I’m a messy cook. I rarely follow a recipe. I often just look at a food picture, a program or will work from memory from what I’ve eaten somewhere. I like to just play with ingredients and see what happens. I feel the need for a lot of ingredients to play with. This means that the basics in my kitchen are quite important to how I cook so I’ll share them with you now.
The dry stuff
I have a lot of dried stuff around the kitchen. Some might say, I’ve too much, but then Covid happened and I was so glad to be a food hoarder. Our time has come!
Dried good you will find in this house: a lot of rice and pasta, noodles of different sizes, lots and lots of different types of beans and lentils and peas of all colours. This allows me to bulk soups and stews, make hummus and dips and just generally have a source of cheap and consistent food that demands very little energy and headspace to cook.
I’ve taken to buying dried seaweeds but I’ve yet to do anything too fun with those.
I buy spices from the Asian markets around town as they offer a much wider choice at the fraction of the price. If like me, you live in South Co. Dublin, you’re also lucky to be near my all time favourite shops. They are three of them and they are owned by the same (lovely lovely) people. There is Get Fresh on the Marian Road in Rathfarnham, Fresh Avenue, on the Ballinteer Avenue in, you guessed it, Ballinteer and their sister shop in Delgany, next door to the Firehouse Bakery. They sell spices and dry herbs in containers larger than what you normally find in the supermarkets and best of all, their spice packets are stackable!
In terms of spices, I always stock up a numerous amount of chili flakes and powders. Some are hot like some of the Indian or Mexican ones (you can get great Mexican staples from Picado, a Mexican pantry in Portobello, in town. And some are mild (they are my favourite ones). I’m thinking about Piment D’espelette from the Basque region in France, the Korean chili flakes one of the main component of Gochujang, Aleppo pepper (that one I had to buy from Amazon) and the famed pulbiber, a Turkish chili, which you can buy in Ayla on Capel st or will have to purchase online. I also have several types of paprika smoked and unsmoked, sweet or hot. I’ve even got a pouch of seriously delicious Hungarian paprika which I like to use sparingly instead of peppers on some dishes.
After that, my spice cabinet is fairly unremarkable, I have powdered ginger, turmeric, celery salt ,cumin seeds, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and whatever spice mixes I’ve bought in random shops.
I also always carry a decent mix of salt and peppercorn of all colours. Pepper, to me, should always be eaten when it’s been just crushed, because that’s when they’re at their most fragrant.
I’m lucky as I’ve a bit of space to grow herbs out the back but with all the goodwill in the world, between the weather and the slugs I’ve very little success. So I end up buying a lot of cheap herb pots in Lidl or Aldi and separating and replanting the herb plugs. That works better. This method keeps me going for about 6 months of the year or so. For the rest of the year, I simply buy fresh herbs more often and keep them in the fridge wrapped in wet kitchen paper. This helps with keeping them fresh for longer. Fresh herbs, I love: mint, parsley (flat and curly), dill, tarragon, rosemary, thyme and sage.
I keep dry herbs like bay leaves, oregano and herbs de Provence. Those are my go to dry herbs.
Those are the random bits and pieces.
- Oils (olive, rapeseed, sunflower, toasted sesame)
- Vinegars (we are blessed with absolutely superb vinegar makers in Ireland and I buy an unreasonable amount of vinegars as I think a drizzle of a great vinegar can lift a whole dish in the same manner as a few drops of lemon juice might do).
- Gochujang paste
- Miso paste (dark and light)
- Soy sauce (different kinds)
- Fish sauce
- Chinese wine
- Shrimp paste
- Tom Yum paste
- Nut butters
- Sweet and savoury bits, think relishes and jams
- Hot sauces and lots of them
- Tinned tomatoes
- Tomato puree
- Pomegramate syrup
- Jams. jellies, honeys and relishes
Basically, if I see bits and bobs when I shop that might liven up a simple dinner, I buy one. I love condiments!