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Recipes For Quarantine With Chef Meherwan Irani

Molly Milroy
Chai Pani Restaurant Group
Irani extols flavor bombs like tinned fish and lemon curds

Home cooking is taking a creative turn as folks take fewer trips to the grocery store. Listeners chimed in with their favorite quarantine recipes, including cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez reminding us of the infinite versatility of canned tomatoes. 

Host Frank Stasio talked with ChefMeherwan Irani about his favorite non-perishables and some substitutes for out-of-stock ingredients. Irani is the executive chef and chief chaiwalla at Chai Pani Restaurant Group, which has a location in Asheville.

Porridges can be made with a variety of grains like quinoa, barley or semolina

1. Breakfast without eggs, milk or bread? Try upma

It’s a dish [that] in ten minutes is a hearty, protein-rich porridge that can be enhanced with mustard seeds, onions, garlic, diced potatoes, peanuts. ...Think of it as if you're trying to make grits except you're making it with semolina flour.


If you're gluten free, another very popular South Indian breakfast is made with sabudana, which are basically small tapioca pearls.

2. Make lots and freeze portions for easy meals

Casseroles tend to freeze well. I'm not just talking about rice. You can make a spinach and feta cheese casserole, cut it up into blocks and freeze them.

I like making large amounts of fillings, for example for a pie — either savory or sweet — [and] freeze it so the next time you want to make a quick pie at home, all you have to do is just pull out a bag of filling.

Credit Pinterest
No bread? Roti is a quick and easy alternative.

3. Recipes for the kids...don’t forget flatbreads
Rotis are an Indian flatbread that literally needs just all-purpose flour, a touch of water, a little bit of salt, a little bit of oil. It's a fun activity, and you can have your kid help youmake fresh flatbreads for a meal, especially if the grocery stores are going to be out of regular bread.

4. Flavor bombs: preserved lemons, chili sauce, tinned seafood

These are things that can really punch up a dish and take it to the next level. ...You can buy it all online, and the quality is amazing too. From sardines, mussels, cockles, anchovies, you name it, you can probably get it in a tin.

A little bit goes a long way, and it just adds an incredible depth of flavor to puttanesca or just a simple pasta dish at home, just a little bit of anchovy oil, add it to a dressing for a salad. … Use the sardines on a pizza or if you're making a little focaccia flatbread at home. All this kind of seafood really goes a long way — it adds salt and umami, adds flavor. Get the good stuff.

5. Spice blends modify your usual dishes
Harissa, zatar, berbere, all of this is available online, and you don't have to just think Indian spices. When you think spices, or any sort of herbs, there's a lot of Middle Eastern spices [like] smoked paprika.

Grant Holub-Moorman coordinates events and North Carolina outreach for WUNC, including a monthly trivia night. He is a founding member of Embodied and a former producer for The State of Things.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.