There are countless ingredients I simply adore, however, whenever I go shopping, I always find myself drawn to a core list of items. Though there are always 'frill buys' that enhance flavours or even feature as 'main events' in the dishes themselves, I often feel my store-cupboard or fridge to be lacking without these core items.1. Coriander
Obviously discounting milk, bread and all those genuinely essential items, everyone's lists are different, but I believe you could gauge an entire food list based on a person's top five key ingredients. As this is a concept I firmly believe in, I thought it best to disclose my own list before I post anything further.
Strangely, coriander never really featured in the early years of my cooking. My dad used to crush the coriander seeds and use it to make Rasam, a typical Sri-Lankan gravy that is boiled with tamarind juice and spices to eat with rice. However, in my latter years, coriander has always featured in my dishes and is my top ingredient as I absolutely love its flavour, colour, aroma and ability to adapt to almost any dish, with the choice of using any part of it's body- from it's root right to it's glorious green tender leaves.. Coriander also transcends regional cooking as it is used as the base of many Thai curries, Moroccan pastes, Indian marinades and Mediterranean salsas, to name a few. Yes, this is definitely my top ingredient.
At any given time, there are always 5 tins of chick peas in my store cupboard. Looking back, I always took this humble ingredient for granted. Some of the best dishes I had when I was growing up seemed to involve my beloved chick-pea. For saturday lunch, my mum would make a killer chick-pea curry with fresh-from-the-cooker Dhalpouris (rotis filled with crushed lentils), and my grand-mother used to make a moreish chick-pea snack with fried onions, chillies and spices. A very common West-Indian dish which my mum brought to England with her was a deep fried chick peas which are seasoned with spicy chilli powder and salt. Truly delicious and utterly addictive. To my dearest chick-pea, I'm sorry for not always appreciatingyou as I should.
Who could not love potatoes? They are so diverse in terms of what they can do for you and come in so many wondrous shapes and sizes- five thousand to be exact! I love these bad boys- with a drop of mayo on it for a potato salad, smashed up for a creamy mash, sliced up with their skins on for some spicy wedges, shredded down for a spanish omelette or boiled down with some stock for a winter-warming soup. Can't go wrong. Can get fat.
Just like the triumphant potato, the egg is another victorious all rounder. It also giving rise to such other great loves of mine, mayonnaise and, ultimately, the chicken. Or did the chicken come first…?
Lemon is, I believe, a little un-sung hero. It is sharp in taste and is unapologetically fierce is smell. It's distinct flavour and aroma are among the main reasons why I love it so much, but adding to this, it's beautiful yellow skin makes it an amazing way to add flavour and colour to a dish. My grandad used to always buy a jar of lemon pickle which once opened would make your mouth water and taste-buds sings, and to this day, it is that awakening of senses that makes me love the lemon.
'What's your flavour? Tell me what's your flavour?'