Lockdown routines have taken a toll on our energy levels and the dilemma of what to rustle up with limited ingredients is not likely to lift immediately with the lifting of Quarantine 2.0. Until life—inside and outside of the kitchen—resumes full capacity, we might as well turn to easy fixes that cheat the code but buoy the palate. Here are 10 no-fire, quick-assemble recipes from India and world over. We have not included oven/induction recipes in the hope of catering to all kinds of kitchens, and all kinds of days.
Gather bite-sized bits of all the fruits within your reach. Red wedges of watermelon, sunny slices of pineapple or banana, sweet mango chunks, green grapes, purple grapes, cheeky berries—the brighter the better. Layer the bottom of a clear, tall glass with yoghurt, laced with honey if you have a sweet-tooth. Then layer the fruits, one colour at a time, alternating with bands of yoghurt, and refrigerate until chilled. Relish with a scoop of granola and a dollop of whipped cream on top (optional). If you plan to store the parfait, trade fruits that perish faster for a mix of berries. Save the granola garnish for the end for texture and crunch.
A traditional Mangalorean breakfast, on lazy days (it takes all of two minutes) and in adequate quantity, bajil bella tarai can possibly double as a filler meal. Just grab a cup of thick poha/beaten rice, and rinse it moist without soaking it for too long. Then add ghee, grated jaggery, grated coconut and a fragrant pinch of cardamom powder. Mix well and shovel in a sweet spoonful.
Small and aesthetic, these will lift your spirits with minimum effort, but for a rumbling stomach, you’ll need to make many. Start by lathering mayonnaise over a slice of bread, crusts cut out. On a second slice, spread mustard. The third is for a mix of butter and spicy green chutney (an easy blend of mint leaves, coriander, green chilli, ginger-garlic, lemon and salt)—which goes on top of the stack. Next, place a few slices of colourful bell peppers on one side of the stack and roll the slices all the way to the other end. If it resembles a tightly rolled towel, that’s your cue to cut it up in equal portions—and relish your handiwork. Pro tip: Save the bread crusts in an air-tight jar for another easy meal of croutons (and salad).
Although you’ll need some leftover rice to replicate this recipe in all its Hawaiian glory, its beauty is its versatility. So go rogue and skip the layer of carbs if you don’t have any. What is important is that your (canned) fish is sushi grade, hence edible without cooking, and in its absence, the more domestic candidate of paneer/tofu available. The kicker of a poke bowl is the contrast of cold fish over warm brown/black rice, but in its absence, let the other elevating element of the dish—a zingy drizzle of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha + mayo–liven up the uncooked protein. Make sure the tuna/paneer/tofu marinates in the sauces for the flavours to really kick in. Top off your bowl with available bits of veggies: cucumber, radish, carrot, zucchini, spring onions. Add a smattering of sesame seeds and pat your cheating back.
Give a Bengali their evening quota of cha, adda (conversations) and jhalmuri and s/he will brave an apocalypse. You too, can get it on this cliché-but-delish starter pack, if you have puffed rice and mustard oil at home. The rest are largely pantry staples—chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumber, green chilli and coriander—tossed into a big, scented bowl of well-oiled muri, along with skinless roasted peanuts. Depending on how much heat you can handle (jhal muri translates to ‘spicy puffed rice’) you can add or skip the powdered pinches of coriander, cumin, red chilli, dry mango/amchur, and rock salt. If you don’t care to replicate this very-specific taste, chaat masala is a decent alternative. Although the addition of Bombay mix/chanachur is touted to be the best part, don’t lose heart without it. The flavours are already explosive. Unless you are looking for trouble. Then you add some green mango pickle to the mix.
We are often stuck with the odd roti, a relic from last night’s dinner. Give it a second shot with a spread of mayonnaise and fillings of shredded cabbage, paneer/tofu, packed alongside beetroot, carrots and radishes pickled in white vinegar and chilli. A sweet avatar of the roti wrap can be designed with a stuffing of pureed dates and coconut.
A cold soup harking back to the hot Andalusian summers of Spain, the gazpacho is perfect for when you want to ditch the stove. Instead, turn to your blender. Puree tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, red onion, garlic cloves, and green chilli in olive oil, strained tomato juice, and vinegar (red wine or balsamic) with salt, ground cumin and ground black pepper to taste. Transfer and then stir blend with vinegar in a bowl, and refrigerate. Enjoy cold with a scatter of mint and a side of bread.
The dreaded childhood villain of sprouts can become your hero on a lazy day, and crackle the tongue while at it. Sneaky nutrition makes an appearance in the form of soaked and sprouted moong beans (since we are not boiling/stir-frying, it is important to eat them fresh), tossed in a swirl of flavours. Think chopped tomatoes, onions, chaat masala/dry mango powder, salt, and a hearty squeeze of lemon. The recipe is as elastic as you want it to be, so throw in those pre-roasted peanuts or even pomegranate, for a sweet crunch.
Flexibility is key to any salad, and for a fruit and cheese salad, the possibilities are endless. Got watermelon? Toss around seedless, cold cubes of the fruit in olive oil, lime juice, salt-n-pepper dressing, crumble some feta on top, and serve with a sprinkle of basil. You can do the same with mango, with a boost of olives and lettuce. Have apples and grapes instead? Stir up a mean vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard and garlic, throw in some lettuce and nuts for crunch, and grate salty bits of whatever cheese is available on top. As long as sweet meets salty, there’s room to play around.
A healthy hand-me-down from ancient Egypt, this one’s so simple even kids can try their hands at it. A food processor is all you need. Blend seedless, soaked dates alongside walnuts and cinnamon powder. If the moisture from the dates isn’t enough, use a little water. Shape the mixture into small balls, coating them in warm honey. Roll the balls over sliced almonds so your mini-dessert sports a crumbly white jacket. It’s going to be messy, but when you pop one in, it’ll be worth it. For a modern edge, you can introduce cocoa powder or lemon zest, desiccated coconut or pistachio or even peanut butter to the mix.
Sohini Das Gupta travels with her headphones plugged-in and eyes open. While this doesn't stall the many accidents that tend to punctuate her journeys, it adds some meme-worthy comic relief. She is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India.