Cooking with cast iron is a new ball game altogether. In an Indian kitchen, one seldom finds this hefty cookware item because not many traditional dishes are made using it. But if you think about it, the material can work wonders, especially if used cooking certain authentic Indian techniques. Dum pukht or slow-oven cooking are good examples since the heavy lid often traps in all the moisture and the resultant dish is a juicy treat.
Cooking this way is especially beneficial while cooking dishes such as meats, biryanis, Indian gravies and daals where you want to slow-cook the preparation in order to let the flavours flourish well.
Our latest kitchen-love is a cast iron casserole by French cookware brand Le Creuset. The lusty red tub of goodness is apt for everything from sautéing regular veggies, stir frying, bubbling sauces to even baking cakes. Since it heats up fast, retains temperature and looks so good, it can be used to serve too. What’s more is that using cast-iron pans in place of nonstick pans helps avoid the harmful chemicals found in the latter and comes with a life time garuntee.
We first used our casserole to make a fused salan (urdu word for gravy) to be relished with bread or chappati. Since we wanted to give this traditional dish a gourmet lift, we threw in a few button mushrooms and bits of puffed tofu cubes (also going it a protein punch).
Mushroom and puffed tofu red salon
Ingredients: 1 cup button mushrooms (halved), 1 cup tofu puffs, ½ cup vegetable oil, 250 gm onions (thinly sliced), 200 gm curd, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp coriander seed powder, 1 tsp black pepper powder, 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, few cloves, 3 green cardamoms, 1 stick cinnamon, red chilli powder as per taste, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, salt to taste, ½ tsp garam masala powder, pinch of ground mace and nutmeg, 2 tsp oregano leaves (finely chopped)
Method: In a wok, heat oil and fry the onions until brown and crispy. Remove from fire and blend it into a smooth puree. Add whisked curd and cumin powder to it and mix well. In a pan, heat oil and add ginger-garlic paste and all the spices. Sauté for a few minutes and add coriander seed powder, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt to it and mix well. Add in the curd and onion paste and allow the gravy to bubble for a few minutes. Add water if the salan seems to thick. Add mushroom and tofu puffs to it and sprinkle garam masala and mace and nutmeg powder on top. Garnish with oregano leaves and serve hot.
Tips for working with cast iron
- Wash your utensils by hand using warm water and a sponge or stiff brush.
- To remove grease, scrub it with salt and water. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the cast iron vessel.
- Always thoroughly towel-dry your cast iron utensils before packing them up.
- Store them in dry place.
- Cast iron is naturally non-stick, but with every use, it tends to lose it’s non-stick quality. To bring it out again, grease it with vegetable oil before use.
Apart from the casserole, we are also lusting after other goodies from Le Creuset. Here is a peek.