Ever since my podcast Desert Island Dishes launched, I’ve been daydreaming about what food I would take with me if I was ever stuck on a deserted island. I still haven’t settled on a definitive answer to what those things would be (hey, I’m the interviewer!), but recording the episodes did get me thinking about my absolutely non-neogitable kitchen cupboard essentials.
There are definitely some hero ingredients that I use all the time, every day. These are things that I always keep close at hand, making an appearance in the vast majority of what I make. To say I couldn’t live without them would be extreme, but do I want to live without them? Certainly not.
Looking at them individually? Well, you couldn’t make a meal out of them, that’s for sure. BUT, this collection of simple goodies shows just how important flavour is to me.
Have you ever wondered why restaurant food tastes so much better than the food you cook at home? Aside from the obvious fact that a professional chef has made the food for you and you may not be a professional chef?
It’s the salt and the super strict attention to flavouring that makes the biggest difference to any meal.
My mama, who I love more than words, went to India last year for some kind of healthy retreat – the story is unclear as to whether this was taken on willingly or not.
They didn’t use salt in any of the food, and she came back feeling fab. She told me all about it. I was happy that she was happy, and had had such a good time. What she failed to mention was that she was now resolved to not use salt in any of her cooking.
At dinner, I took an eager mouthful from a delicious-looking plate of food, lovingly cooked by her, and almost yelped in horror. Salt, it turns out, is very important to me. Food just tastes SO bland without it. Of course, you can always have too much of a good thing, but for me, seasoning is the thing that truly brings any dish together.
So, without further ado, here are the kitchen essentials that I simply couldn’t live without:
For drizzling, for dressings, even for cakes. I love olive oil. Not much more I can say. It got a hard rep when coconut oil flew onto the scene a few years ago, but I would pick a good olive oil over coconut oil any day of the week.
Not to sound like a salt snob, but it’s got to be Maldon. I love it. Seasoning with sea salt is a very different thing to table salt, and it really brings your food to life. The crisp, chunky flakes lift dishes to the next level, and I freak out if I don’t have it in the house. My local Tesco doesn’t sell it…sort it out Tesco…so I always make sure to stock up whenever I can.
I’m not sure of the exact moment when Salt and Pepper became the power couple of the century – but they beat Posh n Becks in my book. Pretty much any dish I can think of benefits from a generous grind of fresh black pepper. Again I probably sound horribly snobby, but it’s SO worth grinding your own. Steer clear of the powder-like pepper that you can buy in jars, and grab yourself a pepper mill and some peppercorns. You won’t believe what a difference it makes to your cooking.
DRIED CHILLI FLAKES
Next to my cooker I have a little pot of dried chilli flakes and I bung them in pretty much everything I eat. They’re just so useful and I love to add a little heat in my dishes.
I love garlic! I use it in so many ways and add it to so many dishes. It’s just one of my favourite flavours! And, y’know, it comes in handy for keeping all those vampires at bay.
What are your kitchen essentials? Do let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you!