Three must-have ingredients in the kitchen

Growing up with extended family, all living under the same roof, I’ve never had to think about stocking the kitchen or figuring out what to cook for the next meal. It’s only been two years now, that I’m single and am living alone. Planning what to eat, when you are the only mouth to feed, can be challenging. For the longest time, I tried to fix a timetable and cook as per my sheet. However, within a few weeks the timetable meant nothing, because it was tough to follow.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a few hacks for cooking quick and healthy meals and I’d like to share them with you today. The three must-have ingredients are: Yogurt, Ginger & Garlic, Tomato Sauce (or Ketchup).

For some odd reason, I feel like Nigella talking to you folks!


This versatile ingredient can be used in quick sweet and savory dishes. It can also be used as a beverage. Let’s start with beverage first – if you take one-part thick yogurt and team it with two parts water and whisk it to a liquid called Chaas, then you can season it with salt, pepper, fresh coriander, cumin powder and a dash of grated ginger – and have the most amazing and healthy Buttermilk.

Mix two parts yogurt with one-part water and add castor sugar to taste, along with a few drops of rose water and blend it with a lot of ice, and you have the Lassi. Take it a step further by adding either a ripe banana or strawberry crush or Alphanso Mangoes, and you have an amazing smoothie to chug.

As a savory dish, you can take yogurt and mix into it grated cucumber and add a dash of salt, cumin powder, paprika and crushed pepper. Eat it alone, with rice or even as a dip with chips. I often add a whole lot of tomatoes and chopped onions to yogurt and make a healthy salad of it.

A quick meal – boil some rice and keep it aside, take about one chopped onion and fry it in a little oil. Then add four tablespoons of the yogurt to it, a little turmeric and salt to taste. Add about a cup and half of the boiled rice, and mix thoroughly. Let this mix slow cook for a bit and then gorge.

Ginger and Garlic

This combination is deadly, and many meals can be made from it. My fridge is always stocked with freshly pounded, ginger and garlic paste. My most go-to common dish is a spicy ginger and garlic marinade that I smother on vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, onions, capsicum and mushrooms. The other option is to marinade meats and then grill in the oven or on an open griddle.

The marinade is simple – in a bowl of hung yogurt (whey is drained), or very thick yogurt, mix in three big tablespoons of ginger and garlic paste (equal proportions of each ingredient), and add in your spices – salt, pepper, oregano, basil, paprika, green chilies, a squeeze of lime. Mix this and marinade the vegetable or meat for about an hour or two and then grill in the oven. Wait for the marinade to evaporate of sorts and give you a super-yummy treat.

I typically team my dish with a mint chutney, and it’s a whole meal to have.

The Ketchup Song

Last but not the least, ketchup is my go-to sauce, that can help me make a quick pasta, or baked beans on toast and even elevate a simple fried rice dish. I love making this simple and effective croquette that has stale bread, cheese and boiled potatoes. Mash the potatoes, add butter, ketchup and little seasonings like pepper and oregano. Mix in the cheese and fashion into small tennis ball-seized fillings.

Heat oil for deep frying, and when it’s hot enough, wet the stale bread, and fashion it into a cup in your palm, fill in the potato mix and close the bread all around the potato, so that it’s a complete round bread ball. Shake off the excess water and deep fry the croquette. Simple, yummy and delicious.