There are quite a few spices and other lesser known ingredients, that whilst not essential are very useful. They tend to give added flavor, or texture. They may be found in wholefood shops, though increasingly they are available in mainstream supermarkets and stores. I’ll list the ingredient and some of it’s uses or properties and where you can find it.
Kala Namak: This is not to be confused with Himalyan Pink Salt. Another name for it is black salt. It has a pungent smell when wet, and gives that slightly sulphurous eggy taste to a dish. So far I have only found it in wholefood shops. Newleaf Foods in Moorland Road Bath sells it loose, and is the best place for it in Bath.
Tofu – firm – this is best for adding to dishes after sauteeing in the Tefal Actifry or similar air fryer. It’s not as firm as Extra Firm Tofu, which would be too firm for most dishes. Tofu King is a good brand.
Tofu -medium firm – this is actually quite soft. Not as soft as silken tofu, but it’s quite delicate and needs careful handling. It’s perfect for Tofu Florenteen, or Tofu Wellington. Tofu King is a good brand.
Crispy Chilli Oil – this isn’t really an oil, it’s more fried crisy chillies in oil.
Soy Sauce – this is a liquid fermented aged soya bean product – usually made with additional wheat.
Tamari – this is a liquid fermented aged soya bean product – usually made without wheat, so gluten free.
Palm Sugar – this is made from the flowers of the palm tree.
Tempeh – this is a form of compressed flash cooked, halved soya beans inocculated with mushroom spores and incubated at 30°C for between 24 and 72 hours. More info here: https://revolutionfermentation.com/en/blogs/tempeh-soy-grains/how-to-make-tempeh-at-home/
Corn Starch – this is made from maize – it has a very smooth texture when added to a stew – unlike flour.
Vegan fish sauce – Thai Taste do one – they sell it in Waitrose – it’s made from seaweed.
Fermented Black Beans – these are not turtle beans, but specially fermented and aged soya beans.
Scotch Bonnet – is a round chilli pepper that has a scovil unit rating of 100,000 to 350,000 but has a much more warm and complex flavour than your average chilli. As it is quite hot, you only need one in a fairly large pan.
Polenta or cornmeal – this is essentially ground up maize kernels. There are three grades, fine, medium & coarse generally available. I think the medium works best in cakes as it gives a slightly gritty or textured feel to the cake that you don’t get with the fine grade.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes – this is an ingredient which adds a lot of umami, and cheesiness to dishes. I tend to use the version with added B12. I use it in hollandaise sauce, tofu mayo, mac ‘n’ cheese, and many other dishes.