Techniques – #U for Usage of Staples

OPOS brought cooking times to under 5 minutes. This posed a new problem. This ultra fast cooking time is just too short for tamarind, ginger garlic paste and many spices to lose their raw flavour. A set of ingredients listed below were declared as Staples. They could be used in all OPOS recipes without being counted as an extra step. This list was kept as minimal as possible. The following are the current list of OPOS staples.

1. Tamarind paste: Optional staple

Many South Indian recipes start with dissolving tamarind pulp in water. This liquid is then simmered till it loses its raw taste.

Using cooked version of Tamarind paste as a staple was proposed as a solution to this problem.

2. Caramelised Onion-Tomato paste: Optional Staple

Many North & South Indian ‘masala’ recipes start with stir frying onion, tomato & ginger-garlic paste. Then the spices are added. They are patiently stirred and cook for as long a time as possible, with the belief that this longer cooking leads to better flavour and taste.

We addressed one half of this problem with controlled caramelisation and the other half with the use of staples.

Later, this staple was made optional by layering onion and tomato with an oil buffer. This layer was mashed to create the masala base.

3. Ginger- Garlic paste: Optional staple

Ginger- garlic paste used in most curry recipes needed elaborate sauteeing to mellow and lose their raw taste. This paste is commercially available but is far less flavourful. It also had vinegar and other preservatives. So, we pressure baked ginger, garlic and blended them into a paste. This paste was then added to curries without worrying about the raw smell. This paste could be refrigerated for over a month or frozen for months. It could just be mixed in with curries even after they are cooked.

Later, this staple was made optional by layering chopped ginger and whole garlic cloves over an oil buffer. This layer was mashed after cooking to blend into the masala.

4. Cooked dal: Optional staple

Dal is cooked almost daily in most Indian households. We made it a staple for two reasons:

To reduce repetitive work everyday
To balance cooking time with vegetables.
5. Bottled tadka: Optional staple

This core staple is discussed fully under B for bottled tadka. This was made optional by layering tadka spices directly over oil as layer 2. PIP tadka was also introduced. A small inner vessel containing the tadka ingredients and oil could be placed directly over the oil buffer. This technique made it possible to create complex tadkas, if needed.

6. Hot water: Optional staple

For a long time we debated if hot water could be added to the staple list. We needed hot water for two reasons:

a. Dilution

b. Attalysis of non-gluten flours

7. Roasted spice powders: Mandatory Staple
The use of roasted spices is a common technique for adding extra flavour. Almost all spices become far more flavourful when roasted and ground. Unfortunately, most commercial spice powders & spice mixes are unroasted. If these are not cooked for a long time, they do not mellow and taste raw.

To avoid this problem and in quest of greater flavour, we use roasted spice powders wherever possible. These powders add a flavour punch and have no raw flavour. Contrary to popular belief, ingredients need not require prolonged simmering with spices. We found that most recipes can be cooked without the addition of spices or even salt, which can all be mixed in after cooking. Osmosis ensures salt & spices infuse into the ingredients during the resting period. Whole spices were roasted over low heat (or microwaved in 5 second bursts) and blended to powders. All roasted spice powders have been declared staples and remain so, till commercial manufacturers wake up to this fact. This is the only OPOS staple which is not optional.

These are the general staples in OPOS, for Indian cuisine. Regional and ethnic cuisines have their own staples, which can be approximated by mixing and matching OPOS staples. Else the staples required for each cuisine is specified in the OPOS books covering those cuisines.

With this list of staples, Food can be easily personalised to everyone’s taste without any extra effort. The use of staples greatly minimise work. They make last minute fine-tuning easy. They are essential for ultra-fast cooking. Many staples are becoming commercially available. Cooked dal & Bottled tadka have already hit the market.

The use of any of these staples is permitted in OPOS and is not considered as an extra step.