Kaluhi's Kitchen

Life. Love. Food

In My Pantry – My Essentials

I have a bunch of things I turn to when I want to add a bit of flare to my meals. Though some of them I do not use every day, I consider some must-have in my kitchen. They are not only tasty but transform an otherwise normal/boring dish into something very delicious.

Last week Wednesday on Instagram, my instaFam and I were discussing about the ingredients we like most in the kitchen. While it was nearly impossible to single out just one, there were some ingredients that were of common to all of us. Read the entire interactive conversation here. I shall take you through some of my (and some of my readers’) pantry essentials and why my I (we) deem them so important.

*Side Note* : I had so much fun taking these pictures and was so stocked with how they turned out. Improvement is a good thing :))

In my pantry- My essentials_pantry essentials of kaluhi adagala of kaluhiskitchen.com_best kenyan food blog

1. Garlic

Despite having a difficult time choosing which ingredient I like best, I settled on garlic due to the power it has when it comes to transforming meals from drab to fab. Its taste and aroma make the food so distinctly delicious and it very healthy too. It is a mandatory ingredient while marinating my chicken and fish. Not only that, cooking meat with garlic lifts that pungent raw meat smell and infuses  pleasant taste. This quality best shows when cooking matumbo where the garlic not only adds taste, but lifts the inherent smell that tripe has. It also pairs well with other ingredients. During our Instagram discussion, @suebaibe  @cutiememy @dee_aluso @myckie254  and @cynthia.amutalla also thought garlic as a very important pantry ingredient.

garlic_kaluhiskitchen.com_one of the most reliable ingredient in the kitchen if you are looking to upgrade the taste of your dish.

2. Ginger

In my mind, ginger is the sister to garlic. Not in terms of appearance or taste but in terms of their intensity and how they make good pairing together. Just like garlic, ginger has a distinct strong yet appealing taste. Its taste can be very strong and in my own experience, a little goes a long way. Ginger goes well with rice dishes and is mandatory in dishes such as jollof and pairs well with meat dishes. Ginger that is simmered down slowly with some water and lemon yields a soothing warm drink that is effective in elevating cold and flu.  Among my instaFam, @fridzwegi and @wendiepetite regard ginger as a key pantry essential.

ginger is not only healthy but can be used in a number of ways in our cooking_kaluhiskitchen.com

3. Black Pepper White Pepper

I find my peppers as essential to my cooking as salt is. And @chefmartinmuhia and @suebaibe hold the same sentiments. Pepper amplifies the taste of every single ingredient in a dish. Using pepper also saves you from otherwise having a flat dish. The two spices come from the same plant, but the difference in color comes about from how they are processed. Some people feel that these two taste the same, but in my opinion, white pepper is slightly stronger. I like using black pepper for everyday cooking, but turn to white pepper when I want my food to have that peppery taste but without black speckles everywhere like in this soup.

black and white pepper are very important ingredients in the kitchen and add flavor to almost anything_kaluhiskitchen.com

4. Cayenne, Chilli, Curry & Turmeric

There are those spices you can use and will totally transform a meal. One is chili and one chilli enthusiast amongst my Instagram followers is @deealuso and @fidelismungara. If I do not have fresh chili, chili powder always adds an interesting kick to food. I am not into really hot food, but a small amount of heat makes food more appealing. My favorite alternative to chili is cayenne pepper, which I feel adds heat to food but is less aggressive compared to chili. While warming left overs, I like sneaking in some cayenne among many other ingredients and sometimes this makes the food taste like freshly cooked if not transformed. This is what I do with left over nyamchom.

Other intense spices that transform a dish are curry and  turmeric. Their most distinct quality is the color they add to food. Instead of using food color, use turmeric which is natural to add color to your viazi karai,  potato wedges and to your rice. As for curry, I use it mainy with bean dishes, such as githeri, where it compliments the taste of the beans and adds an appealing  and more appetizing color.

kenyan food blogs_the strongest spices in the pantry of kaluhi adagala are cayenne, chili, curry and turmeric. The first two are strong in flavor while the other two in color_kaluhiskitchen.com

5. Coriander & Green Bell Pepper

I cannot imagine not cooking without these two. Ever faithful and almost, ever present in my dishes is coriander. Not only does it add flavor to the food, but injects a burst of freshness. It also often serves the purpose of a garnish which adds visual appeal and color to the dish. (SEE here, here and here) Food has to look good, after all, we eat with our eyes first. and coriander will save the day with regards to that.They are delicate and get spoilt pretty fast. To keep them longer, keep them refrigerated in a clear plastic bag.

Green bell pepper adds a pleasant taste to most meals and pairs well with onions and garlic when fried. Besides taste, they also add color to food and texture which makes the eating experience a lot more pleasant. Other variations to green bell pepper that I like are the red ones which are alot sweeter and milder. Because of the color, it makes it easy to transform a dish from plain looking to fantasticly appealing. I used red bell pepper in this salad and in this rice dish. But because green bell pepper are cheaper and alot more common here, they are a staple in my pantry.

green bell pepper add savoriness to a dish while coriander add freshness and color_kaluhiskitchen.com_best kenyan food blog

6. Cumin seeds and spice

I cannot really pin point when I began using cumin, but I feel that was the most life changing decision I made. The seeds look like rice grains which still have their husks on. They are woody yet very fragrant and when cooked, they completely disintegrate and get incorporated into the food really well. I like frying them with my onions and they go especially well with beans and ngengu.

cumin seeds_how to cook with cumin seeds_recipes by Kenyas best food bog KALUHIS KITCHEN

7. Lemon

Perfect for marination, perfect for a soothing evening drink and amazingly good for adding some acidity to sauces and dips. For @chefmartinmuhia, lemons are his secret weapon when he wants to add a quick dash of flavor so he alwaya has some at hand for a quick spritz. I like having lemons around too.

Lemon_Ingredient of the week by Kaluhi Adagala of kaluhiskitchen.com_

8. Tomato Paste

@macynaliaka told me on Instagram that she considers tomato paste so important that she would rather miss anything else than have tomato paste not in her pantry. I relate to her love of tomato paste. I consider it the secret weapon to richly colored stews and thick soups. Wonder why this pea and potato stew has a deep color and is really thick? And why does this beef stew look so fab? Part of the reason has to do with tomato paste. When you use tomato paste, ensure to cook it down so that the flavor blossoms and the metallic taste of under cooked tomato paste is gotten rid of.

tomato paste is essential in cooking and adds a richer taste of tomatoes, thickness to soups and stews and a more defined color

9. My dry herb-spices: Sage, Thyme, Rosemary and Basil

These are life savers. If you are looking for something that will make the food you serve so unique and so delicious, try using herbs in your food. If you do not have the shrubs growing in your yard, you can purchase the dried ones which work just as well. Sage and thyme are divine with meat dishes. I like my thyme with goat meat. @chefmartinmuhia regards thyme as his go-to herb. Rosemary is a mandatory while marinating my chicken and basil is a must for any dish with tomato sauces such as this spaghetti marinara. @cutiememy likes oregano too. I rarely use it and I feel I should begin to be more adventurous with it. You should too 🙂

dried spices are more concentrated inflavor as compared to their fresh conter parts. They should hence be used in moderation_kaluhiskitchen.com_L-R sage, thyme, rosemary, basil

We all have ingredients we deem important in the kitchen, and they vary for each one of us.

it is important to stock up on spices if you want to improve on your cooking__spice collection of kenyan food blogger kaluhi adagala of kaluhiskitchen

What are your kitchen pantry essentials? How do you use them?

Do tell below. I’d love to know :))

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6 Comments

  1. Great post and tomato paste is a must for me too. Please keep the font you currently have on your blog. It is thick and easy to read against a white background.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 5, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Hey Spirit! Glad you enjoyed the post and that we can relate on that tomato paste importance. About the font, I do not plan on changing it anytime soon :)) so we’re good on that

  2. Ive really loved the piece each spice you mentioned touches the heart of my food.I personally like using lemon to add a slight tangy flavour to my pasta dishes or sauces.And your right the picks came out great…is there a way to subscribe to your website or should i just wait for links on IG?

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 7, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Hey Dorsilla, lemon is always a life saver when you do not know what else to do to add flavor. Happy you enjoyed the post. I will add a subsrciption widget hopefully by this sunday evening. I have been having trouble with finding the right one for me but I am not too far off from getting one 🙂

  3. I loved this post…am a very spicy girl and it shows in my cooking..I love rich flavours in my meals.I liked that bit about thyme..am never too certain about how to use it.I swear by the oregano god for my casseroles & I live for rosemary…sometimes after making my homefries I just sprinkle a bit of rosemary and voila the magic is done.
    I am new to your blog and I intend to follow it so keep em coming and lets share great ideas.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Rosemary is too essential not to have it around. We planted some shrubs at home just so that we can always have some LOL! I have heard plenty of things about oregano and I think its about time I got acquainted with it… Plus, Honored to have to have you in the KK Fam :))

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