It’s a controversial subject (ahem). But seriously, what are the store cupboard ingredients that you'll always need in stock? These beauties make the basis of most good meals
1. Tinned tomatoes
We all know about tinned toms but they're the basic essentials for a lot of recipes. Blitz a couple of cans into a soup with a few sticks of celery, mix plum tomatoes with a pinch of paprika and cannellini beans to stuff into quesadillas, or cook them down with olive oil and dried mixed herbs to make a freeze-ahead pasta or pizza sauce.
2. Extra-virgin olive oil
Yep, we'd choose this over sunflower anytime. One bottle of extra-virgin olive oil in your cupboard and you'll be able to transform a sad iceberg lettuce or toasted pitta from the freezer into something really quite tasty.
Never mind the pepper, everything tastes better with salt (used sparingly, of course) … whether it's an old brown avocado or a wrinkled tomato in the bottom of the fridge. It's been precious to human existence for as long as historians can discern; did you know the word 'salary' comes from the Latin word salarium when soldiers were paid in salt? Enough history – just make sure it's on your shopping list.
4. Stock cubes
Essential for any homemade soup or stew, stock cubes have been helping impatient home cooks since OXO came on the scene. Use a little stock to create a quick noodle broth, or cook rice and couscous in chicken stock for more flavour before adding chopped nuts and dried fruits to go in a quick tagine.
5. Tinned potatoes
A surprise for fifth place, can you remember the last time you bought these? Probably not. But while tinned potatoes aren't the most sexy ingredient, they are incredibly useful. Slice and use to make a quick frittata, mix into a salad niçoise with canned tuna and olives, or get instant roast potatoes by popping them in the oven with a slug of oil. Nice.
6. Pasta and rice
Pasta and rice. They're a staple. Which means you should always have them at home. Risotto rice is surprisingly versatile (you can use it to make paella or rice pudding), linguine can elevate frozen prawns to Michelin-star proportions and, if in doubt, you can just have pasta and pesto. Again.
7. Thai green curry paste
It's OK to cheat a curry. Really, it is. And having a bit of curry paste on hand means you can disguise all that leftover veg at the back of the fridge as a real meal. We won't tell if you don't.
8. Rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil
Coming in at number eight is a simple statement of how much we love Asian food, and with these three magic bottles you can create stir-fries worthy of Ken Hom. Add a dash of each at the end of cooking, and you might even look like you know what you're doing.
9. Caster sugar
We're not sure when sugar got so confusing; there must be five or six different types we can think of without even trying. Stick to caster and you'll find you can use it for pretty much any recipe … and yes before you ask, it's fine in tea too.
10. Tinned fish
Good for you, tasty and an essential store cupboard protein; even David Cameron is into this one. Snuggle up with a mouthwatering pasta bake, make budget canapés with the help of lettuce and sweetcorn, or use it to top ready-made pizza bases with that legendary tomato sauce (see above).
11. Plain flour
12. Dried mixed herbs
Most people have more herbs and spices in their cupboards than they know what to do with. And unless you're like these fanatical few, most of them have probably gone off. One thing you will use however, is a pot of dried mixed herbs or dried oregano. Sprinkle over pasta dishes, cheese on toast or even bacon; it just makes everything taste a bit more continental.
Liked this? Want more? Try these:
- The definitive ranking of ice-creams and lollies
- The definitive rankings of custard (in all its forms)
- The definitive ranking of teatime biscuits
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