I just spent about 4 hours in the kitchen this morning, cooking for today and preparing ahead for Ramadan. I stumbled across a short cut to cooking accidentally last year. My mother had come for Baby Zoa’s birth, and when we had the aqiqah, she was still here. Since we decided to cook the aqiqah meat ourselves, due to financial reasons, and I was still a few weeks postpartum, my husband cooked both lambs with my mother’s help.
My mother whipped up the Korma spice paste, consisting of the Korma ground spice mix, onions, garlic, ginger, and sauteed it with whole spices like cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks. The amount filled half a stock pot. When the aqiqah was over, we still had some left over sauteed spice paste, and my mother put in in a container and tossed it in the freezer.
She only stayed here for three weeks, and after she left, I was in a mess, trying to juggle taking care of a month-old baby with three older children and cooking. It was ironically easier taking care of three young children close apart in age than three older children and one baby. My biggest problem was cooking. Years ago, when the three children were under the age of 3, we had stuck to a pretty regular routine. After Fajr, I would cook our lunch and dinner while hubby gave the three kids their morning baths. That pretty much eliminated the problem of toddlers pulling at my skirt and baby demanding nursing while I am in the midst of cooking.
With Baby Zoa however, I couldn’t seem to do what I did, and almost everyday, I would bustle back and forth in the kitchen while he cries for milk, which of course seems to be every few hours. It was very stressful. Almost screaming and pulling my falling hair out, I opened the freezer to see if there was anything that would speed up the cooking process. That was when my gaze fell on the container of sauteed Korma spice paste my mother had saved. To be honest, I really didn’t think much of it when she saved it.
So I defrosted it. And I cooked with it. That eliminated the onion and garlic peeling and cutting, and also the spice blending which I happen to abhor. To my delight, I realized that if I had those pre-cooked spice paste stocked up in my freezer, cooking would be much faster, and simpler, as the much hated step of peeling and cutting onions, garlic and whatever else is needed will be skipped. So I made my own spice pastes for other recipes, with much success, alhamdulillah. Now if only I could also pre-wash all my ram meat and chicken before chucking them in the freezer, that would eliminate another abhorred step in cooking: washing and preparing raw poultry and meat. I have seen a Malaysian couple do this after their poultry and meat grocery shopping, but I have never managed to do it, because post grocery trips are always exhausting for me.
This year, I’ve decided to employ this short cut introduced by my mother to save me some cooking time in Ramadan, so I can spend more time for ibadah and Quran, inshaallah. I just finished pre-cooking the spice paste for Ayam/Daging Masak Merah, and it feels great! At least I feel like I have accomplished something in my Ramadan preparations today, having brooded over it all week last week. Now all I have to do is finish writing up my sections on infant sleeping. Yes, alhamdulillah, SISTERS gave me the go and so far, I am having fun writing it!