Most gourmets and foodies treat their microwave ovens like that harmless, semi-hippy uncle who lives in Goa that nobody in the family wants to acknowledge. The uncle has that wonderful cottage off Morjim, and is handy with electrical devices when executing the occasional family function, but, otherwise, everyone likes to think that he doesn’t exist.
And so it is with the microwave oven. One of the great inventions of the modern age is often reduced to doing nothing much more sophisticated than defrosting a hunk of meat, reheating leftovers, blitzing awful pre-cooked meals and—imagine the ignominy—heating cups of coffee.
Otherwise, the oven usually sits forlorn in a corner of the kitchen, unloved, and, sometimes, shunned with venom. In addition to the fact that it is seen as an inferior and even artless form of cooking, urban legends, myths and fears abound about the so-called negative effects of microwave cooking.
First things first, the microwave oven is, in most cases, only as bad for you as any cooking is. In June 2008, the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide said “as a general proposition, cooking with a microwave probably does a better job of preserving the nutrient content of foods because the cooking times are shorter”. Several research studies have shown that while microwave cooking can break down certain nutritional elements in some foods—for example, it deactivates vitamin B12—there is very little about your microwave that is bad for you.
Secondly, microwave ovens can be astonishingly versatile when it comes to cooking foods. Sure most basic ovens can’t bake or brown. But not everything you eat is baked or browned. Combined with the microwave oven’s ability to cook at great speeds, this versatility is a boon for students, bachelors, and any other man seeking efficient creativity in his meals.
If Heston Blumenthal, with his three Michelin stars, could use a microwave oven in the kitchen, there is no reason why you shouldn’t too. Here are a handful of interesting and flexible recipes to get you started.
The best thing about using a microwave oven to cook rice is that it helps you focus on the rest of your meal. There are some elements of randomness in blitzing rice: your oven’s power setting and the brand of rice you use can all impact how quickly and evenly it cooks.
But once you get your settings right, the oven will turn out batch after batch with remarkable consistency. A basic setting involves two parts of water to one part rice. Wash the rice thoroughly if you don’t want it starchy and use a bowl that gives plenty of room for expansion. (A good rule of thumb is to assume the water-rice mixture will expand four times while cooking.)
Cover the bowl with microwavefriendly cling film.
Pierce and blitz at high for around 15 minutes if you’re cooking one cup of rice. Experiment a few times till you get everything right. But once you do, you will never turn back.
No, Gordon Ramsay most certainly won’t approve. But then he doesn’t have to reach the office each morning before the Nikkei opens. So relegate your pride and pull out a coffee mug. Butter the sides of the cup with a finger jabbed into a block of Amul’s best.
Crack an egg or two into the cup. Splash a little milk. And maybe a dash of Tabasco.
Whisk well with above-mentioned finger to save on washing up. Pop into the microwave and blitz on high for around a minute. Err on the side of caution and don’t panic if you see gooey eggs. Blitz in instalments till the eggs are just firm but not dry and solid.
Tip onto a plate, fluff up with a fork to get a more traditional scramble-y appearance. Add salt and pepper. It is best to not season the eggs before you cook them as this can draw the moisture out of the eggs.
And when I say poached, I am being more conceptual than factual… But this is a great way to make eggs you want to chop up and add to a salad or to a sandwich. Crack eggs into small bowls or ramekins. One to each. To avoid explosions, pierce the yoke smartly with a teaspoon or jab with toothpicks.
But don’t let the yoke mix with the whites.
Cover each bowl with a saucer and blitz for approximately a minute. Less, if
you want liquid yolks.
That popping sound is normal.
Scoop the eggs out of the bowls and wait to cool. Chop and stir in some low-fat mayo, chives and pepper for criminally good sandwich filling.
Fast, clean and deceptively delicious, salmon and similar fish cook very well in a microwave. Defrost thoroughly and, if time permits, douse in your favourite marinade. Something out of a bottle that does not need cooking, like teriyaki, is best. Then place the fish fillets, skinside up, in a bowl, douse with a little more marinade, and cook for 5-7 minutes depending on the size of fillet and power. Don’t worry if the skin stays limp, you can remove it later.
Eat hot. Or wait to cool, chop into chunks and toss with some light soy sauce, seasoning and salad greens for a
posh, praiseworthy meal.
Most franks you buy in a supermarket are already ready to eat.
But if you want to warm them up a bit without pulling out a clean frying pan, then reach for a coffee cup. (The coffee cup is the complying IAS officer to the microwave’s corrupt sports minister.)
Chop franks into half, throw into cup, cover with a saucer and blitz for a minute or less. The franks should expand, cook and the skin should rip open a little. Toss with black pepper and olive oil. Wolf down as is. Or wrap with lettuce, tomatoes and mustard inside rotis or tortillas for a more...global experience.
Yes. Cake. In a microwave. Really.
And what makes it even more infra-dig is that you make it in that trusty coffee cup. Four tablespoons of selfraising flour, two tablespoon of cocoa, sugar go into the cup. Mix well with an egg and three tablespoons each of oil and milk. A splash of vanilla essence.
And then cook for around 3 minutes.
The cake will rise and then settle as you leave it to cool.
All these recipes, especially the cake, can be eccentric till you get it just right. But once you do get them right, make sure you note the details down somewhere.
The timings given here are broadly accurate for an 800W microwave oven.
Adjust as you see fit.