I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone that I am most at home in the kitchen, I just love it. I can literally spend hours in there and not even realise. My idea of leisure time outside the kitchen is spending hours online watching YouTube cooking tutorials or burying my head in a cookbook. As much as I would love to cook up an extravagant and interesting feast for my family every night it is just not realistic. The reality is that many of us work or study full-time and struggle to find more than an hour in the kitchen to throw something together. On nights when I am not feeling particularly creative or am just really short of time with limited ingredients at my disposal, these ingredients save me. They are always in the pantry ready to make something simple really delicious.
My family is not particularly fussy when it comes to food….well most of my family (my brother can definitely challenge me with his voluntarily limited diet). My dad is by far the easiest to please, just put a plate in front of him and he is happy. I digress... the point of today’s post is to show that having some simple condiments always on hand can make dinner really easy and DELICIOUS.
Without further ado, here are my current top 10 cooking staples:
This is a no brainer, I put salt in absolutely everything (even my desserts). It brings out the flavour of the ingredients I am using and helps to balance the strong sweetness of fruits such as dates.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is actually my best friend…unless it stains mine (or my sisters) clothing. I use it to marinade my meat and veggies, to dress my salads, to make sure things don’t stick to my pan, in baking and sometimes to simply drizzle over ciabatta bread because why not?! I personally love the olive taste and tend to use one that is cold pressed with a strong flavour.
Now I know this isn’t for everyone, but I really love garlic. It amazes me how well it goes with meat, fish, soy products, vegetables and bread of course! To me it brings things to a new level when I am cooking and I love the aroma I get in the kitchen when I use it.
4. Chilli Flakes
A bit of spice in your life is never a bad thing. When I was growing up I always remember my dad would always sprinkle chilli flakes on whatever we were having for dinner. I have been a bit late to hop on the bandwagon but I am so glad I got on! I find that just a little bit adds another element to what I am cooking. I particularly love adding it when I am marinating chicken with tahini. The creaminess of tahini goes so well with a bit of heat!
Okay I think I would be fairly right in saying that this is one of Bruno’s all-time favourite spices. There is always room for a bit of paprika. If you haven’t done so already cut some sweet potato in massive chunks, generously coat in olive oil, sprinkle over some paprika and salt, bake in 180C oven for an hour and BANG - best side dish ever!
6. Peanut Butter
Nuts are seriously my food true love. I love adding them to salads and rice dishes for their texture and unbelievable flavour. Peanut butter is a staple for a lot of my savoury cooking and sweet baking. I will often use peanut butter when I am making a marinade for my stir-fry to give it a creamy texture that I think goes great with chicken and beef. I also love it in baking and of course in my smoothies (something I am missing so much at the moment!).
Honey is actually one of my favourite staples. Like peanut butter, I find this ingredient to be really versatile. I use it just as much in my savoury cooking as I do in my sweet baking. I find that it is really great at balancing dishes that are quite salty. In my opinion, the flavour of honey is so distinguishable from any other liquid sweetener. It has a warming and comforting taste that I think goes so well when I am baking with any fruit. Good quality honey is also loaded with many nutritional benefits so it never hurts to add a little bit to what I am making.
8. Italian Seasoning Blend
I was struggling to pick my go to herb and then remembered that this is something I always have on hand! This is a dry herb mix that has basil, parsley, thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary in it. Perfect for marinating lamb and chicken. The smell of the mix alone is amazing and when you pair that with some garlic and lamb – ahhh I just wish I had a candle of that smell!
Lemon is another really multi-purpose ingredient. I love the freshness of the zest and the sour taste of the juice. It also makes any meat I am cooking really tender! If I am going to marinate some meat overnight 9/10 times I will add some lemon. It also makes for a fantastic and quick salad dressing with some salt and chilli.
10. Stock Cubes
Another must have in my cupboard are stock cubes. We usually have chicken, beef, vegetable and porcini ones. Whenever I am making any rice or quinoa I add a stock cube to the boiling water to add extra flavour that you can’t get from salt alone. Just make sure if you’re purchasing them from the supermarket that you get the ones that are ‘low sodium’ so you can control the balance of flavours when you’re cooking.
I hope this post was interesting and that it inspired you to see the beauty in the simple things you might have sitting in the pantry. I would love it if you shared your favourites with me too because I am always so fascinated by what people are using in their cooking (yes I am aware that I am overly curious about these things!).