These 11 Basic Ingredients Will Change Your Cooking Game

Cooking can seem like a daunting task, especially when you are looking at a recipe and there are so many instructions and numbers staring back at you. A teaspoon of this and a cup of that. Don’t put this before that. Make sure it’s cool before you pick that. It can seem like a lot. However, a way to become a little more confident with the process is to really get to know your pantry, before looking at a recipe and make sure you have got a few things covered.

Here are a few ingredients that go a long way in making your home-cooked food more flavourful and jazzed up.

1. Pink Salt

We have all had a situation where you take a bite and something is just so salty that it makes you feel like choking. That’s mostly just table salt behaviour.

Replace your table salt with pink salt and even if you accidentally were to go overboard with it, it won’t make you want to throw the whole dish out. It is more earthy and muted and you would really appreciate salt as “seasoning” when you incorporate this in your recipes. 

Get it here.

I really recommend the Himalayan Chef one over Falak and Shan Foods. Tried and tested.

2. Freshly Ground Pepper

I have definitely judged recipes when the only seasoning they have used is salt and pepper. However, when you switch up your salt and pepper game, you start to see why this works.

The powdery black pepper that you get in a jar is just a forgettable sprinkle when it comes to adding flavour but freshly ground pepper is where it is at. The texture is great, for starters and it brings with it heat, this extra “pepperiness” and life. This and pink salt together are the duo that can save any sinking ship.

Get it here.

I recommend both Himalyan Chef and Falak for this as they both come with grinders.

3. Garlic

Yes, everyone knows garlic is awesome and if a recipe calls for two cloves, you scoff at it and add twelve. We know the drill. However, it’s not just that.

It’s also the many ways garlic can be incorporated in cooking and almost all of them are pretty simple. Slice them thin and saute them in butter before mixing in with boiled, mashed potatoes. Game-changer. Mince them and add it to butter before baking it on bread. A yum! Roast an entire bulb wrapped in foil and drizzled with olive oil. Pure heaven.

Get it from your neighbourhood vegetable seller.

4. Herbs: Basil, Dill, Coriander

Herbs like dill and basil and even coriander are examples of things that really get the party started. They all have their distinct quirks and their own edginess but if you remove them from a recipe, you would know something is missing.

Dill is super in spreads, basil is great on toasts, pizzas and sandwiches and coriander is a staple herb for any desi dish.

Get your basil here and dill (soya), coriander (dhanya) from your neighbourhood vegetable seller.

5. Cheese: Cottage, Mozzarella

Cheese is seemingly a no-brainer for your pantry but the question is what cheese do you add in your cooking because you can’t really keep every possible type. My way to go about this is to keep one melty cheese for pasta, pizza, cheese fries etc. and for that mozzarella holds the fort, and to add variety, keep a soft cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese, which goes well with toasts, omelet and salads etc. If you are looking to add even more types, halloumi works as a standalone cheese that you can air-fry on its own and cheddar which works well with mozzarella.

Get your cheese here or here

6. Chilli Oil

Be it ramen, your go-to pasta recipe or even daal chawal, a good chilli oil makes the experience of eating anything really satisfying, and also spicy.

When it comes to condiments, chilli oil is as flavourful as it gets. It definitely packs heat but it’s not just that. The oil gives it that smooth finish and hints of garlic and other herbs brings different flavour notes.

I almost always use it with any pasta that I’m making and it makes any toast beautiful.

Get your chilli oil here.

7. A stash of vegetables you actually like

As a child, many people develop a dislike for vegetables but when you really start to get into the anatomy of any recipe as an adult, you realise vegetables and herbs lend a great deal of flavour.

The tomato you take out from your burger adds freshness and brightness, the coriander in your chicken karahi adds this nice herby edginess, the onions in your pakora stops it from drying out.

It’s always good to revisit your relationship with vegetables and figure out the ones you can like. Just because you had arvi as a child and disliked it, it is no reason to not appreciate a bell-pepper for instance, or mushrooms or even eggplants.

Some of the vegetables I like keeping in my pantry are mushrooms (the fresh ones), capsicum, frozen sweet corn (they go with everything), frozen broccoli (it’s actually great in a mac and cheese) and frozen peas. Frozen vegetables also help you whip something up last minute and save you cooking time, so there is that.

Get your vegetables from your neighbourhood vegetable seller or Fresh Basket.

8. Lemon

Yes, lemons are vegetables too but they deserved a special mention because of the sheer number of times they have transported a recipe to elite tier.

If nothing else, you have a jug of lemonade to look forward to at the end of the day.

One recipe you should try out with lemons: spaghetti cooked in garlic, dill and olive oil and that you finish with squeeze of lemon and red chilli flakes. Yum.

9. Chaat Masla

This is when you make your brown ancestors proud. If you are just starting out, get to know turmeric, red chilli flakes and cumin and then add more spices to your collection.

Dried oregano also enhances pasta, garlic breads and anything in the world of bread and cheese.

And before I forget, chaat masala.- comes in really handy when you are making fries at even or even with your order of fish and chips at times.

Get it here.

10. Olive Oil

So, olive oil can be found in two varieties: pomace and extra virgin olive oil.

The pomace olive oil can be used in cooking and frying, while the extra virgin olive oil goes really well as a drizzle on salads.

The flavour of this oil is very subtle but somehow changes your entire relationship with “oily food”. It becomes one with the food rather than standing out as an oily backdrop for whatever you have made.

I use copious amounts anytime I’m making an aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) and that just feels right. Lol.

Get it here.

11. Artisanal Bread

Bread again may sound too simple an addition to make a big difference but trust me, it does. A great loaf of bread can make any of your recipes exciting. You can use it to scoop a dip out or you can it for a toast, or even when making grilled cheese. My favourites are the halloumi and chilli bread from Test Kitchen, the german bread from Slice of Life and sourdough from Coco9.

Think a toasted and crunchy exterior and a slightly chewy interior that makes even a bread and butter moment so satisfying.

Get breads online from here.

Do you have an ingredient in mind that proved to be a game-changer in your cooking? Let us know.



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