“Come taste this, tell me what it’s missing.”
My mum has called me over to the stove, where she is waiting with a hovering spoonful of pumpkin soup.
“More salt?” she asks as I put the spoon to my mouth. But as I taste it I know exactly what it needs. It needs the ingredient I always add when a savoury dish lacks that special something.
“Have you tried soy sauce?” I ask, fetching the bottle from the pantry. I slosh a good tablespoon or so into the simmering pot and give it a stir. It does the trick, and my mum – stoked – becomes an instant fan of the ‘soy sauce trick’. For the night, I am a hero.
And I am not alone. When the users of Reddit were asked what unusual ‘special ingredient’ they added to a common recipe, the comments exploded with some stunning recommendations.
Tomato sauce is better with mustard powder, according to one Reddit user. Photo credit: GMVozd / Getty Images
"Ground mustard in tomato soup," writes user, Happysaurus. "Started when I was learning to cook and experimenting with spices but it ended up being a necessary ingredient to my tomato soups! Enjoy."
Nigella Lawson isn't the only fan of pandan extract. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus
Meanwhile, TheLurkerSpeaks recommends an ingredient that Nigella Lawson would be on board with: "Pandan extract to anything that calls for vanilla. Pancakes, cookies, etc. It imparts a mild savoury flavour and a green color to the dish. You can get pandan extract at Southeast Asian grocers."
Dark chocolate is just one of several secret ingredients in one user's beef chilli. Photo credit: Andrew Hounslea / Getty Images
Some people have truly surprisingly ingredients, such as this user who used several ingredients that at first feel like they definitely don’t belong, but on reflection, kinda work: "The last chilli I made, I added beer, coffee and very dark chocolate. It was very nice."
A hidden condiment layer will apparently elevate any quiche to new heights. Photo credit: Westend61 / Getty Images
Another user swore by adding the juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos to their spaghetti sauce recipe, while a secret layer of Dijon mustard will take a quiche to the next level according to this foodie.
What unusual ingredient do you use to give your cooking a little something extra? Tell us in the comments!
Recovering caffeine-addict and serial bruncher Eliza Murray feels most at home typing away in a cozy cafe with her re-mortgaged avocado toast nearby. When she isn't reporting on the latest Instagram-shattering glittery food trends, she can be found experimenting with new gin garnishes (hello strawberries!) or biting into an entire wheel of brie (no shame). She tweets @theothereliza