Cooks cheats

We all do it. Cheat that its. Maybe not in the strictest sense, but we add bits of this, a pinch of that, a dash of the other to all our homemade dishes.

Do you have some favourite cheats you use? Something you add to your cooking to give an extra depth of flavour? Whether it’s a tomato sauce, a stir fry, a curry, a soup or a veggie gravy. You know the sort of thing that doesn’t get mentioned in any cookbook, but makes all the difference when added.

Looking at this a bit more and thinking about chef’s in their kitchen’s, what do they add to dishes to improve the flavour and looks? Mostly salt, sugar, wine and butter. Now I’m a cook not a chef, preparing everyday meals and the occaisional feast for friends and family, but even so I still like to make food that is tasty!

Here’s some of my favourite standby cheats

A tip I picked up from Mae Kaidee

A must for pooh bears

A few drops

A classic

Strange, but true

A little goes a long way

And then there is always

So come on, fess up, what are your favourite “cooks cheats”?


  • Great idea for a post, one that I’ll be sure to check back to learn a few things. I find that a bit of vinegar, either red wine or balsamic, adds a little something to sauces and marinades.

  • Mushroom ketchup?! Interesting! When I roast root veg I add a drop or two of good maple syrup to help get the sugars going.

  • Whisky or brandy or even rum a shot added to gravy lifts it right out of the ordinary. Anchovies are another “secret ingredient”

      • thank you, I like extra points. I forgot about my main one and then I used it today. Apple Juice.

        I cook heaps of things in Apple juice, Pork and Chicken are especially nice, Fruit is yum and tonight I used it with Lamb in a Lamb saag, It gave it an incredible flavour I never imagined it would be so good. It gave a rich intensity to the sauce. Yum.

  • I add fresh thyme where possible to many savoury dishes. But dried is almost as good and so I am never without that in the store cupboard. . Coq au Vin, boeuf, a la provencal, soups, bread recipes,pastry dishes all benefit from a sprinkling of thyme.

  • i am with you on Marmite and red wine but Mushroom Ketchup? what is that? I often add sweet thai chilli sauce to my gravy.. i am the gravy Queen!!! I always add marmite too! I love marmite!!! c

  • hey there gravy Queen! Well Mushroom Ketchup is condensed mushroom sauce, you add a few drops (sparingly is the mote juste) to sauces, and yes GRAVIES. It gives it an added depth of flavour.
    Now how do you go about organising a gravy cook off on wordpress?!

  • 1. Sugar in my stir fry dish especially vegetable.
    2. Knorr chicken/pork dense soup (!) since i discover “MSG is bad for health” is only a myth.

    I have to come back to check your blog when I have a garden for growing my own vegetables and fruits. 🙂

    • Thanks for popping in 🙂 I sometimes use stock to “beef” things up too.
      I’ve found if I have MSG in my food I get really bloated and my poor stomach suffers. Not very scientific I know, just what I’ve experienced…

  • UH OH Last bottle alert! I find it quite hard to get here, same with the mushroom ketchup, I wonder if it is because a lot of people don’t realise what great additions they are?

  • I forgot all about mushroom ketcup. I used it in the 90s and it just slipped right off my grocery list for some reason. I just try it again. Dijon mustard is a great cheap – I use that a lot, along with a tablespoon of 1/2 fat crème fraîche in sauces. I also use anchovie paste in salad dressing.

  • And salt! Salt is probably the ingredient that most people forget to use. Food just tastes better when it’s salted, don’t you think?

    • Of course! I remember listening to a chef on Desert Island Disks, and his luxury was salt and pepper. Totally understandable.
      I think we have all got a bit scared of salt, what with health warnings and the likes, but if you are not buying pre-made food, then it’s not such an issue.

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