So I've just moved house. Well, country to be exact. I talk a bit more about it back in my post about the matcha cheesecake if you want the full low-down!
And this got me thinking about kitchen staples. Because man, I have packed a lot of boxes now and shifted a lot of stuff across the Irish Sea. And the whole process has really made me consider what is essential in a kitchen.
A lot of recipe book writers have their own lists of foods to always have at home and I've noticed some of them are pretty extensive. Or sometimes they contain ingredients that you're really not sure how you would use in more than one or two dishes a year, or even things you've never heard of!
I think that can be a bit intimidating if you're trying to spruce up your cupboards to help with healthier eating. You don't need hundreds of weird and whacky sounding ingredients to make nutritious dishes every day.
So instead I've devised my own version of a Kitchen Staples list. I hope if you are considering starting a healthier pantry this list won't be quite so scary to imagine building for yourself over time and will form a great basis for eating nutritious meals at home.
This list includes what I think you can use to make a great, filling, packed-with-flavour meal without having to run to the shops.
I've decided not to call this an 'essentials' list. Because these things are just the base for dishes. You can definitely make tasty meals out of what's here but I would always advocate having fresh fruit and veg in the house too, as well as unprocessed meat and fish if that's your bag. And you know, other lovely things like yoghurt and fresh herbs. So I've gone with the word 'staples' because the word 'essentials' implies you cannot possibly cope without these things, which simply isn't true!
With this list I've stuck to stuff that is dried, canned or lasts for ages from which you could make a fantastic start on making regular home-cooked healthy meals. I used to travel a lot for work so knowing I could come home to cupboards with these essentials and make a decent meal without having to leave the house in a jet-lagged stupor was always a comfort.
As with anything, this is a guide that works for me. Do what works for you. What would you consider important to a healthy stocked kitchen?
And no I'm not advocating buying all this in one go. I definitely built this stash up gradually!
Some little tips on these staples:
MIXED SEEDS - I can be super lazy sometimes and when I want a sprinkle of seeds on a dish I tend to use a packet of pre-mixed ones like Good4U Super Seed Sprinkles (contains sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia and quinoa). Takes the effort out of choosing which to go with!
TAHINI - can be used in salad dressings, hummus and even baking and desserts so a great all-rounder. I've got a whole list of tahini recipes collected on Pinterest if you want to take a peak.
COCONUT AMINOS - my current answer to a life without soy sauce. Together with sesame oil you still get that great Asian umami flavour, but without the fermented stuff. I've written more about aminos in my sushi stack recipe here.
NUT BUTTER - I tend to go coconut almond but whatever works for you. As well as simple on toast, when I'm making bases for cheesecakes or energy balls that usually call for dates (which I try to avoid), nut butter is a great substitute. If a recipe calls for a particular nut butter then don't feel you have to buy a whole new jar, just use the one you've got for a different flavour!
NOODLES AND PASTA - I try to have rice noodles (thin glass noodles which are naturally gluten free) for Asian soups or summer rolls, as well as thicker soba or egg noodles for heartier meals. I wrote about noodles in the early days of the blog here.
For pasta go with your favourite and whatever suits your diet. There are so many options now! I would recommend wholewheat pastas as they're nuttier and more textured (and they contain more nutrients than their white counterpart) but have a look and see what else is available. I've tried sesame pasta, quinoa pasta, corn pasta... the list seems endless!
OATS - for porridge yes but also you can add a handful to a smoothie to add some bulk or use them as part of the mix for a tart / flan base. Lots of uses, oats are super versatile.
CHICKPEAS - where do I start?! Hummus and falafel are the obvious ones but I've also been known to make chocolate brownies with them or roast them for a crispy soup topping instead of croutons.
And remember you can save the chickpea water from the can and use as aquafaba - a vegan egg replacement which can be whipped up into meringues or mousses. Waste not want not! And the best part? Apparently you can't over whip aquafaba as you can with eggs, so it's a good one for baking novices like me!
AVOCADO - can be frozen. GAME CHANGER PEOPLE! Scoop it out and slice it up then put in a freezer bag in portions. Perfect for smoothies.
LEMON SLICES - I have a hot lemon water every morning and if I don't have a fresh lemon to-hand then a frozen slice is ideal.
FROZEN VEGGIES - most veg freezes really well and there's a lot of evidence that it's still just as nutrient dense as fresh, sometimes even more so. Great staples are peas, green beans and spinach.
MACA - a really popular ingredient at the moment online and hailed to have loads of health benefits. I use it in lots of recipes like porridge, smoothies and desserts because it gives a lovely soft caramel sweetness, without all the sugar.
CACAO - just bite the bullet and invest in a big bag. You WILL use it!
Confession: I am the world's most enormous geek and have a list of the spices in my cupboard saved on my phone. My boyfriend thinks I'm crazy.
But it means whenever I'm cooking a recipe from a book and want to know whether I've got the right spice it's all there in one little note - rather than spending 20 minutes climbing on the kitchen counter fishing into the back of the cupboard and dropping spice jars everywhere trying to find the one I want! Please tell me I'm not alone doing this?!
There are obviously HUNDREDS more spices that you can buy and keep in the cupboard for a good long time. I just went with my favourites that are at the front and I use most weeks.
What do you reckon? What are your kitchen essential ingredients? Anything on here seem strange to you?! Let me know!