During lockdown so many of my habits changed, especially when it came to food and cooking. Like many, I found myself cooking more, but shopping for food less. We decided to do one food shop for the week and we had it delivered to our home to try to minimise our chances of getting Covid-19. This meant the items on our shopping list had to be carefully chosen to last a whole week.
I actually feel really guilty for admitting this, but after having grown up used to the freedom and convenience of being able to obtain food round the clock pre-lockdown, the thought that I was going to be even just the tiniest bit restricted really stressed me out. I know, this is such a first world issue, but it did make me feel really uneasy. I soon identified that there were a few versatile ingredients that my family and I started use more in our new cooking habits. Ingredients that we maybe would have only used occasionally in our pre-lockdown days. Making sure that these ingredients were always at hand somehow helped to ease my stress. It meant that if there was something we fancied during the week that we hadn’t planned for in the shopping then it was likely that we could make it from scratch.
Now that lockdown measures have eased I still find myself ensuring that a few choice items are always in stock in my kitchen. You might already keep these ingredients in stock but might not have thought about their multiple purposes. So, with that said, I hope this list gives you some inspiration and helps you feel less anxious, especially with the prospect of local lockdowns here in the UK during the winter season.
10 Essential Ingredients You Need In Your Kitchen
Lemon is such a versatile fruit. I use it in marinades, sauces, salad dressings and I use the zest in cakes. Also, because I always struggle to drink my 2 litres of water a day I find that adding one or two slices of lemon to my water helps me to drink more.
I’m a HUGE garlic lover – it’s my ultimate favourite cooking ingredient and I use it as a base in most of my savoury dishes. It adds such huge depth of flavour to many foods. I always make sure I have plenty of fresh garlic around which is great for sautéing with onions for meat, fish or vegetable dishes. I also have plenty of garlic powder around which I like to use in meat or fish marinades (I find that fresh garlic marinades can sometimes burn during the cooking process). I also have a garlic grinder which contains garlic flakes – this is great as a topping on salads. As well as being so tasty garlic has a wide array of health benefits including reducing high blood pressure, so it’s a double win (the only downside is garlic breath).
This is a must for making an array of breads. I also use it for making pizza dough, naan and cinnamon rolls.
4. Unsalted Butter
I always have this in stock in case we fancy something sweet like cake or cookies 😊 It is also great for when you want to get a rich indulgent flavour from some savoury dishes that you just can’t get from cooking with olive or vegetable oil. Dishes such as scrambled egg, steak, sautéed leeks or mushrooms, and of course the mighty roast potato.
My cheese of choice is cheddar. It’s great in sandwiches and scrambled eggs, omelets, as well as for topping baked potatoes, cottage/shepherds pies or pizza.
I use ginger to add a zing to curries and other Asian inspired dishes. Also, as cold and flu season is upon us this is a crucial ingredient to have around for making a ginger, lemon and honey tea remedy to fight those nasty bugs.
Like garlic, this can be sautéed and used as a base for savoury dishes. You can use sliced onion as a pizza topping to amplify the flavours. There is also an array of fresh salads that can be made with finely chopped onion: add it to leafy green salads, you can mix it with mashed avocado to make home made guacamole, or you can add it to freshly chopped tomatoes to make your own salsa.
8. Plain Flour
If you enjoy baking then flour is a definite must-have for most cakes and breads. You can also use it to thicken sauces, and make Yorkshire puddings. If you’ve run out of bread and need to bake a loaf but don’t have strong bread flour in stock then plain flour can be used as a substitute. The loaf will rise well but it just won’t be quite as dense or as chewy as it would with the bread flour. You can also make your own self raising flour for cakes by adding half a teaspoon of baking powder for every 100 g of plain flour.
9. Vanilla Essence
This ingredient doesn’t just have to be used in cakes. You can use it to flavour tea, I love red bush tea with vanilla. I also make my own vanilla lattes, by adding a couple of drops of vanilla essence to my coffee.
10. Ground Cinnamon
This is great for adding flavour to porridge, and cakes. I also sprinkle it on coffee and use a little in my curry paste when I make Indian-style curries.
So there you have it, the top 10 versatile ingredients I always have in stock in my kitchen. Do they cover your cooking habits? Do leave a comment and share your key ingredients.