Cooking School

Chef Mike Ward shares 5 inspiring ingredients

Chef Mike Ward (Photography by Richard Sibbald) Image by: Chef Mike Ward (Photography by Richard Sibbald) Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Chef Mike Ward shares 5 inspiring ingredients

When I was learning to cook, my head chef would regularly remind me: "The universe isn't making any more ingredients. Our job as chefs is to get creative with what we have."

I've been doing just that with a few ingredients I've recently rediscovered. Maybe how I'm using them will inspire you to get creative in the kitchen, too.

1. Cumin. This is probably my favourite spice right now—nothing else has such a curious, complicated earthiness and offbeat flavour. I love to use it when I marinate chicken thighs overnight, toss some into pesto or even mix it with maple syrup and a little oil in a frying pan to whip up spiced walnuts—a perfect garnish for salads and tacos.  

2. Wasabi peas. Crush a handful of these bad boys with the side of your knife to create a spicy, textured garnish for baked salmon or an Asian-inspired salad. 

3. Smoked fish. Most supermarkets sell high-quality smoked mackerel and trout. Smoked fish is incredibly rich and bold in flavour, so a little goes a long way. Use it to perk up pasta sauces, salads and open-faced sandwiches.

4. Sesame seeds. Dry-pan roasted sesame seeds bring crunch add a gentle hit of flavour to seafood dishes and coleslaws. They're even magical in pasta dishes.

5. Nori. Readily available in most supermarkets, nori (sheets of dried, edible seaweed often used in sushi) offers a subtle and salty surprise. It's delicious in noodle broths and cold, chicken-and-shrimp salads. I also use it in braised beef dishes and stews where it melts like anchovies. 

For more tips from chef Mike Ward, check out his tips on how to pick the perfect wine.

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Cooking School

Chef Mike Ward shares 5 inspiring ingredients

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