I’m sure at least a few of you will identify with me and my pantry – little bundles of plastic secured with rubber bands filled with spices, bottles and jars of bran, oats, wholegrains and alternative grains such as buckwheat, bought in the hope of using that exotic cookbook which promptly goes missing, cake sprinkles and coloured sugar crystals which you hang on to despite knowing you will never ever use them, exotic spices from my Goa trip two months ago, which haven’t seen the light of day, various ready-mixes (without preservatives, of course) bought in bouts of let’s-be-prepared-for-guests (who are swiftly whisked off to restaurants as soon as it’s mealtime), brown Basmati rice fondly intended for a healthier biriyani, calming chamomile tea which only induces more stress as I discover I haven’t even opened the pack each time I see it, even an everyday pack of red chillies that refuses to get exhausted and clings on dully to the gloomy interiors of my cupboard.
Just once, I want to see all these used up – thence, there will be no well-meaning but wasteful stocking up, no unsightly reminders of my spendthrift ways, only what I need for the next few days – so here I am, with a concoction of oats which is a beginning to this noble end.
Wild oats, as the name says, because I literally threw in whatever I had in the refrigerator, soul sister of my pantry, to make this an appetizing yet healthy dish – tomatoes on the verge of rotting, a cup of capsicum chopped two days ago, shelled peas which were wrinkling because I hadn’t found a lid for the container …
I intended this to be more like a tomato bath/upma, but despite five tomatoes, it didn’t look as red as I wanted it to. But then the green in it was no mean thing – capsicum, peas, curry leaves, coriander – not to mention a pinch of turmeric.
Here’s the recipe, then:
Quick-cooking white oats – 2 cups, dry-roasted
Water – 3.5-4 cups
Tomatoes – 5, medium-sized, chopped, as fine as you can
Green capsicum/bell pepper, chopped – 1 cup
Boiled green peas – 1-1/2 cups
Green chillies – 2-3, chopped
Garlic – 3-4 cloves, bruised
Oil – 2-3 tsp
Mustard seed – 1 tsp
Cumin seed – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Salt, to taste
Turmeric, a pinch
Coriander/cilantro – to garnish
Heat the oil.
Put in the mustard seeds, let them pop.
Add the cumin seed and curry leaves.
Now add the tomatoes and green chillies and saute well.
Add the salt, turmeric, mix well.
Let the tomatoes get all squishy.
Then put in the capsicum and boiled peas and let it acquire a ‘curry consistency’.
Now add the roasted oats, mix well and add 3 cups of water. Check for doneness. If it’s not soft enough, add more.
It won’t be slide-down-your-throat soft, but it shouldn’t be pasty, either – you will know when you test it between your fingers/taste it.
It was a smasher, and the best part was that it didn’t even taste ‘boringly healthy’ – it almost slid down my throat, effortlessly. Now there’s just a third of the oats left in its jar – I’m tackling a jar of 3-year-old whole moong tomorrow – hopefully, by the end of the year, I’ll have an Old Mother Hubbard moment!