitchen tools, and I buy anything interesting. It was an interesting class because most students started guessing what the tool could be used for. Many years ago, I used my kitchen tools to teach ‘sets’ in math.

Today, as I wait for my shipment to arrive, I am working on minimal things in the kitchen. The things I really miss are my good chef’s knife, a peeler, a good cutting board, my measuring spoons, my kitchenaid mixer, a chopper , a good set of ladles, a good colander and sieve, a good tea strainer, a rice/ pressure cooker, a regular masher.

So do I really need all these tools?

Potato masher: I prefer the older, simpler one. The potato ricer, I use to break nuts into pieces rather than a ricer.

A potato masher (left) and a ricer (right)

Sifter and the Sieve: I prefer to use the sieve, it is easier to use. Though the sifter is a fun tool to have, but not necessary.

Sifter and the sieve

Measuring spoons: More the merrier. I always seem to need atleast two of them at a time. I use these for baking.

Measuring spoons, cups and tsp/tbsp

A bowl scraper: I love the simple bowl scraper I got for free almost 15 years ago when I subscribed to a magazine. I have not been able to find a replacement for it. It finally broke and I had to retire it. Sigh! I definitely use them to scrape all the dough from my mixing bowl.

More kitchen tools: I use all of these, except for the garlic press (I use it to pound or break nuts but rarely for garlic). The one on the left is an egg separator. My husband, when he makes egg white omelettes for me, uses this as he does not like to touch the egg. The yolk stays on top and the egg white falls into the bowl. I just use my fingers. The cookie dough scoop is really useful while making cookies to get the same amount and cookie size.

The other tool which is good to have is a chopper. I have tried many different ones. I now bought a Ninja electric chopper which I really like. It is good to chop onions, garlic, tomatoes. You can whip up a chutney, salsa or guacamole with ease.

Of course, a good cutting board, good knives and a good set of pots and pans, ladles a pastry brush are essential. As I now know, I do not eat half the things I have. But I wonder if it will stop me for buying the next cool tool I see. I suppose I can use it for other things, like teaching!

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Pushpa’s Bassaaru

Bassaaru is a popular dish of Karnataka. Using the same ingredients, a curry and a vegetable is made. This is usually served with ragi mudde (ragi balls) or rice. This is a healthy dish packed with lentils, spinach and spices. The coconut gives the curry a creamy texture. A dish I would surely try again.

Pushpa, my help who is like family, made this dish for me and also suggested using ridge gourd and green beans instead of spinach. This is something she cooks often and eats it with ragi mudde. Ragi mudde are balls made of ragi (finger millets), which is a super food. In the south of India, ragi is used for dosas, idlis etc. Ragi mudde is an acquired taste. It is dipped in a gravy and swallowed. It is very high in protein and keeps you full for a long time. Therefore it was eaten by farmers.

Try it. It was truly lip smacking delicious

Pushpa cooking Bassaaru
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup tur dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chopped spinach. washed
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 green chillies
  • 10-12 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lime size tamarind or 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 + 1 tbsp curry leaves
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • salt to taste
Directions
  • Cook tur dal in a sauce pan with 1 cup water. Do not use pressure cooker as you want the lentils to have a bite.
  • When the lentils are half cooked, add spinach and dill, 1 tsp salt and cook
  • Using toothpicks pierce two green chillies and tomatoes. Add to spinach and let it cook for 5 minutes and take out chillies and tomato and keep aside
  • Meanwhile, in a small pan dry roast pepper and cumin seeds
  • Grind cumin, pepper, green chillies, coconut, coriander leaves, 8 cloves garlic and grind to a paste
  • Once spinach and lentils are cooked, drain well and save the liquid
  • This liquid is the base for the saaru or gravy
  • Keep aside 1/2 cup of spinach lentil mixture
  • In a sauce pan, add the liquid and the ground paste. Cook
  • In a blender, grind 1/2 cup spinach lentil mixture and the tomato to a paste and add to the gravy and cook.
  • In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tsp oil
  • Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, curry leaves and 2 cloves of choped garlic and add to the gravy. Set aside
  • For the Stir Fry: Heat 1 tbsp oil
  • Add 1 tsp mustard and curry leaves
  • Add chopped onions, 2 green chillies (chopped) and fry till golden
  • Add the lentil spinach mixture and fry well
  • Add salt if required
  • Serve gravy, stir fry spinach with rice or ragi mudde

Frugal Pasta

Moving house is never easy, leave alone moving across the ocean. Here I was on the 2nd day in a new place and home with just the basic kitchen starter kit and some spices to tide me by till my shipment arrives (many weeks later). Today was my first day of work too. Returning from work, I decided to make a super simple pasta. I had been eating out for almost a month while packing and getting ready to move that I decided I needed to start cooking. I had bought rice and lentils, but cooking them without a cooker seemed time consuming and pasta seemed the easiest – one pot dish. I had some pasta, vegetables and some spices. I did not have measuring utensils, so they are approximate measurements as cooking should always be. Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • 500 g pasta (1 pound)
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 big or 2 small capsicum
  • 6 stuffing mushrooms or 1 packet button mushrooms (250g / 8 oz), sliced
  • approx 1 cup fresh spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp garlic and herb spice (or mixed italian spice)
  • a dash of cayenne pepper (or red chilli flakes)
Directions
  • Cook pasta according to the box
  • In a pan, heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes
  • Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes
  • Now add the carrots and capsicum and saute. Take care that the veggies are crisp
  • Add spinach and let it wilt
  • Add some salt and spices and mix well. Serve hot
  • you can sprinkle some cheese on top

Stuffed Baby Eggplants

The other day, I found the most fresh baby eggplants. Eggplants are a favourite in our house and I could not resist making this. It is easy to make and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 10 baby eggplants
  • 4 dried red chillies
  • 2 tbsp channa dal
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste

Directions

  • Wash eggplants and slit eggplants without cutting them completely
  • Sprinkle salt and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. This makes them less bitter
  • Wash well and drain
  • Roast chillies, coriander and channa dal in 1 tsp oil for a few minutes till they are golden. Be careful as they will burn fast
  • Remove and keep aside
  • In the same pan, roast coconut till golden
  • Grind the coconut and chilli-coriander-channa dal mixture to a paste. Add a tablespoon of water if required
  • Stuff the paste into the eggplants
  • Heat remaining oil. Add mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves
  • When mustard splutters, add turmeric powder, eggplants, salt and tamarind paste and cook on low flame
  • If required, add 3-4 tablespoons of water and cook till done
  • Serve with rice, roti or bread or just eat it with a dollop of yogurt

Vegan Chocolate Coffee Cake

I have been baking for more than twenty years. This is the first time I have made a cake without eggs, so I was very apprehensive about it. It turned out quite well, moist and tasty. The cake slightly cracked on top but I turned it around and nobody knew. I drizzled melted dark chocolate on it and it looked good. I had it for a party where there were a few people who do not eat eggs. They enjoyed it and packed the leftovers. I would make this again if I need a vegan cake.

This recipe was adapted from Chocolate by Christine McFadden. She used self rising whole wheat flour, a lot more baking powder than I was comfortable with and water, which I substituted with coffee.

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp + 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 9 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1/2 cup water
  • dark chocolate (optional)
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC)
  • Grease a deep 8 inch pan and line with parchment paper and grease the paper with oil
  • Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa powder a couple of times into a large mixing bowl. This incorporates air and makes the cake fluffy
  • Add sugar and mix
  • Slowly add oil and vanilla and beat
  • Add water and coffee beating constantly till smooth
  • Pour into the prepared pan
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean
  • Cool and turn over on a plate
  • Melt chocolate and drizzle on top. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on top

Malini’s Mavinkai Chitranna (Raw Mango Rice)

My friend, Malini designs clothes. For the past ten years I have been wearing clothes designed by her. Her creativity does not stop there; she is an amazing cook too. This is her recipe. Do try it out.

In this recipe, we use raw mango and usually the mango used for pickles. Those mangoes are much more sour than the totapuri mango, which is nice to eat with some salt and chilli powder. Because the mangoes are very sour, the number of chillies added are more. Even then the dish does not turn out very spicy because the sourness balances the spiciness. Some jaggery is added to balance the flavours. I make a big batch of this every year and freeze them in batches. This way, i can still make mango rice when the mango season is over.

Mavinkai Gojju (Mango Paste)

Ingredients
  • grated raw mango 2 cups
  • 1 tbsp methi seeds
  • 10-12 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp jaggery (brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
Directions
  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add methi seeds and red chillies and fry for a few minutes on a low flame
  • Grind methi-chilli mixture with the other ingredients to a fine paste
  • This paste can be stored in the freezer. Freeze in small containers for a one time use

Mango Rice

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup mango paste
  • 3 cups cooked basmati rice (or any left over rice)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch asafoetida
  • 2 tbsp curry leaves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp powdered dry coconut or grated coconut (optional)
  • a handful of roasted peanuts (optional)
Directions
  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida and red chillies
  • When mustard splutters add the rice and mango paste and mix gently and thoroughly
  • Sprinkle coconut powder and peanuts and mix
  • Serve hot with raita or yogurt or papad or potato chips