Techniques – #V for Very Long Marination
The ultra fast cooking in OPOS presents new problems. Traditional curries are simmered for ages. Some are even cooked overnight. This overcooks the ingredients, but gives enough time for the flavours to blend well. We needed to find a way to make this happen in OPOS cooking, without overcooking food. The problem was partially addressed with the use of staples and roasted spices. But we still needed to duplicate the gradual mellowing of flavours achieved by extended cooking.
It would have been easy to increase the cooking time to make this happen, but overcooking is taboo in OPOS. We needed to find a way to ensure mellow, well blended flavours without prolonged heating.
(VLM) Very Long Marination was proposed as a solution. This technique is adapted from Indian pickles. Pickles gain their flavour by being steeped in spices for a long time. The flavours mellow and come together without any heating. It happens by extended steeping. We reasosned that many Indian curries are in fact semi pickles. So, by the same logic, all curries would get more flavourful with extended marination as marination is actually a form of cooking without heat.
When chopped vegetables/ meat are steeped in spices, the flavours penetrate deep into food. When these marinated ingredients are later cooked, the flavours are bolder and not restricted to the surface, as is the case in cooking with unmarinated food.
In Mediterranean cuisine, fresh/ cooked vegetables/ meats, seafood, cheese and even herbs are steeped in olive oil to preserve them for years. Oil preservation is a very ancient food preservation technique. Oil forms a seal and prevents dehydration, oxidation or microbial action. But steeping in oil encourages the growth of anaerobic bacteria. This risk can be greatly minimised by
1. Choosing fresh vegetables that are blemish free.
2. Minimising the presence of water by completely drying vegetables, using dry knives and bone dry storage containers.
3. Mixing in an acid (vinegar/ lemon juice/ mango powder/ Tamarind paste)
4. Cooking the stored food
5. Not storing for over a week.
It is very important to check if stored foods are safe for eating. If the container is bulging/ leaking, or if you detect a rotten smell, do not hesitate to dump it. If in doubt, throw it out !
Borrowing this technique, We experimented by mixing the chopped vegetables with oil. We did not cover them with oil, as our preservation goal was modest – just a week (refrigerated) or just a day (unrefrigerated).
We also added anti bacterial spices, chiefly turmeric, to minimise microbial action. A slurry of turmeric powder, chilli powder and oil was mixed in with chopped vegetables. This combination of Italian sott’olio and Indian pickling techniques allowed us to store foods longer without fear of degradation. This works for almost all vegetables/ meats/ seafood/ herbs/ paneer.