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Kitchen talk

A few versatile ingredients go a long way in ensuring you can whip up lip-smacking delicacies when guests drop in unannounced or when hunger pangs strike. Most of our homes are well stocked with basic ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, potatoes and onions. But, with a little foresight you can add to this list of staples things that will help you add your own twist to recipes and also save you a panic attack!

Lemons: Acidic in nature, lemon juice enhances other flavours while adding a citrusy tone. Soups, sauces, vegetable side dishes, and fruits taste great with a dash of lime.

Mustard: Mustard can transform a grilled cheese toast, sandwich or a cheese sauce to something special. It plays a crucial role in salad dressings. When your jar of mustard is almost empty, pour some oil and vinegar in it and shake well to make a mustardy vinaigrette.

Mayonnaise: With some seasoning, you can make transform mayonnaise into an amazing potato salad dressing. Add some tomato sauce and you have a Thousand Island dressing and with some curd and herbs you can make a great dip for crudites.

Chicken stock: Homemade stock is best but stock cubes do just fine. Biryani and rice pilafs are incomplete without stock. Fresh stock can be frozen in an ice tray for later use.

Cheese: Cheese adds an intensely savoury flavour to pastas and soups. Sliced cheese is perfect for grilled sandwiches and vegetable bakes. Parmesan is good for last minute grating over savoury dishes.

Herbs: Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, coriander and rosemary lend fresh flavour and colour to just about anything, especially to vegetables, fish and chicken, without overwhelming the dish itself.

Olives and capers: Both have piquant, briny flavours that complement each other. They go very well with tomatoes, potatoes, in salad dressings or with pasta, and are delicious with olive oil and salt.

Sun dried tomatoes: They can vary in flavour from being sweet to very salty, and are great in pizzas, pastas, frittatas, cass-eroles and sandwiches.

Bacon: Bacon makes everything taste better. It imparts a rich, smoky flavour to soups, salads, pizzas and quiches.

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