In praise of the humble metal


I love my iron pan! Yes – sounds strange, does it not? I also love my Le Creuset casseroles and my non-stick pans, but my simple iron cast pan does things that none of those other utensils can.

Iron is one of the oldest metals known to man, and has been used for centuries as a cooking utensil. In India it has traditionally been used to cook green, iron-rich vegetables like okra, spinach and black chickpeas (kale chane). It is not a common practice any more, and alas, none of the aunties who do it could tell me why they do it. Obviously we have lost some folk wisdom on the path to progress and non-stick land. Some couple of Google pages later, I understood  that cooking in an iron pan significantly increases the iron content of the food. Even better, most of this iron is bio-available which means it is more easily absorbed by our body. What a blessing! Especially for women.

As a cooking utensil, iron can be heated to extremely high temperatures without becoming toxic (unlike non-stick pans that emit a strange chemical smell when put on high heat) and that makes it extremely good for deep frying and grilling. Foods that are seared on an iron pan develop a wonderful crackly, deep brown crust – perfect for grilled fish, vegetables and French toast.

An iron pan needs a little bit of care and maintenance, but once you get through the early stages of `seasoning’, it is a dream to work with (google it, or ask me for details if you are interested).

So here is a recipe (an SS original) which would not be possible (for me) without my iron pan.

Zucchini Ferrumanta (ok – I just made that up…Ferrum of course being the scientific name for iron). Takes about 5 mins to prepare and 15 mins to cook.

* Zucchini – as many as you like, topped and tailed and cut into half-cylinders. Salt and drain zucchinis for 30 mins if you suspect they might be bitter. Rinse and pat dry before use

* Olive oil – about 2-3 tsps

* Garlic – 3-4 cloves, minced or crushed (I just use my handy dandy garlic crusher)

* Salt

* Lemon juice (optional) – a few squeezes

– Heat the iron pan oh high heat until smoking

– Place the zucchinis face down, in a single layer. Do multiple batches if needed. Do not be tempted to pile them up and get them all done in one shot – we need to sear the surface and get it nicely brown. Piling them will make them steam, not grill (which is also fine, but that is another dish, not this recipe)


– Turn them over and grill the backs (for less time than the fronts). Click on the pics for a close up view

Waiting around...

– Once all the zucchinis are done, lower the heat, put them back in the pan, add minced garlic, salt and a dash of water (to prevent the garlic from burning). Stir, cover and cook on low heat for 5 mins (not much need to stir now)

– Let the zucchinis `rest’ in the covered pan for at least 10 mins until they are tender. I usually leave them in there for a couple of hours and lightly microwave before serving (saves the family the `torture’ of a smoky kitchen…delicious though the smells may be!)

– Serve with a dash of lemon juice if you like it that way – or without, if that’s your preference. The addition of Vitamin C by the way (from the lemon) makes it easier for the body to absorb iron.

All done!

Works well as a side dish, a warm salad or even with pasta (add a dash of extra virgin olive oil). Bon appetitito!

…and this is what happened to the leftovers last night. Fresh pappardelle with  pesto, zucchini, rucola and peperoncino. BTW the name of the pasta derives from the Italian verb `pappare’ – to gobble up…t’was fitting.




4 responses »

  1. …”Piling them will make them steam, not grill”. It is only a true love for food and all the good things that a well cooked meal brings, that makes Shruti and this blog so special. This is such a rarely known factor in cooking and I love that you brought this up for people to notice. I’ve bookmarked this site and look forward to many more blogs.

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