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The Missing Ingredient

South Africa’s celebrated All Sorts Cook and bestie in the kitchen, Chantal Lascaris, shares her secrets on quick-fix substitute ingredients – and THE one (maybe two) ingredients you can never ever replace.

I once made a delicious butter chicken recipe for a group of friends and left out the rice - by accident (you can imagine my horror!) Don’t judge. It happens. Even the most experienced of us in the kitchen can trip up – and that’s okay. Cooking, for me, has always been about experimenting with flavours and different ingredients and – most importantly - cutting yourself some slack when you get it wrong.

As a professional cook, the aim of course is to not get it wrong as best as you can and so I’ve learnt over the years how to switch things up. You may not always have the correct ingredients in your cupboard – or you may over spice or under spice a pot of food (or, hey, leave out the other half of your meal altogether!). When this happens, we tend to believe there is no way out. Oh, but there is. There always is.

Believe it or not the cooking process comes with forgiveness. They’re called Substitutes – and they work. Just when you think you’re doomed to fail because you’re missing an ingredient that the recipe calls for, think again. Most often, you’ll be able to replace a missing ingredient in the pot with a little something else that’ll do just as well.

Parsley, Lime, Walnuts and even Sumac – they’re all replaceable. Except Garlic. Garlic and – wait for it – Love. In my books, these royal two are THE only ingredients you can never replace. You’ll always (always!) need an extra stash of these lying around – because they matter more than you think. 1. Garlic is not only the king of flavour but its immune boosting properties are essential to our health and 2. Love is the queen of everything.

For me, Garlic is like the god of the kitchen and Love is its muse. While Garlic is a firm favourite of mine, the truth is - a recipe may not always need it. But Love – oh Love - is the only ingredient that goes with everything. You can’t miss it – you shouldn’t miss it. There is absolutely, irrevocably no replacement. This, I can promise you.

Our lives are incredibly frenetic; with a million new things to attend to and business as usual, we hardly have time anymore to think of dinner or to shop ingredients. It’s comforting to know that more often than not, when there’s something missing in your bag of tricks, there’s always another chef’s trick you can reach for.

So, here’s a little pocket keeper from me, for the next time you’re ‘missing something’:

Chantal’s Quick Fix Substitutes for missing ingredients:

Shallot = red onion

Parmesan Cheese = pecorino Romano (easily available)

Fresh Parsley = dried parsley or celery leaves

Nutmeg = cinnamon

Greek Yoghurt = double thick yoghurt

Red onion = chives or shallots

Soy Sauce = Worcestershire sauce

Sumac = lemon pepper or lemon zest

Lime = lemon

Bacon = pancetta

Chilli Flakes = fresh chopped chillies

Corn Kernels = frozen corn or tinned corn or mange touts

Spaghetti = zucchini spirals

Honey = brown sugar

Walnuts = pecans

Dried Mint = fresh mint or dried marjoram

Love = There is no substitute. Irreplaceable.

Garlic = No substitute. See Love.

Author: Chantal Lascaris


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