Remember those sabzi mandis or bazaars our fathers and mothers used to take us to once a week, usually on Sundays? These were the original farmers’ markets—some of the farm-fresh produce was brought and sold by producers themselves, so even if you haggled and negotiated on a mutually acceptable price, the profit was pocketed directly by growers, and you came back happy with bags of bright greens, fragrant herbs, pantry staples and crisp veggies. Shopping for veggies, fruit and meat happened once or twice a week, and the refrigerator was the vault for the fresh produce stockpile.
Fast forward to present-day grocery shopping—from the supermarket announcing buy one, get one deals on fruit, to the app on your phone promising you fresh bhaji delivered to your doorstep (or the housing complex’s, as the case may be), your vegetables come packed in see-through plastic bags, with best before dates printed. Or maybe you pick them up at the neighbourhood sabziwala’s, ticking off your carefully put together list. Either way, you’re feeling virtuous, since you’ve stocked up on “fresh” produce, and since they come together in a home-cooked meal over the week, you can see the health and nutrition halo around your head shining.
Until the time you succumb, that is. When, at the worn-out end of a long, hard day, when you are positively sure you can’t be up on your feet rustling about in the kitchen to put a meal on the table. And you open that bookmarked site that lists restaurant menus, or the delivery app that promises you a meal on your table in 40 minutes, but sometimes messes up, only to have you fighting it out with customer care 90 minutes later, with no sign of dinner. Even the meal that is delivered to you is far from perfect, as everybody knows. Your seafood choices are limited to the clichéd fry and curry. But hunger strikes, as it only will, and you can’t always choose between a growling stomach and that promise of healthy eating that you make yourself every now and then, can you?
What if you didn’t have to choose between the two? What if your actual choices were easier to make and far more delicious—think Kerala-style roast squid or fish ghassi or mixed seafood lasagne? And they’d come from the familiar environs of your own refrigerator—you could point and eeny, meeny, miny, moe the meal for the day, if deciding becomes too much. No more last minute takeout tussle, dinner is ready when you are. No more bewilderment when you’re entertaining either, and your guests will be nevertheless impressed, and would want to know how long it took to put the meal together, and what recipes did you refer to.
Because who wouldn’t want to love to eat a gourmet home-cooked meal, that takes hours to perfect and serve? Wait a minute, we were talking about all these coming from your refrigerator, so this must be a meal kit, that you put together, right? Yes, and no. Presenting to you the new Heat & Eat range of ready meals from Fishvish, your new saviour in a crazy, hard world. How’re these different from takeout or ordering in, you ask? For starters (yes, great starters too), these meals are put together just the way it would be in a home cook’s kitchen. And you can order them at your convenience, when you or somebody else is around to receive delivery. This could be as early as a week before. So, are these meals one of these ready-to-eat ones at the supermarket, loaded with preservatives and other bad stuff? Oh no, these are as good as fresh, because they are frozen.
Frozen is Fresh
Just a minute, frozen is fresh? Haven’t we always looked at “frozen”: and “fresh” as two distinctly separate categories? Because even at restaurants, we ask for “fresh” seafood, not “frozen”. And freezing is a form of preservation, so how do fresh and frozen even taste alike?
Except that they do. And we eat our favourite foods frozen, without even consciously thinking about them. Golden luscious mango pulp to churn into ice cream in the middle of winter? Green, sweet winter peas to make curries when it’s blazing hot? Even prawns picked up in excess from the market to be finished some weeks later; all are great to eat, thanks to the magic and science of freezing.
Bijal Patel, cofounder Fishvish shares this view. “Our parents have been doing this for decades. I remember there always being aamras in the freezer or tomato puree ice cubes. In fact, when my mom came to visit she would mostly make some extra chicken curry and freeze it before leaving so we could gorge on it later.”
Freezing seals in freshness, and stops the growth of bacteria that “ages” food. There are several myths around freezing and frozen, some of which have risen due to the unreliable power supply problem that most of us have faced in our growing years. Not anymore; infrastructure has gotten better, as has the awareness about nutrition and health benefits that freezing food delivers.
Nutritional benefits in frozen food? Of course, as even the experts would tell you. The chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) says“Within three days of vegetables being pulled from the ground, 80 per cent of vitamin C is naturally lost from them and most ‘fresh’ food has a useful nutritional lifespan of up to five days.” Rewind to the farmers’ markets of yore, when produce from farms reached you directly, unlike the present-day bagged stuff that sits on supermarket shelves for days, before it reaches your kitchen. We’ve seen how seafood loses its nutrition and quality as it makes its way to you several days since it’s caught. Frozen seafood, on the other hand, retains freshness and taste thanks to the quick freezing and consistent storage conditions. Similarly, vegetables are flash-frozen quickly after harvesting, sealing in vitamins and minerals, and nutritional comparison tests supportthis too.
Here to Stay
Frozen food has been the norm in most countries abroad for a long time, and is the way of the future, as human lives get busier, but health remains a priority. The people behind Heat & Eat get this; Shumu Gupta, cofounder Fishvish says “I am really excited about this line of products we’re launching. There are a lot of people out there who want to try different kinds of seafood but are not confident about cooking seafood or don’t have the time. Why should you guys miss out on all this gorgeous seafood? Our new line caters to you.”
Of course, why should anyone miss out on the variety that the line-up promises? You could start with the Kerala Prawn Fry, and dine on the Chepala Pulusu, that tangy Andhra fish curry. Or maybe the daab chingri—the authentic coconut prawns cooked in an actual coconut and delivered to you the same way. Add a side of rice and some salad, and you have got a complete, satisfyingly scrumptious meal. The prawn lasagna roll-ups are superb on their own, or with a chilled Rosé. Or maybe you need the creamy comfort that the Fettucini Alfredo With Shrimp brings. Fancy yet everyday meals that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner, with or without your favourite people, because they come in single servings too. A variety of Indian & International dishes to take your pick from, your’ll be spoilt for choice with the range. Impress your dinner guests with a brilliant spread at the table, actually enjoying yourself since you haven’t spent hours in the kitchen. Shine at the next potluck you’re invited to, and tell your friends that the recipes are part of the family secrets.
Homecooking Done Best
Because these recipes are homestyle, curated and shared by accomplished homechefs. As KK, cofounder FishVish says, “Our Heat & Eat range is also about keeping alive tried and tested home recipes—some that have been passed on verbally by older generations, and newer recipes that have been learnt and tweaked by home cooks over many an experiment. We want to bring the result of all this rich knowledge and experience and skill to your table.”
The meals are all-natural, with no added preservatives, MSG, artificial colours, or hydrogenated vegetable oil. Each recipe has the ingredients and nutritional information listed, something even the most open restaurant or home kitchen wouldn’t share. And it’s all homechef-created and approved; these cooking wizards are carefully chosen, and the qualities common to all of them is the fervent love for food, and ace levels of cooking seafood and meats. Each meal is the result of some nostalgia, some inspiration, and hours of practice, until perfect.
Just the way our favourite meals came to be. Maybe you’ll finally find the homestyle taste you’ve been looking for all this while, you just need to heat and eat.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.