One would expect a cookery author to have cupboards full of unusual ingredients but in my case that’s not true. Whenever I visit a delicatessen type of shop I love to look round at all the produce but I rarely buy. That raspberry vinegar or latest herb combination sound lovely but I’d much rather stick to the basics and add my own raspberries to a salad dressing or combine my own herb and spice blend. It means that my cupboards are not overflowing with out of date items that I forget to use, and it makes it easier to see what I do have and restock as needed. This is a list of some of my essentials.
Herbs and Spices. When I wrote my last book I threw out lots of herbs and spices that I never used and re-stocked with a minimal range which by clever combining create all the flavour combinations I need. I’ve stayed with this selection (the list is in Easy Tasty Healthy) and so far haven’t been tempted to extend it. In summer I do like to freeze down some chopped fresh herbs in ice cube trays so that they are available and easy to use in winter. I top up the ice cube trays with water which helps to protect the herb flavour.
Pomegranate Molasses. This is the concentrated juice from pomegranates so is high in nutrients. It is also high in concentrated fruit sugar but as it is only used in small amounts I find that acceptable. It makes a fabulous but quick and easy salad dressing (see latest recipes on the website), is a lovely addition to marinades and a tablespoon makes a good red wine substitute in casseroles.
Honey. I buy locally produced mild tasting runny honey and I use it in small amounts if I need some extra sweetness in recipes. Honey is a natural sweetener which is high in nutrients and infection fighting properties. I rarely use more than a tablespoon in recipes so a jar lasts me for ages.
Fats and Oils. I do like a bottle of good quality olive oil to drizzle on vegetables or salads and to make my pomegranate molasses dressing. I use coconut oil for frying and rice bran oil in cakes as these last two both have a high smoke point which makes them more stable at higher temperatures. Sesame oil is useful in small amounts to add flavour to marinades and stir fries. I always keep it in the fridge as I don’t use a lot and it keeps better there.
Nuts Seeds and Dried Fruit. I like to keep a good selection of nuts and seeds which I store in glass jars on the top shelf of my fridge. This helps to prevent the nuts going rancid. I also have a jar of ground seed mix (recipe in Easy Tasty Healthy) in the fridge which I grind up about every two weeks and use with breakfast cereals. By grinding seeds the essential oils they contain are more easily absorbed by the body. Dried fruit I also store in glass jars in a cupboard along with a good selection of different gluten free grains.
Lemon and Ginger. I love both lemon and ginger added to recipes for flavour. I usually have them fresh in the fridge but I also like to keep some in the freezer for those emergency situations. If I have lemons to spare I pare the rinds and place these in a bag in the freezer. Chopped finely in recipes these parings are ideal to give a recipe a real lemon zing. The lemons can then be juiced and the juice frozen down in ice cube trays ready for when needed. Ginger can also be frozen. If you peel it, then store it in a plastic bag it can be grated from frozen whenever needed.
Flavourings. Other flavourings I like to use include vanilla and almond extracts (not essences), mustard powder and grainy mustard, tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari sauce and blackstrap molasses.