Do you ever look at a recipe online or in a recipe book and feel slightly overwhelmed by the number of ingredients that you require to make a particular meal? Do you really want to buy something when you will only use a teaspoon of it before losing to the far reaches of your pantry? Do you miss out steps of a recipe or adjust the instructions slightly to compensate for a lack of ingredients and suffer a disappointing dinner? All of these problems can be solved by stocking up with kitchen cupboard essentials.
One step further than the accepted core of essentials – flour, sugar, salt, etc. – is a select group of essential ingredients that can help with a wide variety of different dishes and be used as successful substitutes.
Root Ginger, Onions and Garlic
These three staples can be used in a fantastic range of different recipes and dishes. Almost every cuisine in the world widely incorporates the use of onions from Vietnamese Pho to Mexican Chili Con Carne. Likewise garlic and root ginger are core flavours at the heart of an incredible array of different dishes. Ginger works well with both savoury and sweet dishes, meaning that you can use it in almost any dish you like from a side of roasted veg to a fiery chocolate mousse.
This versatile ingredient with the strong perfume fragrance can be used as a spice or in a wide range of pastes, powders and marinades. The beauty of using cardamom pods is the simplicity of altering the intensity of the flavour produced. Cooking with the whole pod in a mixture will release the flavour subtly and partial, whereas cracking the pod will release a much stronger taste throughout the dish.
If you are a fan of spice then chillies (or chilli powder) are an absolute necessity. Adding them to any dish adds a strong piquant taste and that desire heat upon the palate. Be sure to check with guests how hot they like their food before chucking them in though.
Most people are more familiar with cinnamon when it is sprinkled atop their morning latte but it is widely used in Asian cooking. A cinnamon stick cooked with rice will imbue a subtle, aromatic sweetness that works beautifully in tandem with savoury dishes.
Turmeric is used for its colouring almost as much as its taste. Its omission has left many a paella cook wondering why their Spanish dish is missing its distinctive yellow hue. It also packs a serious punch with a strong flavour that is heavily used in Indian cuisine.
Cumin is an absolutely essential part of almost all curry pastes – making it a necessity for a massive number of different Indian, Pakistani and Chinese recipes. It has a distinct mild and sweet flavour which perfectly offsets the stronger, spicier tastes often found in curry sauces.