Day 4: The Basics of Stocking Your Fridge and Cupboards

With a properly stocked kitchen, you’ll never need to worry again because you’ll always be able to rustle up something tasty!

And no don’t worry, I’m not talking about having several different meats, cheeses and exotic birds ready at the click of a recipes fingers. I’m talking about what ingredients every home cook should have available at all times.

Following on from the previous tutorial, lets dive a little deeper in to the main things every home cook should have to hand, and how those ingredients can enhance your meals.

Fresh Herbs

I know, you thought this was going to be everything non-perishable 😉

Fresh herbs however are the BEST ingredient you can have in the kitchen.

  • They’re cheap and easy to grow
  • Pack a lot of flavour in to meals
  • Pack a lot of flavour whilst be low calorie and giving you a vitamin boost

By having a selection of fresh herbs, you can turn plain chips in to garlicky herb fries or a plain salad in to a mixed herb and pumpkin one.

Try growing parsley, basil, coriander, rosemary, thyme and sage as a good starting selection.

Dried Herbs and Spices

Unlike fresh herbs, dried herbs and spices need more cooking time and when we get to Week 2 we’ll be going in to more detail around how.

But for now let’s focus on the top dried herbs and spices you should have in your cupboard.

Dried herbs

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

Spices

  • Dried chillies
  • Cumin (ground or seed)
  • Ground turmeric
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Paprika

By having this selection, you’re covered for most dishes from English to Indian, Italian to Mexican!

Tins

We’ve all cleaned out the cupboards at some point and found something obscure with a best before 1997 date, but that can be a thing of the past!

The following tinned items are weekly staples. Things recipes call upon most often and by having them around, you’ll always be prepared.

Plus my absolute favourite curry is made from 3 tins!

For your shopping list

  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Coconut milk (personally I always choose full fat. Light is also light on flavour and no one wants that.)
  • Pulses such as chickpeas, cannellini beans, black turtle beans, haricot beans etc
  • Lentils

If you’re a fish fan, I’d also recommend tuna and sardines. They’re used across a variety of recipes and taste amazing. While others might disagree, things like tinned mackerel are down to personal preference. Mine is I prefer to have it fresh because the flavour is so much better.

Garlic, everywhere, all the time

Hanging of the ceiling. Brimming out of it storage pot. Filling the drawers. Dangling of coat hooks. Randomly rolling across the floor. In the fruit bowl. Hiding in the pans. Bursting out of the toaster. Keeping snug in the cheese toastie machine. Making friends amongst the spices.

I LOVE garlic. And if you ever eat at my place cancel all dates and meetings the next day.

It’s a delicious ingredient and it takes so many forms. From wild garlic and spring garlic, to the common garlic bulbs you can easily find in the shops to smoked and black garlic, it adds a punch to so many meals.

While my stock levels of garlic is probably not for the faint hearted, I’d recommend having 2 to 3 bulbs on hand a week.

Oils

With so much faff around oils, I’m just going to get straight to the point.

  • Extra virgin olive oil – use for salad dressings, oil and vinegar dips, lower heat frying and by that I mean if the pan starts smoking the heat is too high, some baking and most general cooking including many Greek and Italian dishes.
  • Rapeseed oil – A firm British crop, this oil is light and delicate in flavour. It has a slightly higher smoking point and is a secret weapon for perfect roast potatoes. It’s suited to most general cooking including baking.

And that’s it. They’re the two oils I use most in the kitchen and buy on a regular basis.

If you love a good stir fry, I’d recommend having a small bottle of sesame seed oil around as it adds an amazing flavour to the vegetables and noodles.

One thing to be aware of as it comes up in the news all of the time is with oils they do have a high calorie composition. Personally, I only cook or have a dressing once a day. My other two meals will either be poached, steamed, grilled or boiled.

Lastly, some might find it odd that I haven’t mentioned coconut oil and there’s a simple reason for that. I don’t trust it or like it. Having cooked with it many times and in many different dishes, I’m not convinced by its flavour (it makes EVERYTHING taste like a greasy coconut) or the origin of its ‘superfood’ status.

Salt

Salt has been demonised then revered over the years. As a chef though, it’s my favourite ingredient.

Salt enhances the flavour of your food. And when you cook from scratch most of the time and forget about processed foods, the amount of salt you’re going to end up eating is fairly low.

Sea salt flakes are a must. They can be used on everything and anything.

You can also buy cooking salt, rock salt, pink salt, charcoal etc, but sea salt flakes for me, beats them all!

Homemade stock

Once you start making homemade stock, you’ll never go back.

Many think it’s a faff but it’s not. You’ll bung everything in to a pot and:

  • Save money
  • Save food waste
  • Enhance and have more control over the flavour of meals

Stock powders, cubes and pots all have two things in common:

  • They’re too salty. Even the low salt ones manage to be too salty?!
  • They overpower a dishes flavour and manage to make everything sort of taste the same

By making your own stock, you can utilise your vegetable scraps and meat bones, put it all in a pot with water and leave it. After a few hour simmering, simply drain, store and either put it in the fridge for up to a week or freeze.

We’ll be coming on to stock making later in this challenge so keep an eye out!

Flour

Flour is great.

Pancakes, cakes, waffles, sauce thickeners, scones…delicious!

Flour can be used across sweet and savoury dishes and really you only need the following most of the time:

  • Plain flour
  • Self-raising flour

If you love pizza and bread, I’d also add in a strong white bread flour.

Honey

You thought I was going to say sugar right? Honey is so much better.

Again, it can be used in sweet or savoury dishes including bread making.

Much like salt, honey can balance out and enhance the flavour of dishes and having some around means you’ll be able to use it whenever a recipe calls for a little sugar! (Always use half the sugar amount to begin with. So if a recipe says 1 tsp of sugar, use 1/2 tsp and taste.)

There You Have It!

A basic stocked kitchen.

Of course I’ll say try and buy organic if you can and also locally. But work within your budget and your tastebuds first and foremost and we’ll go from there!

Day 5’s preview is below and don’t forget to connect with me on social as next week we’ll be moving on to cooking and I can’t wait to see your creations!

Let’s Connect!

Along with the daily journal posts here, each Wednesday at 12pm BST I’ll be going live on my instagram @therebalancechef to recap on the week’s progress and show you around my kitchen. Depending on the weather you might even meet my rescue hens!

The main point of this challenge is to have fun with it, learn new skills and refresh old ones.

I want to see your creations so don’t forget to tag me and show off what you’ve been doing!

I’m taking part in the Rebalance May Cookery Challenge! Check it out here http://www.therebalancechef.co.uk

Day 5 preview

Lost In The Shops? Where To Find Those Sneaky Ingredients!

Whenever I go shopping I always notice one thing. People walking around lost and confused.

Then I either see them call whoever has sent them shopping where the conversation goes like this:

“Yes, yes I’m in that aisle but it’s not here! Yes I’ve tried that aisle…no I don’t want to ask I’ll look like an…no just tell me where it is and I’ll get it! I didn’t have to come shopping you know!!”

Or they leave empty handed.

But no more!

I did a little quiz a while ago both in person and on my social to find out what ingredients you often want, but can’t find. Let’s do this!