12 items I always have in my kitchen cupboard

Keeping a few staple ingredients to hand makes cooking from scratch infinitely easier and quicker. Over the years I have found a few brands and products that I return to time and again, making my life in the kitchen just that bit simpler and more delicious. I do tend to invest in a few good basics, like a delicious extra virgin olive oil, as a little goes a long way and I find it seriously elevates the simplest of dishes. I might then save in other places – such as buying bulk grains or nuts and seeds, for example. So here are the 12 items you will always find in my kitchen cupboards at home.

1. Extra virgin olive oil

 I try to follow a mostly Mediterranean style diet, and therefore use olive oil for almost all my dressings and cooking needs. I tend to keep a relatively cheap and cheerful one next to the oven for cooking with, and then splurge on a really delicious extra virgin oil for drizzling and cold dressings.

 

2. Chilli flakes

Healthy food should never taste bland. Adding a pop of flavour to your dishes is so important, and for me, that often means a sprinkling of chilli flakes (lemon zest is another go to). I tend to buy in bulk, and then decant into old jam jars as we go through quite a bit.

 

3. Tinned / Jarred tomatoes

As much as I love fresh tomato sauces, I really don’t have the time to be blanching and peeling tomato skins. As a vast number of our favourite family recipes call for a tomato base, I will always, always have a few jars or tins of good quality tomatoes to hand. I tend to buy them in bulk from Biona or Cirio, as they both have BPA-free tins and also do a delicious passata in glass bottles.

4. Jars of cooked pulses

My absolute favourite brand for these is Brindisa. Their pulses are a little bit more expensive than the tins you find in the supermarket, but they are miles apart in terms of taste and texture. I will add them to stews and soups for a plant-based protein boost, but love them simply drained and rinsed and dressed in good olive oil and lemon juice, with some seasonal vegetables on the side for the quickest of lunches or weekday suppers. See my White Bean and Asparagus Salad with Charred Lemon Dressing for a little inspiration.

 

5. Apple Cyder Vinegar

I love a punchy dressing for salads and vegetables, and often drizzle one onto a tray of vegetables before roasting (it adds a definite flavour boost compared to roasting with olive oil alone). Apple Cyder tends to be my vinegar of choice, not for any supposed health benefits, but because I really like the fruity taste. My favourite brand is Aspall.

 

 

6. Merchant Gourmet quinoa, lentil & rice pouches

I always have a few of these pouches in the cupboard. They are more expensive than cooking the grains or pulses from scratch, but are a real timesaver and can bulk out a simple salad in no time at all. I relied on these heavily during the first few months of motherhood, when time and energy were always in scant supply.

 

 

7. Red Lentil Pasta

Willow loves pasta, as do I from time-to-time. We like to eat a variety of pastas, and tend to prefer them naturally gluten-free, like brown rice or the legume-based ones. Legume pastas (red lentil, pea, chickpea) are higher in protein than grain-based alternatives, which can make a simple bowl of pasta pesto, or pasta with tomato sauce a more nutritionally balanced meal with no extra effort.

8. Tahini

Tahini has become a real staple ingredient for me. It’s essential for making a quick homemade hummus, but I also make lots of tahini dressings and dips to pep up simple vegetables, chicken or fish dishes.

9. Jarred sundried tomatoes / cooked peppers

Cooking and peeling peppers is a real faff. I just don’t bother, but buy jars of ready-roasted peppers in olive oil instead. I will usually keep them in my cupboards alongside a couple of jars of sundried tomatoes too. I’ll drain both well (keeping the oil to one side as it has a delicious flavour) and roughly chop them into a bland salad or blend into a tomato-based sauce (my go-to for this is the red pepper pasta sauce on pg. 240 of Simply Good For You) or soup for an extra pop of flavour.

 

10. Miso 

I use miso like a stock concentrate in soups, sauces, gravies and casseroles, as well as a topping for roasted vegetables (it is especially delicious on aubergines). It adds a real umami hit, and has become a weekly staple in my cooking. I’ll sometimes whizz it into tahini dressings too.

11. Coconut milk 

I love making simple vegetable and chickpea curries, and coconut milk adds a much-loved creaminess and richness.  This is another thing I tend to buy in bulk from Biona (again, the tins are BPA free and the coconut milk is free from emulsifiers), although you can find good coconut milk in most large supermarkets.

12. Rolled oats

Oats are one of the quickest, cheapest and simplest ways to add wholegrains into our diets. A great source of fibre, I use them for overnight oats, porridge, bircher muesli (my favourite recipes is on pg. 36 of Simply Good For You, crumble toppings or to thicken smoothies. I even whizz them up with some spices and lemon zest to make a great coating for chicken or fish goujons (see pg. 242 of Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan).

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