One month to go to the New Year! This is the perfect time to get all your wish lists done, so that you're not stressed come gift-giving. Here's a little help on that front; populating your kitchen so that you're fully equipped for the new year and can finally get to eating healthier.
Remember those times your mum told you not to forget your lunch dabba back from school, and in your head you were all "Meh, it's just a box. Get over it!" to her?
Mind you, I italicised and put the words 'in your head' in bold, because, being desi, we're too s*** scared to actually talk like that about dabbas. To our mothers. Or any mother within a 5km hearing radius.
Now that you're a newly-adulting adult, you've realised that you can't survive on the dabbas that come with every takeaway order because sometimes they're made of aluminium foil. You also manage to somehow lose the dhakkan to every plastic dabba that finds its way to your home via Swiggy/Zomato/food-delivering-gods. And when you do save the lid to a box, it either doesn't fit like it's supposed to, or it cracks/breaks.
While you go on a search for the dhakan to your dabba, like your search for void-filling-memes, or like the yesteryear separated-at-birth-trope, reality dawns on you. Your mother was right. It's not "just a box". It's one of the few things in life that you could have control over. The right dhakkan for the right dabba. Make your mother proud and get yourself an assortment of storage containers for your kitchen.
Knives can either be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. If you've got terrible knives to work with, ones that go blunt after slicing something as basic as a tomato, I can guarantee you a world of pain and frustration. There's a reason why culinary masters carry their knives with them wherever they go. A good knife doesn't go blunt very fast, can be sharpened with ease and cuts through onions like butter. If you've got a knife that makes slicing and dicing effortless, it's not difficult to imagine why cooking with them would be an act of love that you look forward to. Much like other acts of love you look forward to (*wink*).
Also, remember the song He Had it Coming, from the musical Chicago? Knives are also great for self defence!
Now, I'm just over-selling the need for good knives, aren't I? But, really. Please, knives are essential items in your kitchen. For a beginner cook, it's best to go in for a knife with a broad blade at the hilt which narrows down towards the end (also called a santoku knife, which functions as a knife for slicing, dicing and mincing). They're easier to hold and use than the narrow bladed knives. Different knives have different functions. It would be silly to use a meat cleaver to chop carrots and it would be frustrating to use a bread knife with its serrated edges to chop onions. A good set of knives are your best asset in the kitchen. Don't skimp on them, because it's better to start off with a mid-range quality knife than to begin with a low grade knife that will put you off working in the kitchen, making cooking a chore.
Invest in a small knife as well, because they can come in handy too, especially when you're looking to score bread, or trim the edges off of pastry.
You need a chopping board. You just do. It's messy and unhygienic to chop your food on the counter. Your counter is for you to place things like your stove and storage containers. Your counter is NOT a surface for you to chop anything on. You will not only damage the surface of your counter, but also damage your knives. Chopping boards have been created specifically so that you don't ruin the knives you bought nor the counter you use. I use a good quality plastic chopping board. They last long and are easy to clean (and you really must clean them after every use, otherwise you run the risk of giving yourself some nasty bacterial infections). If you plan on chopping meat or fish, opt for a separate chopping board, preferably made of a different colour so that you know which board is meant for what kind of produce chopping. While wooden chopping boards are much better for the environment, easier on your knives and on the whole give your kitchen a more warm and inviting atmosphere than plastic chopping boards, wooden boards require a lot more maintenance, and I wouldn't recommend them to a newly-adulting adult. Once you have a fair amount of love for cooking, and are willing to go in for a more conscientious choice of chopping board, by all means, go in for the wooden option.
Pestle and Mortar
While motorized mixers and blenders are fabulously easy to work with, sometimes, you've just got to do things the old fashioned way. Banging all your frustration out on some dried spices to add to a warming curry, or bashing up the fibres from a good chunk of ginger for some masala chai. Either way, a mortar and pestle is an essential addition to your kitchen, when you need a small amount of spices powdered to smithereens that can't be done in a mixie or blender. There are very few things better than freshly ground spices, whether it's peppercorns, cardamom, cloves or roasted cumin.
It also helps in anger management. Or at least, it helps me.
This one's a no-brainer. You can't eat pasta or noodles without some help from a fork. It just gets frustrating after a point of time. And scalded fingers tend to blister after the first couple of times you dip them in a steaming wok of noodles. A burnt tongue is no fun either. What's the point in cooking up a warming soup if your taste buds aren't functioning well enough to pick up on the flavours?
Invest in some cutlery. You're an adult human being, capable of dining etiquette and culture. Not an agrarian neanderthal, walking around with a club to knock over their mate. I'm not asking the world of you. Just the basic butter knife, teaspoon, tablespoon and fork.
Although, if you're planning to invite a few friends over for a warm get together, you need more than one communal serving dish, don't you? There's nothing wrong with having all your best buds eating from the same plate, but if you've got a greedy eater (like myself) in your gang of friends, I wish you luck on getting the good parts of your dish.
Have I sparked a memory of wanting that carefully picked out piece of deliciousness, only to have it chomped down by one of your best friends, leading to you feeling betrayed as they smiled unabashedly at you? Do yourself a favour and just get yourself some cutlery.
While OPOS cooking is easy, healthy and fairly delicious, there are always moments in the new cook's life where you're looking to make something a little more adventurous. For this purpose, I give you your basic list of essential cookware.
A frying pan can be used to make everything from an omelette or fried egg, to toasting slices of bread for a delicious bite of bruschetta. It's also a great way to toss and fry frozen veggies for a quick snack on the go.
A saucepan comes in handy when you need to boil milk or make yourself a cup of desi chai. Apart from actually being used to make sauces, of course.
The large tava you see below is a staple in any home craving hot dosas, uthappams and parathas. This is the pan you should be using to make a crepe, blini or pancake.
The kadhai or wok comes in handy when you're in the mood for some deep fried delicacies, without needing to worry about the quantity of oil you'll be using. The beauty of using a kadhai or wok to cook your food is that it's designed in such a way that you can use it to toss and mix your ingredients without worrying about them getting claggy and stuck to each other. Making fried rice, stir fry vegetables or even deep frying some pappadams becomes a cinch with the wok.
You need a pressure cooker. There's nothing more to it. Slow cooking under pressure, cooks your ingredients faster, because hot steam under pressure has a lot more energy and heat than cooking with boiling water on an open flame. Yeah, science!
Now, the other induction friendly containers that have been listed in picture form, are what will come in handy when you need to serve, store and reheat your delicious dishes. Why would you possibly want to wash more dishes when you can simply transfer your cooked dish into a serving vessel and shove it into the fridge when you're done? Kiss those plastic takeaway containers goodbye. For your own, adulting, sake.
These are the things that get sidelined when you go shopping for vessels as a newly adulting adult. They're the things that you're always searching for, because it just seems obvious to have them, but somehow almost always get forgotten when you actually get to the store.
Peelers, graters, coconut scrapers, strainers, can openers, tongs, whisks, mashers, lime presses, kitchen scissors and, most important of all, cooking spoons are those things that you really need, but keep postponing to buy because in the store, they just don't seem as necessary.
It's only when you get back home, and you're looking for a ladle to pour out your soup into a bowl, without having to rely on your tablespoon, that it's necessity dawns on you. It's only when you're panicking about either burning your chapathi or your fingers, that the importance of a flat steel spatula arises in your head. And if you've ever deep fried anything, good luck to you in draining off the excess oil without a slotted spoon.
Do your cooking self a favour and get the equipment. You'll honestly find that feeding yourself and your friends can spread joy and love around. It is the season of joy and love, after all.
All of the images in this post link you to the respective essential kitchen equipment, int he hopes to make the choice of deciding easier for you to go ahead with. However, please feel free to come back and let me know if you think I've missed out on any essential item that you think I need. Essential baking equipment will be posted along with every recipe that uses an oven, but if you'd like for me to detail a list for that as an addition, I'd be happy to oblige. Let me know in the comments below!