If you are starting your own kitchen from scratch, it could be due to relocation, moving houses, started living independently or you have inherited full functioning kitchen from your mother-in-law, there’s always room for improvisation.
I’ve come up with a few necessary items, both food and nonfood, having which in your kitchen would make both your food and life tastier.
There is no specific order, I am writing them as they are occurring to me.
You will find cumin powder as a part of many dishes. My mother always have some of roasted cumin powder in her kitchen and add it while making namkeen lassi, made daily at summer lunchtime. It has loads of health benefits as well.
I don't grind the roasted cumin. I coarsely crush some either in between my palms or use pastel and mortar.
After roasting about a cup of cumin, I keep it in the airtight container and use it in billion things.
I use it in all kinds of raita, it absolutely tastes divine. Use it with hara raita, veggie raita, garlic raita or just make zeeray wala raita.
Roasted cumin gives a great texture to dishes when added just before finish cooking. Eg. chicken karhai, murgh cholay etc etc.
Also, it gives a lift to all kinds of vegetables.
Most of the times instead of using black cumin as a part of whole spices, I add roasted cumin and it takes the dish to a whole new level. Try this with Pulao or matar chawal or just plain steamed rice.
My sister-in-law introduced me to rubber spatula. She said that everyone in the cooking shows use these.
Basically it's an important tool in baking but I can name hundred uses while cooking as well.
It is too damn good for wiping the sides and base of your cooking pot after you have finished cooking.
It can also be used to wipe cooking oil from the frying pan.
It is excellent if you want to clean the blender jar once you have blended a thick paste and you find half of it still sticking to its walls.
I frequently use it for frying kababs, specially while turning them upside down.
Its also useful for patting or smoothing out the surfaces, specially for desserts.
I was given hand blender as a wedding gift. I had never used it before and it turned out such a big help in the kitchen.
I have carried out unthinkable tasks with this friend of mine
I’m using it on daily basis to puree foods for my little one.
Probably the most important use for it is hiding stuff like egg in a glass of milk. My son drinks this egg and milk mixture as his breakfast on school days.
He hasn't figured it out yet. Neither did his dad when he was young. According to my husband, my son is lucky to have his eggy milk with chocolate whereas he was given without it. When he got a bit suspicious because of the smell of egg and yellowish texture, his mom told him that it's actually ‘vanilla flavoured’.
It's a perfect ghota for haleem, daal etc.
I even once blended chanay ki daal for making halwa for Shab-e-Barat.
90% of the times we get pizza delivered. Still I find pizza cutter quite handy. Well of course I use it for cutting pizza slices but more importantly I use it for cutting sides of bread while making sandwiches. Using knife for this purpose gives very bad result with shreds of bread coming out from the ends.
Also it works great if you want to cut squares out of french toasts, waffle, naan, burgers, sandwiches, garlic baguettes , french bread or any other kind of bread.
These are my personal favourites.
I always fry loads of onions at home that serves multiple purpose.
From dishes like Qorma, Bihari kabab and Dum ka Qeema to garnishing of Haleem, Pulao, etc.
Brown onions can also be used to make any normal dish interesting and delicious. For eg in bhindi masala, adding two tablespoons fried onion will give it certain texture and taste.
Adding fried onions in aaloo qeema in the end with give it a degi touch.
Using fried onions as a layer in biryani will give it absolutely amazing flavour.
I'm sure most of you already have a pair of these in your kitchens. From cutting up green chillies, chopping up coriander and mint leaves or other veggies like spinach, french beans etc, scissors give me relief in many occasions.
Besides cutting, scissors also come in handy while opening up plastic packs.
I use them for snipping grapes from the main bunch, removing layer of fat from chicken, cutting flowers stems, opening up the mail, the list is endless.
I’d be lost without them for sure.
Mortar and Pastel
I love what it’s called in Urdu.
Hamun Dasta. Seems like a slave’s name from Alif Laila (Arabian Nights)
We have already talked about crushing cumin with these.
It has loads of other uses too, like pounding cardamom, cinnamon, chopping nuts etc. You will fell in love with the amazing aroma that is released.
Use it for coarsely grinding black peppercorns. I use fresh black pepper as much as I can. Freshly ground pepper tastes completely different to the black pepper powder from market.
It's useful in mincing ginger, garlic when they are required freshly minced/ grounded. E.g stir fry sauce, chutnee etc etc.
Lemon juice has endless uses not just in kitchen but outside as well. Ask Zubaida Apa who can even cure cancer from lemon juice.
As far as I am concerned, I use lemon in all my daals, salads, meats, you name it. Either during cooking and or while garnishing.
When layering biryani, I use slices of lemon and stash them in between the layers. One day i even used slices lemon in stir fried noodles, gave it a zing!
Lemon in green tea tastes amazing. Make you actually look forward to have a cup.
My husband makes this amazing orange drink by using orange juice, lemon and store bought diet lemonade. We usually have it while watching Netflix.
For all those beauty conscious ladies out there, lemon acts an important ingredient, be it skin toner or facemask.
And when I have a used lemon peel, I use it to wipe over my stainless steel, sink and oven which gives them a lovely shine.
Nutmeg and Mace Powder
For those of you who like “degi” touch to your everyday food, like my husband, keeping powdered Nutmeg and Mace in your kitchen cabinet is actually a good idea.
This is no tip, many of you must know that that peculiar aroma from certain foods comes from these two ingredients. Hence, I use Nutmeg and Mace powder for homemade Qorma, Qeema, Aaloo Gosht etc to get THAT touch.
Well, these are self explanatory. Perfect solution when you don't have airtight jars.
Specially useful for those who have started kitchen from scratch. Like in my case, when I started my kitchen in London last year, instead of buying a lot of airtight jars altogether, I used these sealing clips and bought jars when i came across nice ones.
I keep resealing stuff like breads, biscuits, uncooked daal and rice, biscuits etc
P.S. you can also tie your little one’s hair with these if the need arises.