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No-oil Cooking

Let me tell you the story of how I got down to authoring my book No Oil Cooking. Having authored nine titles – all of which were very well received – the expectations were high. And so was the challenge – not just to come out with another book but to give the foodies something that they could enjoy without the feeling of guilt of having to consume extra calories by way of exotic food.

Doubtless the progress in science has made our lives easier but it has also made our lifestyle sedentary and brought along numerous health problems. Frequent questions were posed to me on how to enjoy good food without the added tag of high fat and high calorie. At the same time a lot of people were shying away from oil less food because to them it meant boiled or steamed food with a dash of salt and pepper – in short bland and uninteresting. Here is where I beg to differ – oil free food can be made to look great and taste good too. 

Why no oil? It is not just to reduce calories in order to reduce those extra kilos. Modern lifestyle brings with it loads of stress, tension and other related problems. The idea for this book took seed from here and took shape after a lot of hard work where recipes from all courses of meal were thoroughly researched and perfected. The recipes here are not only for everyday cooking but can also be served to your honoured guests. In fact they would bless you for allowing them to gorge on the food without guilt.

Admittedly oil has always been an important constituent of most cuisines and specially so of Indian cuisines. Oil serves not only as the medium of cooking but also adds to the taste. But unlike what some people think oil does not give any flavour. In the olden days when there were no refrigerators oil also served as a preservative. But now we do not have that excuse – any leftovers can be easily preserved.

While selecting the recipes to be included in this book I took care to include some popular Indian dishes along some non-Indian so that it could satisfy all palates. So where there is the ‘Kathi Kabab Roll’ there is a ‘Chicken and Pepper Wrap’ too. If there is a Makai Palak there is Thai Green Curry with Vegetables too. If there is ‘Methi Chicken’ there is also the ‘Honey and Orange Glazed Chicken’. Then there were some of my family favourites which I selected to prove a point – that they could taste as well when cooked without oil: ‘Khatte Moong’, ‘Chholay Biryani’, ‘Paneer Makhani’, ‘Vegetable Jhalfraizee’. There is also the ubiquitous ‘Samosa’ but in its baked avatar. 

 

-----> No Oil Cooking

What is possible without oil

To a lot of people cooking without oil could sound blasphemous – what would happen to the taste? It will not make much of a difference, let me assure you – but yes it would certainly mean you have to do without the much loved puris, pakoras, samosas, kachoris and the other deep fried goodies that form an integral part of an Indian menu. But when you compare this so called ‘loss’ against the plus points of banishing oil from your kitchens, it really is negligible.

For you see though we have not used any visible oil or ghee or cream or even certain ingredients with high content of fat in them, we must take note of the fact that most ingredients have a certain degree of fat in them. Be it wheat, pulses, vegetables, fruits, skimmed milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cloves, cinnamon, sesame seeds and even the miniscule single mustard seed! So if we do eat a variety of foods each day, formatted in a variety of menus, balancing the carbohydrate and protein intake, all invisible fat included in this way is just perfect for a healthful diet. My point here is that no oil doesn’t mean that the food is totally free of lipid content. Furthermore great care has been taken while formulating these recipes to ensure that the taste has not been much affected.

While doing the trials, ‘Chholay Biryani’ posed us the biggest challenge. How does one brown the onions for the ‘birista’ without oil? And how does one keep the biryani moist without any oil or ghee? It was yogurt that stood us in good stead here. And the end result was so brilliant that it was made a second time so that all of us could satiate our palates. Same thing happened while making the ‘Dhania Pudina Parantha’ – it was after a few trials that we arrived at the perfect ending – a parantha which was ever so flaky that it almost melted in our mouths. And all this was achieved without a drop of oil and once again yogurt did the trick. It was also very difficult to imagine a ‘Risotto’ without cheese…it tasted different alright, nevertheless it was absolutely delicious. And while we had earlier been thinking of calling it by some other name we decided to name it ‘No Cheese Risotto’ 

Tips for no-oil cooking

 As long as you keep in mind some points while cooking without oil the end result will be very satisfactory.

•  Cook in non-stick cookware and keep the heat from medium to low while doing the preliminary cooking like roasting the spices or onions and the like. This way your spices will still crackle while your onions will not burn. You can increase the heat once some liquid is added.

• If the dish has yogurt or tomatoes, add that to the pan before adding the dry whole spices so that they do not burn and yet impart their flavours.

• While adding dry powdered masalas, mix them in a little water and add so that they do not burn.

Food always tastes best when served freshly cooked. Specially so when it is cooked without oil. Constant re-heating can cause the food to dry up. So what are you waiting for? Just gear yourself up with non-stick cookware try out this wonderful array of dishes that will not only help you live healthfully but will also win hearts along the way. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.