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Food & Beverages

10 Versatile Kitchen Ingredients You Can't Go Wrong WIth

By Somdutta Mazumder

Updated - May 6, 2020 7 min read

Of all the things we discovered during this lockdown, newfound cooking skills seem to be amongst the most trending ones. Which makes sense, considering that the threat of virus transmission has rendered most of us unable to order food with a few swipes, the way we are accustomed to. So naturally, most of us had to resort to stepping into the unchartered territory of cooking a meal, in order to satisfy our own cravings. Not to mention the segment of the population living alone, who had all but two options remaining at their dispense. Either learn how to cook, or starve to death, so needless to say, the former was a widely preferred choice. 


Now that we've established the fact that there's going to be a lot more cooking, or at least attempts to cook in the on-going and fast approaching days, it's time to address what you cook with. Now you could give access to a fully stocked modern pantry, to an amateur 20 something newbie. But what good will an extensive stock of ingredients achieve, when the person using them does not know what they're used for. Also, scoring groceries is a tad more challenging now than it was a couple of months ago, so as much as I'd love to, following the suggestion of a lifestyle magazine to get some buckwheat chia bread is way harder than it sounds.



So, what then? Well, our faith in the uniquely Indian concept of "jugaad" remains unmoved. Which is why we say, why buy 50 kitchen staples for 50 different dishes, when you can choose 10 that can be used in multiple ways? Yep, for newbie cooks the best way to buy kitchen essentials, is to go for the most versatile food you can find in the supermarket, that you can use in unique ways to create distinct meals.


To make your cooking job a bit easier and not as harrowing, we've curated a list of 10 highly versatile food you need to stock your kitchen with.  


1. Onion & Garlic Paste 

One of the best kitchen discoveries I stumbled upon during college days, this one is a pantry staple you will very rarely NOT find at a bachelor's place. The perfect laziness-enabling kitchen ingredient, this paste solves a number of cooking hassles from chopping onions every day to blending ginger and garlic as an amateur. The readymade paste is aromatic and pungent, making for a great addition to most Indian savoury dishes. Whether its while cooking a quick curry, a mean omelette or just your favourite stew, this versatile food can quickly add some professional-level culinary flavours to the simplest of meals. 


Image Courtesy - SBS 


2. Eggs 

A well known and acknowledged fact amongst cooking enthusiasts, eggs are one of the most versatile food items to ever exist. The multi-purpose uses of eggs as a kitchen ingredient spans cuisines, meal occasions, taste and even categories like sweet and savoury. Keeping a fresh stock of eggs in the kitchen is a golden rule amateur cooks should abide by, considering you can crack open a few and add to virtually any dish. Even as a standalone staple, eggs can be used in multiple ways from scrambled to poached to boiled. As an additional ingredient, you can put eggs in baked stuff, desserts, sandwiches, fried rice, salads, Maggi, sauces, and really, the list goes on. 


Image Courtesy - Medical News Today 


3. Soy Sauce 

If you had the option of picking one, and only one Asain condiment, a bottle of soy sauce is what you should reach for blindly. Savoury, yummy and packed with bold flavours, soy sauce can be used in a plethora of ways to amp up the taste of a meal. For starters, you can use the sauce with other ingredients to create tasty marinades, glazes and dressings. You can also use it to enhance your Desi Chinese meals, or roasted and stir-fried non-vegetarian as well as vegeterian food. 


Image Courtesy - Serious Eats


4. Greek Yogurt

If this is a pantry ingredient you only believe in whipping out when you're on a diet, we urge you to think again. Greek yoghurt is one of the most versatile, and also under-rated kitchen staples all of us should have on us at all times. It's also a healthier alternative to common pantry staples like sour cream and milk. It's protein-rich and thus, can be used to add a rich tang to baked goods, homemade sauces and dips, soups or even as a substitute ingredient in classic meals like mashed potatoes, tacos and pancakes. 


Image Courtesy - Medical News Today


5. Lemons

More than half the condiments you will find in the catalogued aisle of a fancy supermarket can be re-created at home if you have this versatile kitchen ingredient on you. As you probably already know, a few drops of lemon juice over any freshly prepared meal is the best and most effective all-natural taste enhancer. The juice from your lemons can serve as a brilliant finishing touch to just about anything from grilled meat to a sweet potato salad to some Pav Bhaji. Grated lemon zest can also be used as a yummy garnish, or as an additional favouring in a host of sweet and savoury recipes. 


Image Courtesy - The Spruce Eats



6. Parmesan Cheese

If you're a frequent watcher of online cooking videos, you might have noticed this kitchen staple making an appearance in virtually every recipe. That's because Parmesan happens to be one of the most versatile cheeses, capable of adding a rich cheesy flavour by being grated on top of any dish. You can stir Parmesan Cheese into any pasta dish, melt it to use as a creamy sandwich filling, or shave the salty, nutty cheese variety onto salads and baked dishes. 


Image Courtesy - Wisconsin Farmer


7. Tomatoes 

I've come to realise that there's no middle ground in the preference for tomato as a kitchen ingredient. Eiter you're a fan, or you will spend half an hour separating tomato bits from every meal. Either way, if you're just starting out with the art of cooking, this is a versatile food item that can be flexibly used in a host of kitchen experiments. Sandwiches, stir-fried items, summer salads, soups and chilli, tomato can be used as a star ingredient in all. Besides, a good marinara sauce definitely needs the best juicy tomatoes, without which your pizza is just somewhat incomplete. 


Image Courtesy - Good Housekeeping


8. Maggi Masala Magic 

A true-blue versatile kitchen star, one packet of this masala can be used in at least 4 different dishes. Comprising of all the masalas and spices your mum frequently complains your kitchen does not have, this masala mixture is the best taste enhancer for novice cooks still struggling to discern salt from sugar. Besides the obvious experimental plate of Maggi, this versatile cooking aid can be used to heighten the aroma and flavours of any meal, as long as there's a will to get creative with food. 


Image Courtesy - Vridhi Stores


9. Bananas

One of the most nutritious and easiest to score kitchen ingredients, a bunch of bananas can be a lot more useful than what you're accustomed to thinking. Besides consuming raw as an instant source of potassium, antioxidants, vitamins and energy, bananas can be thrown into delicious smoothies, summer fruit salads, scramble sandwiches, desserts and baked goods (yep, banana bread). You can also add some honey or peanut butter to a few sliced bananas, and whip up a yummy yet healthy snack option. 


Image Courtesy - Reader's Digest 


10. Mushrooms

At the cost of sounding a bit biased, let me state outright that I can eat mushrooms with anything, including plain dirt. That's how much I love this kitchen staple. And soon you will as well, once you realise the impressive number of different preparations you can cook up with this all-star pantry ingredient. Mushrooms, or more specifically Button mushrooms, can suffice as an entire dish by themselves, or be channelled into yummy appetisers and side dishes. Mushrooms can be stir-fried, stuffed with other ingredients, marinated, or cooked whole. When it comes to picking a dish that will improve once you add mushrooms, the sky is the limit. So don't be afraid to get creative. 


Image Courtesy - The Spruce Eats 

For your next #CookingInQuarantine offering to the social media gods. 

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