Winter has well and truly set in. In many parts of the country, people are trudging to work snuggling into their coats and shawls, or wrapping their palms around coffee and tea mugs to stay warm and cosy. And then there are places like Mumbai where there is nothing more than a slight early morning nip in the air.
But, the slight nip is enough to transport me back to those days when morning alarms meant sinking further inside our thick duvets… when we had to tiptoe around the white and orange carpet of shewli flowers in the driveway… when we could breathe in jui and madhabilata in the misty morning air, as well as the day’s first batch of shingaras (samosas) coming out of the giant kadhai at the sweet shop we passed by on our way to school.
Getting ready for winter is an elaborate process that may start at slightly different times of the year for different regions, but it follows the same pattern of sunning and airing blankets and duvets, washing and laundering, repairing and darning, mixing and matching jackets and shawls, scarves, socks, gloves and boots in an attempt to freshen them up and rid them of the horrid moth ball smell.
So by now, most of us are pretty much winter ready, right? But what about our kitchen - is it properly primed and ready? Check out these 5 simple ways to get your kitchen toasty and crisp for winter.
Clean up: Make space for fresh winter ingredients by getting rid of unwanted or rarely-used stuff blocking up your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Check all your jam and pickle jars, spice bottles, containers of grains, pulses, cereals and pastas to see if they are still good to use. Throw away last season's half-eaten packs of snacks, cornflakes and that forgotten piece of rainbow-coloured, mouldy cheese in the corner of the fridge. Be ruthless, it's better off in the bin than in your stomach!
Stock up on strawberries as they are in season.
Stock up: Browse lazily through the veggie section of your supermarket or your local veggie wala, and pick up your fresh winter staples like cauliflowers, green peas, radishes, turnips, pumpkins, oranges and strawberries, and the all-time favourite sarson ka saag. Yes, they do taste much better in their natural season. Look out for those short-season wonders like squash and toor, and try out some local berries for your fruit custard.
Stock up on fresh ginger, honey and cloves for those little sniffles and coughs. Top up your vegetarian and chicken stock cubes, pick up some good cocoas or flavoured hot chocolates for those late night movies, and some healthy options like Horlicks or Ovaltine, especially for elders in the house. Try out some not-so-common rich spices in your curries this year like kebab chini, jaiphal, kasoori methi, and, my favourite, javitri.
Prep up: We all love our winter broths, soups, stews and all-in-one-meals. In fact, kaali daals and hot khichdis are magical in the winters, topped with a dollop of desi ghee! So get the cobwebs off your slow-cooking handis and crockpots and degchis, and get them scrubbed and primed and ready for action. Poke your head into the cupboard and retrieve that lovely casserole dish you got on your last birthday. Scrub your favourite floral soup bowls and hearty pie dishes. It's time to get the fire crackling!
Recipe up: Get cracking on some new dishes this winter. Remember your grandma's recipe for Achari Chicken that you always wanted to try but was afraid it would never match up? Or that Khichda you tried in Hyderabad? Or that Kerala Stew you absolutely flipped over at your friend's place last winter? Gather those recipes up, give it your own spin if you like, and enjoy a hearty cooking session as the robust aromas of good, hot food linger in every corner of your house.
Colour up: Add a touch of warm winter colours to your kitchen. Chuck those worn out tea towels and dish cloths, and get some new ones in yellows and browns. Put away those thready door mats and runners, and replace them with some plush, soft rugs to sink your toes into while cooking. A couple of new pictures on the wall, a few coloured bottles and flower pots on the window sill, even a small section of new wallpaper in warm colours can do wonders for your kitchen's Fall/Winter look, and your winter happiness.