I often say I cook “out of my store cupboard”. So what is usually in my store cupboard/fridge/freezer?! This post is about the things I make sure I always try (!!) to have to hand. I know that if these ingredients are not far away, even in worst case scenarios I will be able to rustle up something to eat. Oh and this is all about “main meals”, I could write a whole different post about what I have in the cupboards for baking!
But every kitchen is different! What about you? What are your must-haves? Your fall-backs? What do you always have to hand? I’d love to know…
To save money (and I really do mean SAVE lots, compared to buying at the supermarket!) I generally buy meat and fish in bulk from the local farm and the fishmongers at the market. This means I usually have in my freezer a mix of some or all of:
chicken breasts (and other chicken pieces), minced beef, minced lamb, salmon (and other) fillets, a few whole fish (bass or bream, so cheap from the market) and some shell fish (crayfish are very cheap).
I use these (usually frozen) main ingredients as the central part of the meal. I don’t consciously try to have a protein, a carbohydrate and vegetables in all our main meals but that is actually how it works out. Pasta/rice/noodles/couscous/potatoes provide the carbs, the protein comes from the meat/fish/cheese and we always have vegetables with whatever we eat.
In my cupboards, I always try to have:
- Lots of pasta, of all shapes and sizes! And, of course, rice and couscous.
- Soy Sauce
- Fish Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Olive Oil, Sesame Oil and Garlic Oil
- Oyster sauce
- Maple Syrup and honey
- Cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ground ginger, Chinese 5 Spice. As long as you have a piece of meat or fish, any combination of numbers 1-8 make a great marinade/ sauce.
- A pot of green pesto
- A large bottle of passata and a tube of tomato purée
- Marigold vegetable stock.
- Do Haribo Tangfastics count?! (my secret treat!)
In the fridge, I always make sure I have a stock of red and white onions, loads of garlic, a chunk of fresh ginger (lasts for ages), chestnut mushrooms (more flavour than the white ones), a large head of broccoli, some green beans, a leek or two, carrots and celery.
I also get nervous if we don’t have a large block of good quality parmesan in the fridge. I buy mine from Costco, where it is extremely cheap. I know that if I have parmesan in the fridge, I can always make even the simplest pasta (garlic and olive oil for example) and still have a very tasty meal. And would it be too obvious to say eggs?! As you will have seen with my omelette time challenge video, if there is an egg in the fridge, lunch need only be 3 minutes and 50 seconds away!
I am also amazed by how much I used bacon – either on its own as part of a pasta, or to complement any number of meats and fishes. I always ensure I have a pack in the fridge.
I am sure I have missed out things but this is basically the core of what I cook main dishes with. As long as I am vaguely organised (not my best trait!), I try to keep all the above ingredients close to hand.
They are the basis of us cooking and eating economically, freshly and tastily!