Store Cupboard Standbys - The Ingredients that Make Your Meal Delicious
Every chef has his or her own favourite kitchen cupboard ingredients to rely on for making a good meal great. That’s the secret of being a chef, knowing just what’s needed to lift a dish to excellence. But you don’t have to be a pro to build your own collection of essential standby items that will help improve your cooking on a daily basis. Little things that come handy to the fingertips at just the right moment!
Here’s our rundown of what ingredients are useful, what they are used for and where to get them.
Our apple growers make a range of cider vinegars from Irish apples. This is one of the most useful ingredients you will ever have in your cupboard.
Use it to make vinaigrette, add a splash to a stew to give a bite of acidity and help tenderize the meat, use a few drops to sharpen any dish instead of lemon juice.
It’s also the best vinegar for making fresh pickles with cucumber or beetroot. And health food gurus recommend it for a variety of complaints, from shrinking broken blood vessels and mild varicose veins in the legs, to skincare and cleansing and purifying the digestive system. It cleans dirty pans and helps make your windows gleam, among other fantastic household tips.
We always recommend making your own stock for soups and stews. But when time is short and you need something to tide you over, a good quality stock cube can come to the rescue. Look for low salt and preferably organic stock cubes. Vegetable stock cubes are a good all rounder for most soups and casseroles. You can also keep chicken and beef ones handy too. Freshly made meat and vegetable stock in cans or tubs is also available, but must be used in one go after opening.
Irish Rapeseed Oil
This replaces imported olive oil in any dish where oil is required. Rapeseed oil is full of natural goodness, great for healthy heart and other benefits, and can be used for frying or adding to recipes. Look for Donegal Rapeseed Oil, made by a co-operative of rapeseed farmers and the first ever Irish homemade culinary oil to hit the market. Also seek out Harnett’s Rapeseed Oil, made from home grown seed in Northern Ireland. Both oils are cold pressed virgin oils full of flavour and quality.
We haven’t mastered growing spices in Ireland. You need a hot climate, which we don’t have, in case you hadn’t noticed! Black peppercorns are irreplaceable for seasoning. Crack them roughly to coat a Steak au Poivre in the French style. Use them for seasoning meaty stews, curries, hotpots, pasta dishes and smoked salmon. In fact there is virtually no savoury dish that doesn’t benefit from a good grinding of fresh black pepper.
If you are making sauces like bechamel, or delicate soups like creamy leek and potato, you may prefer to use white peppercorns which are milder and blend better in a pale coloured dish or sauce.
Irish Sea Salt
Sea salt is a great store cupboard addition for any of your seasoning needs. Just a little tiny bit goes a very long way, because the salty flavour of the sea is intense. Oriel Sea Salt harvested from the waters of the Irish Sea off Clogherhead is especially rich in minerals because these waters are mineral rich. Oriel Natural Mineral Sea Salt is a non-oxidised slightly moist natural sea salt.
Non-oxidised means the salt does not come into contact with air in the drying process, keeping its pure white colour and mineral rich character. This is so good that three of our top Good Food Ireland chefs are raving about it. See what they have to say then rush out and get some for your store cupboard.
Ross Lewis, Chapter One: "It's not until you taste this salt that you realise how clean and pure its flavour could and should be. And it’s Irish we should all be using it!!!"
Noel Mc Meel, Lough Erne Resort: "Everyone should be using this, a super ingredient and it’s Irish”
Ed Cooney, The Merrion Hotel: “Finally, a Sea Salt that does not overpower the dish but elevates the overall taste, super and Irish"
Can be a life saver! From becoming the main ingredient in a simple homemade pasta sauce, to bulking up stews, enriching meaty pasta dishes, adding to curries or enriching a soup. You name it, chopped tomatoes get you out of all sorts of fixes in the kitchen. The best ones come from Italy, home of the perfect sun ripened tomato! Try to buy organic if you can.
At certain times of year like now, when there’s very little in the way of Irish home grown herbs in the shops, you’ll be grateful for a few dried ones in the cupboard to enhance your every day cooking. Thyme, sage and rosemary are the most useful. Stay away from delicate herbs like coriander or dill because commercial drying doesn’t really represent them that well.
Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco Sauce
Two little bottles you’ll be glad you’ve got in the cupboard when you want to add oomph to a dish. English made Worcestershire Sauce comes in handy for flavouring homemade burgers and adding savouriness to the filling for a Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie. Tabasco is made in the deep south of the USA, and appears on tables in cafés in New Orleans as a matter of course.
The people of the region wouldn’t eat their food without it! You’ll find it indispensible too. A few drops of Tabasco spices up a pasta sauce, a chilli con carne made with good Irish beef, or a homemade Marie Rose sauce for Prawn or Crab Cocktails. Tabasco is essential for a good and spicy homemade Bloody Mary cocktail made with vodka and tomato juice spiked with lime juice. It’s also one of the recommended dressings for oysters served au naturel!
Dried or Canned Pulses
Pulses are essential for vegetarian cooking because they are a rich form of vegetable protein. They’re also invaluable for normal cooking, where they can add bulk to a stew when you haven’t got an awful lot of meat to go round. They also work very well in meat or veggie based curries. Pulses form the basis of quick salads which are handy for an office or school lunchbox.
We’d recommend keeping butterbeans and chickpeas to hand regularly, as these will fulfil almost all the above needs. But you can build up a whole designer selection of pulses if you wish! Dried pulses are more economical to buy, but they take time to soak and cook. Canned pulses are ready to use once you’ve opened the tin and given them a little rinse under the cold tap. Take your pick.
Where to stock up on good quality Store Cupboard Ingredients
Good Food Ireland food shops, farm shops and delis are great places to find many of these great store cupboard items, and probably quite a few more that we haven’t mentioned and you will just realise you need when you see them! Our shops will also stock Irish produced ingredients, so you know when you buy that you are supporting the Irish food sector and its dedicated producers.
Check our shop listings here for a location near you.