What’s in your Kitchen



Every kitchen needs basic ingredients that are used more or less on a daily basis, so what do you need to keep? You will obviously want other things that you personally like in your cupboard, like pickled onions, but for making most of the recipes these are your starting point.





These are used to add flavour to your food. Fresh herbs are great when you can get them but a stock of your favourite dried herbs is useful. Chives are best used fresh and are usually available most of the time. You can grow some herbs easily in pots of compost on a windowsill. You can grow chives, basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, hyssop, parsley, mint and sage. You can also grow garlic and ginger in pots.


You can choose to buy whole or ready ground spices. Whole ones you can grind yourself in a pestle and mortar and they give a fresher more pungent flavour, but to start off buying the ready ground ones is much easier and still gives excellent results.


A ready stocked spice rack looks lovely, but you will find that you rarely use some of them so buying individual ones is the best idea to begin with.


















Having a store of fresh garlic in your fridge is essential, as it is used in so many different dishes, from rich Indian curries to hearty English soups. You can also purchase pre-chopped garlic in a jar, or garlic puree, which is a quick and easy way of adding it to your recipes. Garlic granules are also available, and while they don’t give you quite the same taste or effect as the fresh stuff, they’re a good option for making fried chicken or using in savoury coatings.


Salt is obviously used for seasoning. You can buy standard table salt which has anti caking ingredients added to it, but sea salt (which used to be known as Bay salt) has none, and comes in large flakes. You can buy smoked flakes and specially flavoured salts, such as garlic salt.


Pepper is an important ingredient, and you need to keep three forms. Cayenne, black pepper and white pepper. There was a time that most people only had white pepper. Cayenne pepper is very hot, so be sparing. Black pepper comes in corns, which are ground in a mill, but you can also but ready ground. White pepper can be a blend of peppers, and is bought in powder form.



There are so many different types and makes of flour that it can be a bit confusing when you want to purchase some for your cooking. Here are some tips and ideas to make it easier when stocking up on flour:


    • Buy the supermarkets own brand; it is usually just as good as the named brands.


    • Plain flour, for use in thickening, pastry, biscuits, etc, this contains no raising agent is usually in red-based packets.


    • Self-raising flour, this does contain a raising agent, so is ideal for cakes and dumplings. This is usually in blue-based packaging.


    • Strong flour is for bread making and has a higher gluten content so is not suitable for making cakes. Always read the packet to see if it is white, brown or wholemeal.


    • Cornflour is a useful ingredient to thicken sauces or gravy and also is used to lighten cakes and biscuits


    • Always close up the packet as best you can after using your flour as sometimes they can be contaminated with tiny flour mites. If you don’t use the flour regularly it is best stored in a a lidded container.


White sugar is ok to put in your hot drinks and is good for making jam, but for cooking and baking golden sugar gives the best flavour and colour.




Golden granulated


Golden caster, especially good for cakes and biscuits


Soft brown sugar is also used in many baking recipes for flavour but is not always necessary


Icing sugar is used in most types of cake toppings and other desserts like meringues and Tiramisu, etc


Whilst talking sweet stuff, a tin of golden syrup and a jar of good honey are always good to have in your cupboard


Cocoa Powder

Makes a great hot drink but is a must for chocolate cakes and biscuits.



Makes very easy pastry and dumplings. I tend to prefer the vegetarian version as it is most versatile and seems to give a lighter texture, but you can buy beef suet if you prefer.


Dried fruit

Raisins, sultanas and currants make a great cake ingredient, but can be used to top your, cereals or porridge or an added extra to your muesli. Glace cherries are my favourite dried fruit, but dried cranberries, apricots, prunes and dates are also readily available. Choose your favourites and buy small bags to begin with.



Great for porridge but makes flapjacks, biscuits and cakes. It can be added to bread, crumble toppings or for making your own muesli. Buy ordinary basic porridge oats.


Gravy browning

Thickeners like Bisto powder are a good to have when making your gravy. But you can also make gravy from scratch using stock, flour and seasonings.


Pasta shapes and spaghetti

Make quick and easy meals; choose wholemeal for a healthy option. Fresh pasta is a real treat but having the dried version is always useful. Lasagne sheets may be stored but I tend to buy those as I need them.



Rice is a must for serving with chilli, curries and to add to soups and stews. Long grain white rice comes in easy cook or ordinary versions. Ordinary is the cheapest and, I think, the easiest to cook. Brown rice is very good for you and is very filling so cook less than you would white rice it also takes longer to cook. Basmati is a traditional accompaniment to curries and has a stronger flavour than ordinary rice, it is often more expensive but is worth it.


Dried Yeast

Fast action is used in most of the recipes on this site as it is quick and easy to use. It is sold in boxed sachets of 7g each.



Butter is for flavour in sauces and frying – use a mix of butter and oil. It is used as a thickening agent and obviously as an ingredient in baking.



Lard is an ingredient that went out of fashion, but is returning to popularity. It is not used for frying so much these days, but as an ingredient in pastry there are few better fats.



A jar of your favourite flavour is good for toast, sandwiches and as tart or cake ingredient.



Even if you don’t like it with sausages or other meats it makes an excellent flavour enhancer in other recipes. Buy a small jar of ready  made and a tin of mustard powder.


Peanut butter

Again makes a quick snack, but can be added to flapjacks and biscuits and makes a quick spicy sauce for kebabs.



If you like chocolate you will love this. Try it in porridge and as a cake filling.



Malt vinegar is good on chips and to cover onions, but have a bottle of white wine and balsamic vinegar as well. They make excellent flavourings and dressings for salads.


Tomato Ketchup

Not just for your sausage or bacon sarnies, it can be used to make barbecue sauces, prawn cocktail sauce and added to casseroles and stews.


HP sauce

It’s another important condiment for most meals. It used to be called chop sauce which gives you an idea for at least one of it’s uses.


Worcestershire Sauce

Adds flavour to meat dishes and wonderful cheese on toast.


Apple Cider Vinegar and White wine vinegar

Are useful for making salads and adding an acidic edge to some dishes.


Wine, sherry and brandy

All important ingredients for cooking, especially in stews and casseroles.


Soy sauce

Comes in two forms, dark and lighter (which is quite dark) and is used in most Chinese dishes. Oyster sauce, Hoy Sin sauce and Fish sauce are a must for stir fry cooking.



It’s a hot pepper sauce for piping up many dishes.


Olive oil and vegetable oil

For frying and flavour. Buy two types of olive oil, use extra virgin for salads and lighter olive oil for cooking.