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Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2

Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2

Day to Day by DanceofChaos


Introduction

Corona has thrown a lot of our regular routine out of balance. I am one of the lucky few that it is just me and my husband, working from home, we share the household chores including cooking. One would think we have it completely under control and powering our way to be the power couple of home officing. Sadly it is not the case.

Planning the Menu

We have spoiled ourselves with frequent eating out and orders. My husband just loves his bratwurst and pommes from kitchen, which we have to substitute somehow, all the while actually working more and surprisingly eating more.

Meal-preps used to be a wonderful tool for me when I lived alone. I would prep the food, portion control it, put it on boxes. Somehow, with the addition of sous-chef to my kitchen, our cooking had become more spontaneous. Two months into home office, I was regretting the spontaneity. Half a year into working exclusively from home, I have embraced meal preparation again. It is the only way to arrange for food, while working nonstop.

Casseroles/Auflauf

Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2

The idea of a casserole or Auflauf in German is a multilayer food, with vegetables and meat. You typically use elements like cheese, cream etc for binding the different layers together. Lasagne is also a good example of casserole. I try the casserole method pretty often, throwing in together everything I have, maybe some pre made salsa from yesterday’s cooking : et voila! Casserole ready.

Added bonus is, the sous-chef is very enthusiastic about helping out with casseroles. He chops onions. Ladies marry a partner who will happily chop onion for you. That is the test of true love. He layers the food when handling larger amount of food and helps with the baking a lot. He is however not a reliable taster: always finishing more than the allotted portion at a mealtime.

The internet is full of yummy recipes. I usually put everything together. The following recipe and its variations work well for us.

Recipe

Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2
Base
  • Choose a base: mashed potatoe, Rice, cooked noodle serve better. This one time I use boiled and mashed red beet as base. I did not want the rest of the food to be red in color and this turned out to be a solid base.
Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2
meaty layer
  • Choose a filler layer: this typically comprise of meat and vegetables as the mood strikes. Minced meat, cooked with tomato purée, some garlic, onion, salt to taste. You can cook whatever vegetables available or you wish to put into it. Again it is a matter of choice and convenience if you want to cook them together or not. I mostly choose to cook them with the meat for faster process. If you want to go for vegetarian dish, paneer, cauliflower is a good substitute.
  • Upper layer : This is optional. Choose some soft vegetables, peas for example.  I sometimes use mushroom stir fried with garlic paste to add here. Brings a new level of flavour.
Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2
All set to bake
  • Uppermost layer : cheese. If you are cooking the elements separately, this is a matter of choice if you want to add some cheese to it or not. It does gives a certain baked cheese casserole vibe or as we call it Käse Auflauf.
  • Optional : Caramelized onion. You can caramelize the onion by frying it in low heat consistently. To speed up the process, you can add a sprinkle of sugar to the onion.
  • Garnish : Garnish typically consist of salad. I make a carrot salsa: adding grated carrot, to tomato, chopped fresh cilantro, salt to taste and lemon juice to taste. It balances out the meaty flavors very well. Plain old lettuce or other type of salad is also okay.

Cooking Procedure:

  • Cook each individual layer separately as long as it takes for them, except for the uppermost layer. Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Get a big baking casserole, and coat it with some oil or baking butter. Make sure you only have a light coating of butter. Once the layers are all cooked, start with the base.
  • Put a layer of base, then a layer of meat and vegetable and then another layer of base. The put the upper layer of soft vegetable or mushroom. Top it up with cheese and bake for around 20 minutes.
  • All the elements are pre cooked and the baking is to bind the different forms together. Once you finish baking, take out the casserole. Sprinkle a layer of caramelized onion and sprinkle the salad garnish on it. Sprinkle another layer of onion. Feel free to add cilantro and basil leaves to add some taste. Your casserole is finished.
  • A big enough baking form should hold enough food for 4 full sized meal. The multiple layers make the food heavy and the portion size can be cut a bit smaller, unless your husband cannot control himself in front of good food.
Cooking in Quarantine: Edition 2
Finished casserole of the day

Non Baking process

The layering can be done without baking as well. Those who do not have a baking oven, can just layer up the different cooked layers in a cooking pot, cover the lid and let the steam bind them together. You might want to avoid the cheese in that case.

This casserole is not just tasty, it is healthy, and it is a life saver for me.

So what are you waiting for? Go try it out immediately. Check out for the German summary of this article in the blog. A Bengali short story version is the originator of this post. It was also published in digital Bengali platforms.

All pictures in the blog, unless otherwise mentioned, are taken by the blog. Please do not post the images without permission.

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