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Q & A – Staple ingredients

A friend of mine, who is just getting into cooking, asked me what ingredients I like to keep in my cupboard and fridge. I thought it sounded like a great question to post here on FFFY, and open up to the readers.

He’s also looking to gain some brownie points with his wife, by making her a tasty pudding of some kind. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m more of a savoury guy, so this is where I really need some help! He’s allergic to cheese, so cheesecake is not allowed! I suggested an Eton mess. I’m sure you can do better.

To get us started, here’s the ingredients I like to keep stocked up in the cupboards, fridge and windowsill. It’s worth bearing in mind that I primarily cook Chinese, Indian, Italian and traditional English.

In the cupboard
  • Tinned plum tomatoes – essential for spaghetti bolognese, chilli and stews
  • Coconut milk – great to have for a quick Thai or Indian meal
  • Flour – used for pancakes, Yorkshire puddings, dough, pastry and sauces
  • Pasta – a must have for making a quick dinner
  • Rice - brown rice, as it tastes so good. White rice for Chinese dishes
In the fridge
  • Eggs – it’s amazing how many eggs we get through. Scrambled, poached, boiled, fried. I use them in stir frys and tarts. Laura uses loads with all her cupcakes!
  • Butter – not margarine. Needed for sauces, mashed potato and pastry
  • Peppers – use loads with stir frys and roasted vegetables
  • Spring onions – again, great for stir frys, and also nice with a salad
  • Chicken breasts – versatile. Used in currys and stir frys
  • Beef mince – spaghetti bolognese, chilli and cottage pie
  • Milk – needed for a nice cuppa tea
In the freezer
  • Peas – great as an extra vegetable to add to a meal, or if you bang your head
  • Prawns - prawn curry and prawn stir fry and both amazing and quick to make
On the side
  • Onions – a real staple, and used in almost everything
  • Garlic - I love garlic and see this as another real essential
  • Fresh basil - I use it in loads of Italian meals. It’s really easy to grow too
  • Parsley – used to freshen up recipes. Add to Italian meals, or Moroccan stews

So, that’s me. Let everyone know what you like to keep in your cupboard, fridge and freezer. Extra points if you can suggest a nice pudding he can make for his wife. A gold star if you have your own recipe that you can post on FFFY!

About Matt

Matt has written 175 posts on this blog.

Hi, I'm Matt, Editor in Chef, here at FFFY. I hope you enjoy our freshly squeezed recipes, news and views!

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  1. In the fridge – lemon grass paste, umeboshi paste (no, me neither), old grain mustard, green and red pesto, black olives, capers, anchovies, light mayonnaise (because I do believe it tastes better than normal mayonnaise), salted butter, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, smoked chipotles, my dad’s salami, a wedge of Parmesan, red curry paste.

    In the freezer – chicken, salmon, turkey mince, peas, peppers julienne and a couple of portions of lasagna or chili or whatever one-pot wonder I have come up with.

    In the cupboard – Greek evoo, sherry vinegar, whole-wheat pasta, couscous, brown and white basmati rice, chopped tomatoes, mixed pulses (normally lentils, chickpeas and butterbeans), a wide range of spices that I am not going to start listing, dry porcini mushrooms, egg noodles, saffron, Arborio rice, flour and oats.

    I will pass on the pudding-advising business: the last few attempts looked like car crashes even if they tasted good!

  2. I would say – i like these:

    eggs, flour, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla essence – that’s so I’ve got cakes to hand at all times

    A delish pudding for a wife – interesting. I think Eton Mess is a good one – quite easy but looks good and isn’t too over the top – it’s a mix up of meringue, strawberries and whipped cream. You can even buy the meringue and just crush it up if you’re feeling lazy.

    It would be important to think about calories probably too – if you go for something too heavy and creamy, they might not want it (I’m not saying his wife is on a diet, but there’s some ridiculous statistic that at least a third of all women are on a diet at any given time!)

    Carla – Eton Mess is supposed to look like a car crash, so might be a good one for you!!

    My main thing would be – avoid custard! It’s a real blokey thing to do to make a dessert like bread and butter pudding and cover it all with custard. I think some delicacy would be a good idea.

    Am looking forward to hearing what Kate says as the reigning pudding expert!

  3. Store cupboard

    Olive oil and rapeseed oil: go into almost everything as we eat mainly savouries
    White wine & Balsamic vinegars: for vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, sweet/sour sauces, pepping up.
    Soy sauce and five spice, essential ingredients for a stir fry.
    Mustard powder, another pepping up ingredient, used dry it is savoury rather than hot and can be mixed with sugar or breadcrumbs for coating meat before grilling.
    Corn flour, a very useful thickener when mixed with water or soy sauce in a stir fry. Flour can be used in the same way and often gives a better consistency both need to be cooked but cornflour thickens with less heat.
    Tinned chopped tomatoes in their juice, I used to buy whole plum tomatoes but they have a greater juice to pulp ratio. Tinned sweet corn.
    Rice : Thai, basmati and a blend including wild rice. Boil in the bag are worth trying but more expensive.
    First choice of the pasta’s are spaghetti & tagliatelli, then penne, shells and bow ties, none are quick cook
    Tinned: anchovies, tuna, black olives, sweet corn, red kidney beans, lentils & chick peas.
    Herbs & spices too numerous to list: kept in the dark most retain their flavour and colour for a long time. I do use curry paste rather than mixing my own curry spices.
    Bottled: asparagus, artichoke hearts, honey, chutney, pickles
    Dried yeast encourages me to make our own bread.
    Flours: Strong with mixed seeds for bread, Stone ground for bread, own brand white for everything else.
    Seeds, fruits and nuts of all sorts: eg sunflower, flax, pumpkin; dried apricots, raisins, cranberries, walnuts, hazelnuts and brazils all go into my own meusli. I also experiment with them adding to bread and salads.
    Small carton of UHT single cream, for sauces and pasta dishes.
    Birds Custard, I stir in a tbs+ of crème fraiche to made custard for trifle, fruit fools and pouring, it gives a beautiful texture and stops a skin forming.
    Sugars: caster and brown usually meet the needs of most recipes.
    UHT semi skimmed milk, living in France we have become accustomed to the taste and now prefer it.

    In the fridge

    Cheeses: Feta, Parmesan, Cheddar, Roquefort.
    Streaky Bacon
    Eggs, the most versatile of ingredients.
    Creme fraiche, does not curdle when cooked, has less fat than most creams, and we love the slightly sour tang.
    Butter for cooking, we have abandoned the idea of using it as a spread except on toast with boiled, scrambled or poached eggs.
    Ginger wrapped in kitchen foil which extends its life enormously.
    Tomato paste in a tube
    Left over wine reserved for cooking will keep for ages.

    On the side

    We both put onions and potatoes (store in the dark) in poll position

    In the freezer

    Soups made in bulk and bagged for 2 people
    Bread for fresh, toast, crumbs and ready for croutons.
    Ice cream, which can be dolled up in so many ways.
    I frequently make extra quantities of things like curry as they seem to improve for eating the next and any leftover is then boxed up for quick snacks/meals.
    Minced beef, seafood cocktail ( cockles, mussels squid, prawns etc)

    We have two freezers and Richard reckons we could survive a six month siege; most of it is our own produce: meat and vegetables where the main problem is matching our demand with supply.

    For a novice Summer Pudding is easy to make and looks and tastes wonderful, it is also better made the day before, which can be very useful.
    This is about as good as it gets

  4. Hi everyone,

    My kitchen stock ingredients are like Laura’s and Matt’s, though I would add broccoli in the freezer (v versatile – stir fries, side for traditional meat’n'veg dishes), tinned red kidney beans, tinned pineapple, raisins, dates, mixed fruit, loads of herbs and spices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, plus fresh potatoes and carrots.

    Oh and I love making my own ‘luxury’ porridge – with bog-standard oats, plus a fruit, nut and seed mix, say with dried cranberries, raisins, macadamias, cashews, pumpkin seeds… – or I may put the mix on top of Weetabix, so that’s always in my cupboards, too!

    As for the pudding, funny Lau mentioned Eton Mess as, I was logging in I was thinking of that, plus a different version – Aussie Mess, with papaya and bananas and mango… Perhaps a lighter variation for both would be to use natural yoghurt? I would… but I don’t know if that’s straying too far from the original concept…

    An easy one is very thinly sliced apples (around 10mm if at all possible) on top of puff pastry, with a mixture of cinnamon powder and sugar on the top. Whack in the oven for 20 minutes on around 160 and serve with a dollop of icecream and butterscotch or toffee sauce if calories are no object. Yum! Advanced level… make your own icecream and sauce… but both are fiddly so cheating is more than allowed I would say!

    Guys, as ever, you are making me head to the kitchen and get cracking – thankyou!

  5. Oh, and I always keep soy sauce and noodles around…

    And bicarb of soda for raising cakes etc – also good if you mix it with water to help keep your drains unblocked…

    Anyway, congrats to Matt’s friend for giving everything a go, would love to hear how he gets on. Also, I was reading yesterday that a chef here in Aus recommends that if you’re just starting out in cooking, try something cheap and simple like omelettes/French toast so if it goes wrong there’s not much time nor money wasted! But good luck, I still make heaps of errors, it’s all part of the fun!

    And I just have to share – I just tried, for the first time ever, to make ginger tea (simple, grated ginger and hot water! Adding lemon/honey/both is another idea) … but at the same time I had a lager on the go… and so added some of the ginger tea to lager to make alcoholic ginger beer/lager!… Surprisingly, it was great!

  6. Ah, yes noodles are always a great thing to keep in the cupboard. I can’t get enough of the straight to wok ones. I’m always needing soy as well – in as large a bottle as possible!

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for answering my question, when I decided to try cooking I was so niave, thinking I could just pick up whatever was lying around in the kitchen and go for it. When I started looking at some recipes and writing down the main ingredients that I needed to get, I had filled about 3 sheets and only looked at 5 recipes!!

    That was the main reason I asked Matt the question, I thought I could start stocking my cupboards with ingredients and who better to ask than you guys!

    As I told Matt, I could cook (or cheat) by using the stir-in sauces etc but really wanted to try and do it myself. I made my first main course last week (Chicken in a tomato sauce) and then my own stir-fry ( where I discovered that spring onions made a great addition) and the wife was very impressed!

    As for the dessert, we are both of the mind that we would prefer a dessert to a starter and in my wifes case, the sweeter the better. When it comes to desserts, I don’t think that calories count because I’ve known her for 17 years and she has always been on a diet (even though she is stunning!)

    I look forward to trying out some of the mouth watering recipes, think I am still a bit of a beginner to add anything of my own yet but I will keep learning and hopefully add one soon.


  8. Let us know how you get on with the recipes on the site – I’m on a mission at the moment to try the recipes out, take pictures and upload them. I think it makes it loads easier when you know what the finished article, or even what the process, looks like.

    Kate has now shared a recipe for Cranachan, which could be an excellent one for you to make!

  9. Danmal ~
    I think you got it about right when you said you thought you could just pick up what’s lying around the kitchen and go for it, that’s what all inspired cooks aim for. Once you have got to know your ingredients I hope you will confidently embark on the great DIY adventure. We all have failures along the way, my crisp breads are shedding their seed coating, but they are still delicious, so it’s back to the drawing board. More importantly we all have that joy of success when flavours and textures make a perfect marriage.
    Bon courage


  1. What new feature would you like to see? - [...] can post questions, and receive answers from the readers - much like this post, and the recent Staple ingredients one. ...
  2. Cranachan recipe - [...] is a traditional Scottish dessert, and should meet Danny’s request for an easy pudding to cook his [...]

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