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Ingredient Guide

Store Cupboard Essentials

15 June 2022

Have you ever had a second thought about what sits in your cupboards? Or rather, what doesn’t sit in there that should? 

Ingredients. The backbone of your culinary adventure. Have you ever had a second thought about what sits in your cupboards? Or rather, what doesn’t sit in there that should? 

Why bother with staples?

There are a number of benefits of having a well-stocked store cupboard. Not only does it save on waste, and your wallet, but it’s also the first step towards being able to cook a healthy, diverse range of delicious meals for lunchtime and dinner. Eating the same meals every day may well save time when you’re up against it, especially if you have more than one mouth to feed, but the reality is, it could mean you’re missing out on essential nutrients. And some very tasty recipes you may not have thought of trying before…

Before you stock up

Don’t grab your notepad and pen just yet. Before heading to the shops, pull everything out of your cupboards and take stock of what you already have. You may be better prepared than you think.

We all have things on our kitchen shelves that we think we need, but aren’t actually store-cupboard staples. And that’s OK. After all, some items are simply fun to keep around, especially when certain cravings strike – like maple syrup, for delicious breakfast pancakes and waffles. Or Worcestershire sauce, that adds the perfect savoury umami flavour to any dish, including chilli con carne and some curries. 

If you’re going to be adding to your collection, it’s also a good idea to think about storage. Clever and neat storage solutions often help cut through the clutter, as well as improve how long your dry goods will last as well as general food hygiene.

Right, so you’ve checked everything out, your tins are in date, you counted your spices and you’re ready to go. Good! Now onto the fun part…

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a fundamental cooking item for bulking your bowl and keeping well-fuelled. But it’s important you stock up on the right grains to ensure you’re still eating well-balanced, healthy meals. Wholegrain rice is a great store cupboard staple, offering lots of tasty meal options for both lunch and dinner. Plus, not only is it high in dietary fibre, but it contains an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals too. There’s also plenty of low-carb pasta and other grain recipes if you’re trying to stay healthy and feel fuller for longer. 

Why not try…

Beating the afternoon slump by popping wholegrain rice energy balls in your lunchbox? Or adding some extra nuttiness to your lamb and rice tagine with wholegrain rice, paired with lots of lovely, rich, warming spices?

Nuts for nuts 

Nuts are a must-have staple in your cupboards. And they’re nutritional powerhouses too, packed with healthy fats, filling fibre and a number of vitamins and minerals. Not only are they great eaten on their own as a snack, but they also add a healthy dose of fats to your favourite lunchtime salads, and a tasty crunch to bakes and cakes. If you had to pick one, opt for peanuts. They’re the most consumed nut in the world, followed by almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios. And easy to pick up in your local supermarket. 

Why not try…

Roasting off some almonds in paprika salt? Almonds have the highest calcium content of a nut, so they’re great for healthy bones, and they’re also high in fibre, making them good for managing cholesterol levels. Or why not try adding some pecans to your chocolate brownies? Containing more than 19 vitamins and minerals, they help to improve your digestive system, heart health and metabolism.

Seeds

Seeds are widely used in everyday cooking to add flavour. And they’re good for your health too, containing Omega3, proteins, magnesium and vitamins. If you’re short of space, go for sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. And if you’re vegan, flaxseeds are a handy replacement for eggs. 

Why not try…

Scattering pumpkin seeds over roast butternut squash with rocket on toast for a veggie breakfast or light lunch? Or adding a spoonful of sunflower seeds to flapjacks to help balance the sweetness?

Dry spices and rubs

Spices are the spice of life. We know good ingredients can speak for themselves, but dried spices last a long time, go a long way and are incredibly versatile, especially when it comes to marinating meats. But with so many to choose from, which are the truly essential ones? If baking is your jam, then you definitely need some cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in your store cupboard. But if you like to spice things up with a weekly batch of chilli, then cumin, paprika and chilli powder should definitely be added to your list of store cupboard staples. 

Why not try…

Seasoning chicken with paprika and lemon marinade the next time you fire up the barbeque? Or sprinkling cinnamon on bananas for your morning bowl of porridge? 

Oils and stock cubes

Spices aside, the other ingredients you should always keep stocked are oils and stock cubes. Olive oil (as long as it’s extra virgin) is believed to be the healthiest option for cooking, baking and frying. While stock cubes can really save a meal. Crumble them  into one-pots or add to sauces and gravy for instant flavour. They’re also the perfect addition to risotto, pasta dishes and casseroles. 

Why not try…

Using a chicken stock cube to add delicious, authentic flavour to any rice dish? Or adding extra virgin olive oil alongside lemon juice to hummus, to bring out the best flavour? 

Sauces

It’s also handy to keep a few bottled sauces, like tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in your store cupboard. Worcestershire sauce is particularly versatile, and can be used to enhance a number of ingredients including red meat, tomatoes and mushrooms. While soy sauce adds a distinct taste to a variety of dishes, like noodles, rice and sushi.

Why not try…

Adding a new flavour booster into an old favourite? Heard the one about Worcestershire sauce in bolognese? Or adding a tablespoon of tomato ketchup to liven up prawn sandwiches?

Tins 

You can’t stock a store cupboard without tins. But which should you buy? Well you can’t go wrong with tinned tomatoes. They’re an all-rounder, used in a number of sauces, soups, stews and casseroles. Not to mention a basic ingredient in dishes like bolognese and chilli. Tinned tuna is another handy item to keep in mind. If you’re looking for a quick lunchtime fix, it’s perfect as a sandwich filling or on top of a jacket potato. And it’s also a great addition to pasta bakes and sauces. Tinned fruit keeps for ages too, and counts as one of your five a day.

Why not try…

Livening up your breakfast by adding tinned peach slices to a pot of natural yoghurt? Or trying tinned prunes in your morning porridge for an instant fibre boost? 

Flour

If there’s one item you need in your store cupboard, it’s flour. Plain, self-raising, white, or wholemeal, they’re all essential for thickening sauces, coating meat, frying fish and vegetables, and for all sorts of cakes and bakes. 

Why not try…

Thickening a soup by adding flour or cornflour? But don’t add it directly, if you do it will go all clumpy. Instead, add a small amount of the soup into a bowl and then add a few tablespoons of the flour or cornflour and whisk it until it’s smooth.


So what’s next?

Now you have your store cupboard fully stocked, what can you make? Well that’s up to you. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Try taking a staple from each of our suggestions and see what you can rustle up.

Why not try…

Starting with a pasta bake? They’re the perfect midweek meal – simple and quick to prepare, and leftovers can be easily reheated. 

Fridge and chilled

Now we know this article is all about cupboard staples, but when it comes to storing food, you can’t overlook a fridge. It’s part of your daily life and holds the key to your richer and fresher flavours. Milk, butter, cheese (ideally a sharp cheddar, parmesan and feta), or their vegan alternatives, are a great base for soups, sauces and creamy mash. Then keep your go-to fruit and vegetables at hand, like celery, carrots, broccoli, apples and lemon/limes – these are longer lasting and add depth of flavour when starting or finishing dishes. 

Why not try…

Mixing grated apple or pear in with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, fresh ginger and gochujang for a fantastic bulgogi sauce? Serve it over sticky or basmati rice, garnished with toasted sesame and spring onion, for a snappy midweek dinner.

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