“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.
"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."
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."
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."
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