Here are some key ingredients that most cooks keep in their store cupboards ready to use when needed
I’ve written my favourite ingredients and the ones I use the most. Obviously if you really cannot stand a particular flavour or are allergic to or intolerant to any of the ingredients on the list just leave them out!
If you’re just starting out with cooking from scratch as a complete beginner see my little shopping list at the bottom of the post which picks out the few absolute must have ingredients, the rest you can buy week to week as you need them.
Great for for frying or searing food and for roasting. Also good for making yorkshire puddings and chips
Adds a lovely flavour to roasted vegetables. If you like salad dressing buy extra virgin olive oil, but otherwise a bottle of the regular olive oil will be just fine.
I like to have a grinder of sea salt as well as a pre-ground shaker of salt. There are other types of salt available from sea salt to pink himalayan salt and rock salt to good old cheap table salt.I prefer the taste of sea salt personally.
I have both a grinder of black and mixed peppercorns as well as a shaker of ground white pepper. Tomato dishes work well with black pepper and egg based dishes and white sauces and lighter dishes need ground white pepper.
Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
It’s always useful to have a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes or jars of passatta in your cupboard. They’re great in bolognese sauces, in pasta bakes and casseroles
Passatta is seived chopped tomatoes and have a smoother consistency than chopped tomatoes. They are a great base for soups and sauces and make a tasty impromptu topping for home made pizza
Vegetable stock cubes are great for adding to soups or the cooking water with cous cous, quinoa or rice to add extra flavour. Chicken stock cubes are great for enhancing chicken based dishes. You can get beef, pork, lamb, ham and fish stock cubes these days too but for now I’d just get the vegetable or chicken ones.
No I haven’t gone completely mad here. Marmite (even if you cannot stick the stuff) brings out the flavour of tomato and vegetarian dishes really well. All you need is a tiny amount like a teaspoonful.
Gives most meat and cheese dishes an extra kick. Not suitable for vegans or vegetarians
Honey Not suitable for babies under 12 months old and not suitable for vegans
Honey is an amazing ingredient to keep in your cupboard. It can be added to oriental style dishes to make a sticky glaze mixed with soy sauce and other flavours. It can be drizzled on natural yoghurt, added to sweet and sour sauces and is great for soothing sore throats.
Dark Soy Sauce
Soy sauce can be added to chinese dishes, egg fried rice, mixed with honey to make a glaze and sprinkled on food. I prefer dark soy sauce but try them all and see which you prefer.
Herbs and Spices
Rosemary goes well with lamb, beef, pork and chicken. Is also lovely sprinkled on roast potatoes
Thyme also complements meat dishes nicely. Can bring out the flavour of soups too
Basil is amazing for italian style dishes and works well with tomato based dishes. Buy either fresh basil or dried.
Parsley is great with white fish in a parsley sauce or on garlic bread. Thought to freshen bad breath too
Spicy Italian Seasoning. Generally I’m not a big fan of blends of spices but I do love Spicy Italian seasoning. It adds a subtle warmth to italian dishes and makes the flavours pop
Dried Chilli powder
I keep a jar of mild chilli powder for when I want warmth rather than heat and hot chilli powder when I want to give my dish a bit of a kick.
If you like chilli you might like the chilli flakes (but use them sparingly as they’re very very hot!)
Paprika is a wonderfully warm spice. I prefer the regular paprika to the smoked one, but try both and see what you prefer. Some dishes call for smoked paprika.
Pasta, Noodles, Rice etc
It’s always useful to have a bag of dried pasta in your cupboards. There are many different shapes to choose from. Shells are great for tomato based pasta bakes. Rigatoni works well with meat dishes. Tagliatelle and Spaghetti are great for mixing into the sauce.
I prefer Basmati but long grain would also be fine.
Brown rice has more fibre and will keep you fuller for longer but not everyone likes the taste of it.
You can get other sorts of rice for other things. Jasmine Rice for thai food, paella rice to make paella out of, rissotto rice for rissotto, sushi rice which is slightly stickier and easier to roll and then there’s pudding rice to make rice pudding with.
If you’re on a budget supermarkets own long grain rice will be fine
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is great for salads and as an accompaniment to other dishes. Cooks in a similar way to rice and has a nutty flavour
A relative of spaghetti, cous cous is easy to make and very versatile. Simply pour into a bowl, just cover with boiling hot water and a pinch of salt, put a plate over the bowl and leave for 10 mins. Can be made into salad or served with salmon or chops etc
I normally like Maris Piper potatoes the best, they’re very versatile. These days supermarkets normally have what that particular potato type is best used for either printed on the packaging or on the shelf next to it. You can get baby new potatoes for salads or baking potatoes to make jacket potatoes from.
Sweet potatoes are also a great alternative, full of vitamin C and don’t take as longto cook
Quick Shopping List
If you need to just pick a few things from the list as a starting point I’d pick:
- Freshly Ground Pepper
- Sunflower Oil
- Chilli Powder
- Paprika (NOT smoked)
- Stock Cubes/pots