Do you have that one ingredient that you enjoy cooking with? That one ingredient that you try incorporating in most of your dishes? I decided to ask some of my favourite food bloggers and home chefs what their favourite ingredients to cook with are. These are bloggers that I follow, home chefs whose food I swear by, and food writers who I enjoy reading – an esteemed bunch who I am thankful to for contributing to this post. Read on!
1. Kalyan Karmakar of The Finely Chopped
One of the first food blogs I started following, each post Kalyan pens down is a fable, where the central characters are food! I’ve yet to find a blog that oscillates between gourmet food from the cobbled streets of Rome, to street side dosas from Mumbai suburbs with such ease.Kalyan tells me he enjoys cooking with fish – an answer I was hoping for owing to his Bengali lineage. ‘My current focus has been on oven based yet flavourful fish grills and bakes. The trick is to ensure that the fish is cooked right. Not over cooked. Not raw. Which is always a challenge in the oven and part of the fun.’, shares Kalyan.
2. Nikhil Merchant of Nonchalant Gourmand
Gorgeous pictures, innovative recipes, and beautifully worded text – Nikhil’s blog is a perfect dive into the world of gourmet food.Nikhil is currently based in Los Angeles, working on a new project, and relishing California’s citrus trees – blood oranges, lemons, limes and avocados which are found commonly in most homes over there. ‘I have a lemon tree growing here and it’s perennial. Not only do they have that quintessential citrus tang but are sweet and mildly acidic. Fleshy skin for some great zest and full of juice. I am a sucker for lemons these days, and they are totally worth it.’, quips Nikhil.
3. Roxanne Bamboat aka The Tiny Taster
Every time I read a new post written by Roxanne, I add another travel destination to my bucket list! Her blog beautifully amalgamates her love for travel and food, and will make you yearn for a vacation.
Tiny’s many trips across South East Asia has made her fall in love with the simple stir fry method of cooking. And an indispensable ingredient of all her recipes is garlic! ‘I’m not one of those people who can eat daal chawal everyday or fish or chicken for everymeal. I get bored very easily so when I cook I’m constantly mixing it up. However even if I have just plain vegetables I will still end up with garlic. I like it raw, I like it chopped or sliced and cooked. I like to roast it whole with the skin on till it gets slightly charred and nutty and then either eat it as an accompaniment or mix it in with my dish.’, says Tiny!
4. Shivani Tolia of Yellow Butterfly
I bonded with Shivani over her Strawberry Butter the very first time I met her, and the rest is history. Under her label – Yellow Butterfly – this Interior Designer cum home chef churns out the most delectable hummus, pesto, dips, and butters. (Her Spring Onion Dip was polished off in a record breaking 2 minutes 30 seconds at my home.)
The ingredient Shivani picked as her favourite is one I’d agree with whole heartedly too. ‘Picking one ingredient is like picking your favorite child very tough. My favorite ingredient keeps changing ,I love to cooking with all seasonal vegetables, but if I was pushed to picking one it would be, Salt. You can have amazing knifing skills or cook with the most expensive ingredients one can find, but salt transforms any dish from bland to flavourful.’ Agreed!
5. Perzen Patel aka Bawi Bride
The Bawi Bride blog is my reference guide for most Parsi recipes. And the Bawi Bride kitchen is my go-to place for when I am craving Parsi food!
Perzen’s favourite and most used ingredient is the ginger garlic paste, and at the Bawi Bride kitchen they go through almost 2kgs of the paste a month! ‘I make my own paste at home and I love using it as it is my go-to marinade for all kinds of meat. It goes into pretty much every dish we cook and having a ready paste means you’re saved the hassle of chopping garlic every time a recipe calls for it. I also like it as it’s a great preservative for meat and lends a beautiful flavour to chicken even if you decide to not add anything else to your marinade.’, shares Perzen. The ‘Aadu-Lasan’ paste sitting heroically in a glass jar, is quite a favourite at my home as well!
6. Purabi Naha of Cosmopolitan Currymania
Purabi comes up with the most innovative recipes on her blog – most of them showcasing her Bangla background. Strawberry Sondesh Tart. Chyavanprash Infused Kala Jamun and Sesame Ice cream. Prawn Curry with Korean Gochujang. Do I need to say more?
Purabi’s favourite ingredient is apt for the festive season – Cointreau. ‘I splash Cointreau every now and then into my cooking pot! As I love to play around fusion, which is my style of cooking, I add traditional ingredients like curry leaves and Indian spices to Cointreau in my cooking.’ she says. Purabi shares a picture of her Coffee-Cointreau Chicken, which is perfect for a chilly Christmas night!
7. Tarika Singh of To the T
Tarika’s blog is a visual delight, with charming pictures and innovative recipes that encourage me to cook every single time!
I was hoping Tarika would give me an ingredient she bakes with as her favourite – having won Best Baking Blog two years in a row – and she didn’t disappoint. Tarika’s favourite, and one of mine too is the Lemon Zest – something that she uses in soups, cakes, pastas, salads, roasts and even dips. ‘I don’t think there’s much zest used in Indian cooking because I remember my Mom’s cook would be alarmed to see me use it, but relented once she tasted what I’d made. As you can tell from the picture, my microplane zester is my prized tool that helps me get just the flavoursome zest without the bitter white bit of the skin.’, opines Tarika.
8. Abhik Bhattacherji of Boiled Eggs and Belvedere
One of my newest, favouritest blogs to follow – Abhik’s blog is a treat! Witty writing, innovative content, and pictures that look like they belong in a glossy – I heart Boiled Eggs and Belvedere. (The blog as well as the alcohol.) This one’s so much more than a food blog – which is why I love it!
Abhik’s reply to my question was hilarious and my personal favourite – Baby Goat! ‘My emotional attachment to said creature comes from a healthy diet of mutton curry at Sunday lunches after the Sung Eucharist church service. My mother has successfully taught me how to use this protein in a curry, in a stew, in a pie and on a skewer. Till the day I live, and till my arteries allow me, I shall continue enjoying the meat of baby goats.’ he fearlessly jokes.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with? Something conventional and commonly used? Or something eccentric and not-so ordinary? Tell me in the comments below. Hope the festive season brings you lots of love, luck, and good food! ‘Tis the season to be chubby….