Cooking Essentials - Pantry, Fridge and Spice Rack

Cooking Essentials in the Pantry, Fridge and Spice Rack

With a selection of essentials in your kitchen it is theoretically possible (no I am not testing it) to go a month or more without going to the supermarket.  At the very least, you can make it through the weekend without resorting to fast food mush. 

Vege Garden

  •  Fresh herbs and vegetables - grow some.  The best herbs for flavour and ease of growing are oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme.  For that big punchy taste sage, tarragon and dill are the go, though less versatile as they can take over a dish.  There are too many veges to mention, needless to say for homework I would like everyone to grow something. Apart from the freshness and the pride of growing them there is a real joy in sharing.


  • Vanilla (all forms), cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves  - these flavours transform food with their simple pungency and fill the house with a welcoming bloom of scent.


  • Salt - rock salt specifically.  It is a flavour enhancer as well as being jolly useful for baking and preserving, don't be scared of it.


  •  Bread.  Bollocks to those who shun it - it is the staff of life and I am leaning on it.


  • Rice - there are always several forms of rice in my pantry.  Arborio for risotto and puddings, Jasmine and Basmati for fluffy side dishes and pilaffs, wild rice for when I feel like showing off and brown rice for its nutty taste and healthiness.

 Pasta - Alphabeti

  •  Pasta - dry ready-bought as well as fresh and home made in all the wonderful shapes you can imagine.  I am particularly fond of little shells, linguine, spaghettini (tiny spaghetti threads) and the ubiquitous just-got-home-from-work penne.  You are never alone when you have pasta.


  • Flour galore - plain flour, 00 bakers flour, rice flour, gluten free flour, potato flour, corn flour.... so versatile and great to experiment with.


  • Sugar - it goes without saying that different sugars do different things.  By keeping a ready supply of caster sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar and raw sugar you are guaranteed from the outset to be able to create a variety of flavours and dishes.  Sugar, like eggs, has a sort of alchemy to it.  Meringues, toffee, preserves, jellies... it is amazing how a single ingredient offers such diversity and promise.


  • Nuts - having a wide selection of nuts tucked away can help lift a meal, a salad or a dessert, to a new level and inject interest and crunch.


  • Condiments (homemade or bought) I can't speak highly enough of preserves, not only because I make an enormous variety of them, but because they offer you the chance to add a little something to a meal and make it be inexplicably lovely, mouth-tinglingly bold or just a subtle hard to define additional something. I always have a range of marmalades, jams and pickles as well as chutneys and preserves on hand.  Including mustard both seeded and smooth, mayonnaise, pickled ginger, various vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, chutney, pickled gherkins, anchovies in oil, capers, honey, and dips.  These all add depth to other dishes and serve as excellent stand-bys when you are simply too tired or time-deprived to cook a more luxurious meal. Olive oil is a must, I can live without the others though.


  •  Butter, Cream and Cheeses - I know they are heavy with fat, however there is really no substitute for butter or cream, though I will concede to a very good Greek yoghurt for some dishes.  A couple of good versatile cheeses like ricotta, parmesan, feta,  mozzarella or bocconcini go a long way to making a great dish.  You don't need a lot and it lasts for ages so grab some next time you are shopping (you can keep mozzarella in the freezer for emergencies).


  • Freezer-dwellers - keep a good emergency stock of berries, beans, prawns, corn, peas, puff pastry, bacon, chicken and beef stock, ice-cream,... all the convenience of fresh ingredients and constituent parts of a wonderful meal without an expensive grocery shop.  Incidentally, keep your ice cube trays stocked.


  • Tin Kings - tinned tomatoes, beans, anchovies, creamed corn, tuna, salmon....   There is a multitude of possibilities out there, each one a lovely little meal just waiting to be born.


  • A wide variety of dried herbs and spices is a fabulous resource.  Don't be afraid of wandering into the Asian grocer or the Continental shop and choosing a few new flavours to add to your arsenal.  I like to have the following on hand, and many more : Cardamom pods, star anise, dried tarragon, dried mint, juniper berries, Nigella seeds, dried shallots, saffron threads, vanilla beans, cumin, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, caraway seeds, sage, lemon myrtle, mace, elderflower, bergamot, borage, etc, etc


  •  Preserves and concentrates.  Dried fruits are fabulous and a much underrated resource, particularly for the last-minute cook.  Preserved lemons are a revelation and transform lamb shoulder from ordinary to mind-bogglingly marvellous.  Rosewater, orange blossom water and elderflower cordial all bring a musky confidence to sweets and that exotic allure of the slightly unfamiliar and luxurious - by their very nature only a few drops are needed which seems to imbue their syrupy goodness with reverence.


I have just realised this list is perhaps a bit too comprehensive...oh well.   

If I hold anything true, it is that to under-cater is a sin.  There are a few other things I like to have in my pantry (and no it's not very big, I just cram a lot in).  I think it is essential to have some good dark chocolate, choc bits or pieces, good quality cocoa, proper coffee, brandy, wine and if at all possible vodka, thank you very much.


As a caveat to the above and as much to prove to myself that it exists as anything else I have included below a list of things I really do not like, and which I will not be eating, cooking, or writing about here at the Bug.


Stuff I can live without...Chillies



Truffles (I know, more for the rest of you then)

Milk (as a drink anyway)

Curries - my Dad has provided all the curry and chiili recipes here, that is his speciality!


Pickled Herring, especially that really icky one. Seriously.

Tofu (give me a break I was a vegetarian in my formative years)

Offal (I've tried, sorry it is just not for me)