Anyone can find a recipe and put out exotic and glamourous dishes once in a while, but true gourmet cooking is much more than that. It's about exploring and playing around with different cuisines, flavours and techniques to create star stunners for your table. As you unleash your creativity in the kitchen, having the right ingredients, tools and appliances can help your culinary dreams take flight. This may sound daunting, but in reality it doesn't need a state-of-the-art culinary set-up. If you cover the basics, you will be well on your way to creating gourmet delights at home.
Here are five easy ways to transform our kitchen into a gourmet haven:
1. Invest in good quality cookware:
A variety of pots and pans will give you the freedom to experiment with different techniques of cooking food. Each utensil is designed to get the right amount of heat for your particular type of creation, and using the wrong pot or pan could change the way your dish turns out. A good skillet is essential for sauteing, while a wok is necessary for a good stir-fry. A medium-sized saucepan is handy for sauces or boiling liquids. While nonstick variants are most common, I prefer cast iron cookware - either regular or ceramic coated - which requires minimum care if maintained well, and can last a lifetime. More importantly, unlike nonstick cookware, the materials don't leech into the food, making it better for overall health in the long run. I also recommend investing in a good dutch oven for stews and curries, which helps to develop flavours better during the slow-cooking process. If you like to bake, having a couple of good baking trays and sheet pans is a must.
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2. Choose the right kitchen tools and appliances:
There are a number of 'kitchen hack' tools constantly advertised to make your life easier, but don't be fooled by everything you see. Having a few basic but important tools will see you through just fine. Invest in a good set of knives and take the effort to maintain them, as you will use them every single day. However, good knives are incredibly sharp, so don't get distracted while you're cutting and chopping. Measuring cups and a set of mixing bowls of varying sizes will help in the prep process, while spatulas bring a versatility to both booking and mixing. You should also have a good colander, a balloon whisk and a grater. A hand mixer is essential for almost all baking, or if you're in the mood to splurge, you could consider a stand mixer or a food processor, which really cuts time and effort.
3. Herbs and Spices help simple dishes shine:
Exotic herbs and spices help elevate everyday dishes to the next level, and most of them are available in modern trade shops or speciality stores. As you experiment with different cuisines, keep some basic ingredients at hand to give yourself options while creating your star stunner dish. Thyme, rosemary and sage work beautifully with continental dishes, while some sichuan peppercorns can brighten up an Asian dish with that fiery heat. Cumin, coriander and Za'atar are staples in middle eastern fare. Exotic spices and herbs don't always mean from far off lands - India has a veritable treasure trove of spices to discover across it's many regions. I personally love hunting for ancient herbs and spices that have been long forgotten over time, understanding the flavour profiles, and using them to create unique dishes.
4. Oils, Vinegars and Sauces for versatility of cuisines:
In our modern day busi-ness, cooking interesting and delicious food on a daily basis should not be a burdensome task. Flavoured oils and vinegars can infuse your dish with a wallop of flavour in no time at all. I'm a big fan of olive oil and cold pressed oils which are more nutritious as compared to refined oils. I use different cold pressed oils like the sesame, mustard and sunflower oil which also adds flavour to the food. Vinegars are a great citric element with the ability to infuse flavour. Red Wine vinegar and Balsamic vinegar are great to have at hand, while apple cider vinegar packs a punch with flavour and nutrition. Sauces provide flavour, moisture, a contrast in texture, colour and visual appeal to a dish. A good tamari soy sauce will provide that umami yuminess, while some Chipotle or Adobo sauce will bring a feisty hotness to your creation. While I always recommend making your own pesto or arrabiata sauce for pastas, these could sometimes be time consuming. In that case, opt for a pre-made jar of sauce that is organic, with minimum preservatives.
5. Wholesome Staples and Grains:
Cereals and grains are the most common food staples in the world's dietary choices. Use a variety of staples and grains that give you a mix of nutrition and fibre. I like to use red or brown rice instead of polished white rice whenever possible. Although I enjoy cooking with grains like couscous, barley and quinoa, I am also fascinated by locally grown ancient grains and millets like the saguna millet or the barnyard millet. These are a great addition to a healthy meal if you learn to cook it right.
Transforming your kitchen into a gourmet haven isn't a mammoth task. With a few simple, smart additions, you can create a space where everyday cooking becomes a wondrous journey of experimentation and discovery. With a gourmet-ready kitchen, you'll find new ways of innovating and elevating simple recipes, reimagining traditional flavours, and challenging yourself to lovingly prepare healthy, picture-perfect meals that nourish the soul.
About the author: A restaurateur, an entrepreneur and flavour savant extraordinaire, Celebrity Chef Jason DeSouza embarked on his culinary journey with the Taj Group of hotels. His meteoric rise to youngest Executive Chef in the country was punctuated by stints with various luxury hospitality brands in India. An alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu in London, Jason honed his craft in the famed kitchens of culinary royalty, Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse. Back home, he helped establish several premium hospitality brands with a flair that is Jason's signature style.
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.