If you fit out your kitchen cupboards with these essentials you will have the base ingredients to create delicious healthy and flavoursome meals. To make it easier for shopping I have tried to group them according to supermarket aisle. Read on for my store cupboard essentials……
1. Cooking Oils
– it is very important to use good quality fats and oils when cooking your food as they can oxidise when heated to temperatures beyond their smoking point producing free radicals which are harmful to health.
- Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and owing to it’s high smoking point it is ideal for cooking at high temperatures such as baking and roasting. When buying coconut oil choose a brand that is virgin and cold pressed. It can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil has a much lower smoking point and is therefore more suitable for cooking at low temperatures such as sauteing. When buying look for those in a dark coloured glass bottle as it is sensitive to both light and heat so store in a cool dark place. It makes the perfect base to any salad dressing as well as dips and sauces or just drizzled over salad or cooked vegetables.
- Avocado oil, like coconut oil has a high smoking point but is lower in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. It has a neutral flavour and is ideal for cooking at higher temperatures like stir frying.
2. Dry goods
- Grains such as wholegrain rice and pasta, short grain rice, gluten free pseudo-grains like quinoa can be used in salads as well as in warm pasta and rice dishes.
- Porridge oats, buckwheat groats, quinoa flakes are great for breakfast options and baking.
- Lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas soak overnight and cook to use in dahls, burgers, hummus, curries, stews etc.
3. Canned goods
- Chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, passata can be used in curries, hot pots, stews, lasagnes, bolognese.
- Beans such as butter beans, black beans, cannellini and red kidney beans are perfect for salads, to make dips and spreads, curries, stews etc.
- Chickpeas to make hummus, falafels, curries or roasted in the oven for a snack.
- Lentils are so versatile – use in dahls, salads or to stuff peppers/aubergines and bake in the oven.
- Coconut milk – perfect addition to soups, curries, dahls.
- Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and tuna make a healthy lunch option.
4. Herbs and spices – flavour boosters
- Fresh or dried herbs such as parsley, coriander, basil, dill, thyme, herbs de Provence.
- Spices like turmeric, cumin, garam masala, ginger, cayenne pepper, chilli powder & flakes.
5. Nuts and seeds
- Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pistachios – are great as a snack or used in granola or baking. Better still make your own homemade nut butters and nut milks!
- Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, are great toasted and sprinkled on soups or salads. Chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seed can be added to smoothies, breakfast or in baking. To replace eggs in baking make a ‘flax egg’ with 1 tbsp flax seed and 3 tbsp of water.
6. Nut & seed butters
- Peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut butter great to have as a snack with fruit or oat cakes and are often used in baking.
- Tahini (sesame seed butter) to make hummus, salad dressing or in baking.
7. Taste boosters
- Balsamic vinegar is delicious in a salad dressing or when used to roast vegetables.
- Tamari is a gluten free soy sauce that has less salt and is great for a stir fry.
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning any savoury dish.
- Apple cider vinegar – take 1 tbsp in a glass of water before meals to help with digestion. Sometimes used in baking.
- Maple syrup is used widely in baking but is also used in some savoury dishes. Look for Grade A when buying.
- Medjool dates have a delicious caramel flavour ideal for baking or to satisfy a sweet craving cut down the middle, remove the pit and add a teaspoon of nut butter.
- Honey – buy raw local honey if possible as it is unprocessed and unpasteurised.
- Coconut palm sugar – is a great substitute for white sugar and despite it’s name it has more of a caramel flavour than coconut.
- Ground almonds – used as an alternative to flour in many baking recipes.
- Cacao powder – less processed version of cocoa powder.
- Baking powder – used in pancakes and bread and baking to help them rise.
It is easy to build a meal around these ingredients and you won’t have to compromise on flavour! Most of these ingredients are not expensive to buy and are readily available in supermarkets and health food shops alike. If you’re lucky enough to have a plastic free bulk health food store near you then it’s great to support them and even better for the environment. Keep used glass jars to store dry good, nuts and seeds in and to store homemade nut butters, pestos and dips and spreads in. It is worth spending that bit extra on good quality extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and balsamic vinegar. Keep a running shopping list and add to it when you are running low on or have used the last of any ingredient.