Something a little different today, I thought I'd share with you some of the things I keep on reaching for in my storecupboard. Writing about food, I have cupboards stuffed with basics, such as regular dried herbs and spices, different wine vinegars, and olive oils. I also get sent a whole load of different things to try, some I like, and some I love. While usually I'm a big advocate of using easy to find ingredients, here are six items I find myself reaching for, some absolutely every single day, which I think are worth hunting down.
Yes, I know that fish sauce is a regular storecupboard staple for those of you who make a lot of Thai and Vietnamese food, but for me it is the first thing I reach for, more so than soy sauce when I'm making up a bowl of noodles on the fly. I know some people find it a bit strong, but tempered with a little sugar and brightened up with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, I could practically pour it over my noodle bowl straight. I also love the throwback to Ancient Roman Garum, the fish sauce they used to use as a condiment on absolutely everything, and fermented in great stinking barrels. I think about Garum every time I use fish sauce, though I'm thankful that our modern versions are nowhere near as pungent!
As for brands, I'm not really fussy. I have get to find a bottle I've grabbed in a supermarket or an Asian supermarket I've not been happy with. Though, I am typically a fan of Waitrose 'Ingredients' brand Asian cooking supplies for everyday.
Yes, I have two different types of pomegranate molasses in my larder. I prefer the Marigold brand which you can pick up from Waitrose (not a fan of Waitrose own brand, though) for sweet applications and to use in salads where you'll be enjoying the unadulterated flavour of the molasses, and I prefer Arrabica's slightly deeper, more savoury molasses for marinades. You can grab it from their website, or from the M&S Food Hall (big love to M&S for sending me my first jar of this over the Summer!)
I originally picked up a bottle of pomegranate molasses a couple of Christmases ago for an Ottolenghi pulled pork recipe which did not work out for us, so I had half a bottle in the larder to play around with. I never looked back, and now if I am putting together a recipe that even has a hint of the Middle Eastern to it, or could benefit from a hit of sweet and sour I drizzle a bit of molasses into it.
Brown Rice Miso Paste
Since I first picked up a jar of Brown Rice Miso to make a bowl of noodles, I have never not kept a jar of this in my fridge. It forms the perfect base for a last minute miso soup when I get home late, and adds that fermented something to Asian sauces that you want on the thicker side. It is also simply divine mixed with softened butter and slathered on barbecue corn on the cob. I love the Clearspring Organic brand you can get in some supermarket and health food stores, and I also buy the Clearspring Brown Rice Miso soup sachets with sea vegetables and keep the box on my desk at work as the perfect Winter mid-afternoon pick me up in a mug. You could also keep a jar in the office fridge.
Green Cardamom Pods
Cardamom hands down is one of my absolute favourite spices. Ever since I first used them in my New Years Day Trifle a couple of years ago, I've loved the way these little pods can be infused, or the seeds ground down to add this totally unique perfume to savoury or sweet dishes. So far, I tend to reach for them in sweet dishes, so this year I want to try and get them into much more of my savoury cooking, such as dahls and curries.
Breton Fleur de Sel de Guérande
I use Breton sea salt absolutely every single day, sometimes at every single meal. It is what I dress my avocado with (along with a squirt of fresh lemon juice) for breakfast most mornings, and it is the salt I reach for for absolutely all of my cooking, unless I need my salt to be super fine or super flakey for a specific recipe. I know there are so many salts out there, but I really love this one as it has such a lovely, sandy texture, and a taste that is mild enough that it does not overwhelm if you're using it for sprinkling. Also, for me it is local, as it is the regional salt of where my parents have their home in France.
I buy mine in the French supermarket, but you can easily find a good choice of brands and prices on Amazon, (I can personally attest to the Le Guérandais brand in the purple packaging) and you can also get it from Ocado. David Lebovitz has also written a great piece about Fleur de Sel and his visit to the Brittany salt fields.
I'd love to know what items you keep in your kitchen that are not your run of the mill cooking oils, spices and vinegars, but you could not cook without having to hand on a regular basis. Also, it would be great if you could give me feedback if you'd like to see a few more posts like this that are not necessarily recipes or restaurant reviews, but are more about food and cooking in general.