“Cooking and baking is both physical and mental therapy.” - Mary Berry
More and more people are getting into cooking their own meals because it's cheaper and healthier!
Learning to cook also involves learning which products you’ll need to create almost any recipe. In order to make gourmet dishes, aside from the specific ingredients you’ll get for the recipe, you should always have a basic set of ingredients.
In this article, we're going to be having a look at the supplies you should always have in your cupboards so that you'll be ready for any situation!
Useful Products for an Aperitif
It’s Friday night and your partner comes home from work and says “I’ve invited the Smiths round for a few drinks at 8.”.
It’s half six and, while you’ve got plenty of alcohol (to be consumed in moderation, of course), you don’t really have the time to get to the supermarket for pre-dinner snacks. Don't panic! With just a few basic items, you’ll be the host with the most.
Fruit Juice and Soft Drinks
Of course, alcohol might be useful, but not if your friends don’t drink.
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Constantly having fruit juice and soft drinks means you’re ready for any eventuality. There are plenty of different options available and they're also really useful as mixers for cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
If you don’t have time to chill your drinks, it’s a good idea to keep stocked up with cubes. If your fridge-freezer doesn’t make ice, then make sure the ice tray is always full. Most modern fridge-freezers have a drawer dedicated to ice cubes or an ice cube tray built into the device. It's always a good idea to fill up this once a day and empty the cubes into the drawer below.
A couple jars of olives are always a good idea because they can be served quickly, giving you the time to make up a few snacks. In fact, there are plenty of products in cans that will keep for ages and will certainly help you out in a pinch.
Always have a few packets of cashew nuts, peanuts, and crisps in your cupboard. We tend not to eat healthily if we snack before dinner but your guests will certainly be happy to have something they can eat whilst they're waiting for the main course.
Jars of Sauces: Pesto, Bolognese, etc.
You can spread some sauce onto puff pastry and pop it in the oven until it’s golden. A quick and easy amuse bouche. Sauces in jars also keep for a while so you won't have to worry about them going off or having to regularly replace them.
Sardines or Tuna
With a bit of fromage blanc or cream cheese, tuna and sardines can become a lovely snack. Much like jars of sauces, tinned tuna and sardines also keep for a very long time and won't need to be replaced often.
Some toast is great with a bit of spread. You can freeze loaves of bread if you're planning to toast them directly and keep a stock of them in your freezer. You'll also probably need a loaf that isn't frozen if you're planning on serving fresh bread.
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Ingredients for Everyday Dishes
We tend to eat the same thing quite often because it’s what we know how to make. However, you don’t need a lot to spice up a few simple recipes. You just need some basic ingredients to make your dishes better.
Herbs and Spices
Salt and pepper are the very least you can have in your cupboards. You should also have stuff like cumin, coriander, chives, and paprika. Again, a good selection of spices is easy to maintain and it isn't something you'll have to frequently replenish.
Oil and Vinegar
To make a vinaigrette, prepare vegetables for roasting, or to make mayonnaise, you’re going to need some vinegar and oil.
Make sure you’ve always got a bit of olive oil and rapeseed oil. When it comes to vinegar, you can get wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or raspberry vinegar.
This is really useful for making tomato sauce for pasta or rice, with eggs or fried vegetables, or you could use it for a lasagna.
Pasta, Rice, and Legumes
The advantage of these products is that they last a long time so don’t hesitate to stock up on plenty of different types of pasta, rice, and legumes: coral lentils, chickpeas, snap peas, beans etc.
For cold or warm starters and mains, carbohydrates and starches can be used a variety of different ways.
As every cookbook will remind you, mustard can be used in plenty of dishes. It’s also great for seasoning meat or making a sauce with crème fraîche.
Onions, Garlic, and Shallots
I can’t live without these ingredients. Whether it’s with fish, meat, vegetables, or pasta, I put them on everything. Make sure you always have these to hand as they can be used to improve a lot of dishes.
Milk is essential for pancakes, cakes, sweetening up a sauce. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can always swap it out for soy or almond milk. Fresh milk is nicer but UHT milk keeps for ages.
A carton of cream lasts for ages. It’s a good idea to keep them in the cupboard for when you need to make a sauce, quiche, or other savoury dishes.
When you’re preparing a soup or a sauce, it’s always a good idea to have some of this around. It lasts for ages and can be added to tonnes of recipes.
Grated cheese can be added to plenty of dishes including pasta, gratin, pies, and even used to decorate hors-d'oeuvres.
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Essentials for Creating Great Desserts
Dessert is my favourite part of a meal. I love both eating and making cakes (the former more than the latter). Mixing ingredients, tasting the raw batter, taking it out of the oven when it’s still piping hot. If you’re like me, then you should have a few of the following ingredients in your pantry.
While eggs are essential for omelettes and great with salad, you also need them for baking. Whether you use the whole egg, whip up some egg whites, cook them in a meringue, or use them for chocolate fondant, eggs are essential.
Baking isn’t really that healthy... that’s why you need butter, lots of butter. Olive oil won't cut it!
Who would dare suggest anything other than chocolate?
Dark chocolate is particularly good for quick and simple recipes. Furthermore, it’s rich in antioxidants, which are great for your health (when consumed in moderation, of course).
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Muesli or oats are great for mango, apple, or raisin crumble.
Flour is used in a lot of recipes. Make sure you always have a bag of it to hand.
Sugar, honey, or agave syrup is great for sweetening up pastries. Of course, make sure you use it sparingly so that your desserts aren’t sickly.
This is used to make the dough rise in cakes. Baking powder isn’t very expensive and keeps for a long time.
Did you know that you can replace it with beer when making pancakes?
Vanilla Ice Cream
Just made an apple pie? You should serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
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Fresh Produce to Keep on Hand
Most of the products we’ve already mentioned last for a long time. It’s useful to have them in your cupboards as you can use them as and when you need to.
Of course, you’ll also need to stay stocked up on some fresh produce as this is where most of your flavour and nutrition will come from:
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables including lemon, which is useful for stopping apples and avocados from darkening, bringing out the taste of fish, and making a vinaigrette. They're also great for making soups, stews, and casseroles or a tasty stir-fry.
- Ham or lardons are very useful for adding to fried vegetables, pies, or quiches.
- Seasonal fish: Just like fruit and vegetables, fish can be in season. You can reduce your carbon footprint by buying local fish. You should also opt for fresh fish that has been sustainably fished.
- Meat from the butcher’s: For better meat with a longer shelf-life, you should opt for produce from your local butcher. You can eat less meat of a higher quality.
In addition to basic ingredients, you should be aware of a few of these terms. We've also got a few definitions in our other cooking articles so don't forget to read those, too!
Bechamel is a sauce made from whole milk, flour, salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg to bring out the flavour.
Concentrated sugar and pureed strained vegetables.
How about rounding out your meal with a few delicious cooking quotes?
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