The biggest struggle that comes with cooking, is probably the lack of inspiration. However, it is easier to find said inspiration when you have a well-stocked pantry. "But what should I have in my pantry?" you may ask. That's where I come in. I have curated a list for you readers, of what I would consider must-haves in one's pantry. I know the following list might seem long, but fear not! Whether you're a cooking fan or not, there will be at least one ingredient on here that you can add to your next grocery list!
Let's start with the basics
Garlic, ginger and onions are probably the most essential ingredients to have in your pantry. Personally, I cannot make a dish without at least one of those. Onions serve as a basis for soups, stews, sauces and virtually any dish you can make in a pan. Red, yellow, white? The choice is yours, and either is delicious. Garlic will add flavour to the blandest of dishes. You just need to make sure to add it to the pan towards the end, as it tends to burn if you leave it for more than five minutes over high heat. Then, if you feel like adding a twist to your meal, here comes the ginger. It's great for your health, there's a nice spicy kick to it that will blow your tastebuds away.
You also want to make sure that you have some type of fresh herbs in your kitchen. Personally, cilantro is my favourite, but I understand it may not be for everyone, so you can opt for parsley instead. Basil can also be a great alternative, especially for sauces and stews. If you already have those in your kitchen, you might want to start using mint, it will bring a fresh touch to your dishes. These herbs can keep for a long time if you know how to properly store them, so make sure you check out our tips and tricks highlight on our Instagram account for an easy tutorial.
Now for the spices, your greatest cooking allies. In my opinion, you can make anything taste special when you have the right spices.
The basic ones include thyme, oregano and rosemary, they will bring your pasta sauces to the next level.
Then, I would suggest buying paprika, cumin, curry, or turmeric (basically any red or yellow spices you can find out there). Paprika is the mildest one so you can add it to any dish, from scrambled eggs to rice, sauces, stews, and much more! Cinnamon (ground or sticks) is also a great addition, which you can add to sweet or savoury dishes.
If you are like me and you enjoy spicy foods, then you should also add chilli flakes and cayenne pepper to your grocery list.
Now if you feel like trying out something new, you might want to look for ras el hanout. It may be harder to find and a little more expensive, but trust me it's worth it. Ras el hanout is a spice mix frequently used in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cuisine, which contains cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, dried ginger, and more. I love adding it to my tomato sauces, as it brings out the sweetness in the tomato.
Non-perishables: canned foods and dry ingredients
As I mentioned in my last post on sustainable habits, dry foods are a must-have, especially in the winter. Their long shelf life makes them a valuable asset to your pantry, which you will be thankful for when your fridge is empty.
Your first thought might be pasta or rice, but there is so much more out there! For example, I always make sure to have lentils, grains or some type of beans in my pantry. As for green lentils, I personally prefer Puy lentils; red lentils are also a must, which you can add to your soups, daals, and are a great vegetarian alternative to ground meat. Split peas are also a must in your pantry, as they make for the most delicious soups!
You should also keep an eye out for my quick and simple lentil and tomato recipe, which will be posted in the next few weeks.
As for other starches, you should try couscous or polenta, they also serve as a great basis for heartier meals.
As you might have understood, there are few ingredients on this list that I can do without. However, if you're not feeling overwhelmed by the number of products I have listed, here are a few more that I suggest you invest in.
Shallots and scallions (or green onions) are a nice alternative to regular onions; the former has a stronger taste, and the latter is less flavourful than their regular counterpart, so it really depends on what you're looking for.
Sesame seeds are also a great ingredient to sprinkle on top of your noodles or soups, you can also toast them for a few minutes in the pan if you want to bring out more flavour!
I hope you enjoyed this non-exhaustive list of staple ingredients. As many more products can come in handy while cooking, let us know in the comments if you want us to make a part two!