When I moved into our little flat in February, I put an enormous amount of effort into stocking our storecupboard, and boy am I glad I did. Because our storecupboard, packed to bursting, slightly messy, smelling of spices, tea and chocolate is a source of constant joy to me every time I open it. It’s an alchemist’s chest of foodie possibility, turning even the most depressed set of ingredients in the fridge into something I feel proud to put on the table. A Bobbi Brown makeup set for meat and veg.
Having a well-stocked storecupboard is one of the most important factors in successful cooking – a decent range of spices, condiments, pastas and pulses will mean you never have to cook a boring meal again. And once you’ve got the basics sorted, it’s relatively inexpensive to keep topped up and you’ll find you begin to experiment with different combinations of flavours, hopefully with success, although if not, it’s really not the end of the world!
A quick look at some of my essentials:
Spices – cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika, Moroccan mixes (I’m addicted to Baharat), turmeric and star anise, to name but a few. Always add them before adding any liquid to dishes, and give them a few minutes to cook out so they don’t taste raw.
Condiments – I can’t live without chilli sauce, particularly Sriracha which they gratifyingly stock in Tesco. As well as the usual olive and sunflower oils, I like having lots of different vinegars – red and white wine, sherry, rice, cider and balsamic – they all have different properties, and liven up all manner of salad dressings. Fish sauce, soy, various mustards, honey and (of course) Lea and Perrin’s are also tucked away at the back.
Pasta and rice – I’m a spaghetti girl really, but trofie, conchiglie and pappardelle all feature in the cupboard – the shape of the pasta should compliment the texture of the sauce. I’m not a huge rice fan but it’s useful to keep basmati as an all-rounder – Tilda isn’t cheap but is by far the best. Oh, and cous cous…both normal and giant cous cous which I love in salads.
Pulses – tinned chickpeas are fab if you’re sick of potatoes, and if you can bear to part with the cash the jarred Spanish ones are yuummmmmy. Toss them into casseroles, whiz into hummus or fry them with spices and cooked onions and add chorizo or squid. Lentils, pearl barley and various beans are also useful to have on hand, for the odd time you fancy a bit of French peasant food.
This is only a brief overview – I could go on for days but add in some jams, tinned tomatoes, tinned fish and various Thai and Vietnamese products I don’t really know what to do with and you’re pretty much there. So be inspired – you can get away with spending next to nothing on meat if you can dress it up all fancy-like. And it makes you feel very smug when people open it and gasp in gastronomic awe…