I do believe that a recipe is a guide. If you have the main ingredients listed but are missing a herb or dont have a shallot that’s not a reason for not doing it, substitute with the herbs to hand or throw in an onion instead… See whether you like the result and if so.. Bingo – a new recipe. It is nice though to know that you have a good store cupboard of ingredients at hand so that when you get started in the kitchen you don’t have to go to the shops.
So with this in mind here is a list of the main things I always have in the press or the fridge as my base supplies for when I fancy doing some cooking…. I have loads of other favourites but this is the list for now…
Olive oil – extra virgin and basic.
Stock or Stock cubes – Yes it’s nice to have fresh home made stock but there are many good substitutes. Marigold (though watch your extra salt as it is quite salty), Knorr Bouillon. I also order veal stock on line from la rousse foods as it is just amazing for any gravys or sauces like madeira or red wine jus.
Fresh herbs – Flat leaf parsley – never curly unless Im making stuffing (yum by the way), chives, basil, coriander. I grow thyme, tarragon, rosemary and marjoram in the garden which are really easy.. even I can’t kill them.
The bare minimum spices/flavourings I have to have are coriander, cuimin, fennel, Bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon. I always like to also have paprika, cayenne, all spice, star anise, juniper, mace, nutmeg.
Red and Green chillies
Salt – sea salt, maldon or himalayan
Pepper – black, though I do like white from time to time. I don’t add pepper automatically when Im seasoning, just salt. I only add pepper if its’s in the recipe.
Anchovies and Capers – delicious in salsa verde, livining up a gravy or even in a herb crust.
Honey – I always have a jar in the press just in case Im making a dressing or icing for my carrot cake..
Nuts – I always have a selection of nuts – macadamias are my favourite for adding to brownies though sadly quite pricy. Walnuts for making Walnut pesto for the top of a mushroom or celeriac soup.Cashews and hazlenuts for roasting and tossing into salads for crunch and peanuts for roasing and boiling when making a red peanut curry.
Pasta and Rice – Despite the misgivings about both related to diet and health, I do have a sleection of both at home. I cook and eat them in very small quantities, I buy spelt pasta for my husband, for myself and my daughter I buy the fresh pasta made with eggs and always have risotto, basmati and wild rice in the house. Personally in small quantities both work well for me but I do accept it’s not for everyone and certainly does not have much of a place in your diet if you are trying to reduce your weight or have bloating and or lethargy type issues.
Beans and Pulses- I always have a few cans of beans – borlotti, cannellini, kidney and chickpeas. Same for lentils – red green and black. Beans and lentils are great for casseroles and take flavour nicely through addition of stocks, spices and herbs.
Shallots / Onions – I always have shallots, red and white onions in the press. They form the basis of so many recipes you will never end up throwing them out.
(New addition thanks to Dee – tomato passata, soo useful especially in lovely little Ireland where the tomatoes can often be tasteless and anaemic cos they have had no sun on their bones… so to speak).
Don’t feel you have to go out and buy all these though – every week or so buy another one and buy in small quantities to keep them fresh and at their best. I comb the shops at the weekend and always have a little list in my bag, of things Im missing and if I see something interesting I buy it – right now I have some Za’atar in my press – not yet used but watch this space.