At the request of a friend, here’s a list of very useful ingredients to have in your kitchen cupboards at all times and a few hints as to why. Obviously this is based on my tastes, but I hope it’s of some use and just ignore what you don’t like.
1. Tinned Tomatoes, Dried Pasta, Anchovy fillets, Capers, Black Olives, Chilli flakes = Puttanesca, the best store cupboard dinner I can think of. All you need is some basil and parmesan and bob’s your uncle. Otherwise for pasta, I like to have some Sundried Tomatoes kicking around. Also things like Chorizo Cooking Sausage / Bacon keep for ages so are good to have in the fridge to make a delicious quick dinner (for example part of this pasta)
2. Harissa – keeps in the fridge for ages and is great for spicing up a baked potato / coleslaw (mix with a little Mayonnaise) or some such.
3. Chickpeas, Tahini, Olive Oil, Garlic, Lemons – it means you can whip up some Humous at a seconds notice good for a dip or lunch.
4. Baking: Plain Flour, Sugar (a few types), Self-Raising Flour, Baking Powder, Vanilla Essence, Cocoa Powder, Dark Chocolate.
5. Some basics: Sea salt and Table Salt. Olive Oil (for cooking), Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (for dressings), Sunflower Oil (for cooking), Groundnut and another nice nutty one like Walnut, oh and Toasted Sesame Oil. Vinegars - a good selection: Red Wine, Balsamic, White Wine, Sherry, Cider and maybe something a little fruity like a Raspberry Vinegar.
6. Herbs and Spices – if possible, a few pots of fresh herbs on a windowsill make life a little bit better. Stock up on a few good spices that will make food a little more fun and interesting, the following is a list of spices I use a lot: Fennel Seeds, Cumin Seed, Coriander Seeds, Sumac, Za’atar, Black Peppercorns, Smoked Paprika, Cinnamon Sticks, Star Anise, Nutmeg and Cloves
7. Rice, Pasta, Lentils, Tinned Beans, Couscous, Quinoa, Risotto Rice (risotto is one of my mum’s favourite ways of using up leftovers) - I like to have a variety of all these things as they make for easy quick salads, lunches or side dishes.
8. Butter, Eggs, Milk - these three are obviously pretty standard. Butter is always useful, maybe not as good for you as oil, but let’s be honest, it’s delicious. I’d have one nice salted butter and then a more standard unsalted butter for cooking. Eggs are so versatile and can be used to create such an enormous variety of meals. I personally don’t drink milk, but I’ve heard it’s useful for those who like it in their coffee / tea.
9. Worcestershire Sauce, Eggs, Cheddar Cheese, Mustard (one grainy, one dijon and one english mustard), Bread - these ingredients are so you can make some kick ass cheese on toast which life is not complete without.
10. Onions, Garlic, Potatoes - we always have loads of these around and they don’t need to be kept in the fridge.
11. In the fridge - Carrot, Leeks, Celery - these ingredients are usually around as they are so useful as the base of a lot of dishes. Oranges (for eating and squeezing). Apples and Pears also keep for ages in the fridge.
12. In the freezer – hmm, ice? Peas. Beef Mince (with this, the veg in point 10 and 11 and some Tomato Puree you’ve got a nice comforting Cottage Pie). Puff Pastry - I haven’t made this once since I was a catering college, but I like to have an all butter shop bought pack in the freezer in case of the need for a pie. I love a pie and they can be very good for using up left over ingredients.
13. Oats, Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruits and Honey - these are all good breakfast making materials, I’m a granola fan but (bar the honey) they will make a good muesli or with just the oats alone you’ve got some delicious porridge.
14. Coconut Milk, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Rice Wine vinegar – all good ingredients for making the base of a simple stir fry or curry
15. If you’re into making bread then these are essential: Strong Bread Flour – white and wholemeal and some Yeast
16. Heinz Baked Beans. This doesn’t need an explanation. Oh, and also, Marmite. And Coffee. And Tea.
Let me know if I’ve missed out anything startlingly obvious and I’ll have a think about it and probably add it on….