In the previous post, I’ve covered the basic kitchen equipment needed to start making magic in the kitchen. After setting a kitchen up, you need to have some basic spices, condiments, and ingredients that are necessary for making some simple recipes.
I have included at the end of the post a simple salad recipe that is so fresh and full of flavor, you won’t stop eating until you’ve finished the whole bowl!
WHAT SHOULD I GET?
Zejd is a local organic olive oil producer. Check their products here
Start with good Olive Oil. Extra virgin. Cold pressed. If you’re buying in bottles, an excellent olive oil pressed from green olives is perfect for salad dressings, and topping and finishing dishes for its stronger flavor. For cooking, you can use any good olive oil since the flavor of the premium olive oil will get lost to heat of cooking. At home, we get big gallons of freshly pressed olive oil right from the press during harvesting season and store it to use the whole year. Check my trip to the olive press a few years ago
A bottle or gallon of vegetable oil is required for frying, and sesame oil for topping Asian dishes.
Cookies. Cakes. Sautéing. Frosting. On warm bread. Licked off a spreading knife. ANYTHING! Get the unsalted butter for the simple reason: you can add salt later and control the amount you add to the recipe. One of the reasons I can’t go vegan: BUTTER & CHEESE! No further explanation needed.
Salt and Pepper
I’m trying to get my mom to give up processed salt and start exclusively using rock salt, tossed into boiling water, or into the cooking pots, or ground to top dishes. So I got myself a good salt mill and filled it with a mix of rock salt and pink Himalayan salt to grind over anything. I also use another mill to crush whole peppercorns, which I prefer over powdered black pepper. It gives a better and stronger flavor. Try it yourself
All purpose flour for almost every baking need. Cake flour is usually lighter than all purpose but you can make it by replacing 2 tbsp from 1 cup of all purpose flour with 2 tbsp of cornflour. Yet, for bread making, it is advisable to use strong bread flour for the proteins in this flour are better at developing gluten in the dough which makes the hold bread better. On the same note, cornflour (or corn starch) is used in many recipes with wheat flour or on its own to thicken sauces
Yeast for most breads. Unless you’re into sourdough and prefer to grow your own.
Baking powder and baking soda for, obviously, BAKING. One can substitute the other but at certain conditions. A good read and a short chemistry lesson on the nature and uses of each can be read here by Sally’s Baking Addiction
Basically, white sugar since it is the most used in recipes. Brown sugar. Don’t bother the labels and different names at first. You’ll get to know them as you get experienced in the kitchen. The color, grade and type differ according to the percentage of sugar molasses each type has, either by nature, or added after processing. Powdered sugar is essential in sprinkling/dusting, and for making frostings
Yellow mustard is ok, but not as good as Dijon mustard. I love it on bread in sandwiches or in salad dressing. Grainy mustard works great in salad dressing as well. Ketchup & Mayo <<< Mustard, anytime
A basic cinnamon and nutmeg for cinnamon rolls and fruit pies, cumin and chili powder and flakes for stews, dried oregano or thyme, paprika, and an optional list of garlic and ginger powder. The list is long, but start with those and work your way towards exploring and expanding your pantry
Plain white vinegar, apple vinegar, or balsamic vinegar are what you will need for now. I’ll count pomegranate molasses in here too because it is sometimes used in similar ways.
Pasta and Noodles
A thin No. 1 spaghetti or angel hair for a quick spaghetti pomodoro. Farfalle and fusilli for salads, and a selection of egg, flour, or rice noodles for quick asian dishes and noodles soups
Preserved Tomatoes: Be it a can of chopped tomatoes, or a jar or a tube of tomato paste. That’s almost the base to all tomato based sauces like marinara, bolognese, stews with tomatoes, and tomato soup!
Red beans, sweet corn, tuna, and if you’re into sardines (which I’ve only used in a sponsored video recipe that I’ll share soon)
We’ve covered butter in its own category because it deserves it. But you should have in your kitchen a carton of milk, whipping and cooking cream, and cheeses like feta, halloumi, mozzarella, not necessarily the fresh type but the one you’d sprinkle on things to bake for the stringy cheesy effect. Cheddar is good too. A mix of both is great!
Non-dairy milk products fit here too, like rice, almond, or oat milk, a can of coconut milk or cream, and a jar of coconut oil for various non-dairy cooking and baking reasons
A small bag of long grain American rice to pair with stews, and basmati rice to go with Asian dishes. Later on you could get some risotto or short grain rice, or even sushi rice if you feel adventurous and want to make sushi at home (I’d rather go out and have it made by a sushi master)
Grains and pulses
I encourage, and use, a lot of grains in my recipes either here on cookin5m2 or when I guest-chef at some place or I host myself. I can’t insist enough on the importance of using grains, mainly local ones, in so many dishes and in very innovative ways other that what we’re used to in traditional cuisine. Try using wheat berries, burghul, lentils, quinoa, and beans to name a few
A base for almost every recipe: Onions and garlic. Brown onions are good for cooking, red and white onions are mellower and can be eaten raw. Ginger is also a good recipe base, mainly for Asian cooking, or in salad dressings like the recipe below, and I’m sure you can find hundreds of recipes to use it in. Carrots, spring onions, potatoes, lemons, cucumbers, tomatoes (regular or cherry tomatoes), and some leafy greens or seasonal greens you can find at the produce shops and farmers market
You don’t really need to have them all the time, but if your house is far from a supermarket or you cook at odd hours and you don’t plan ahead of time, it wouldn’t hurt having a couple of chicken breasts, some prawns, ground beef or beef filet in your freezer. A couple of cans of tuna are also cabinet essentials
A very simple recipe that you can make with basic ingredients you can find around the house. It is very fresh with a pinch of heat from the ginger, some bitterness from the chicory, and some sweetness and sourness from the green apples. The flavors go well together and can pair nicely with a roast chicken or a vegetarian quiche
Chicory Salad with Green Apples and Ginger
- 1 head of chicory
- 1 large Granny Smith Apple, or Lebanese mountain sour apples
- A 3 cm knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 2 garlic cloves
- Sea Salt
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Mint leaves
- Give the chicory a medium chop and place in a large bowl
- In a mortar, pound the garlic, ginger, and a tsp of salt until they are creamy. Pour a glug of olive oil, pound and swirl until the mix is a smooth homogenous cream. Add in the lemon juice to taste, around 2 tablespoons
- Core and dice the apple, I like to leave the skin on. Toss with the dressing to avoid browning the apples.
- Mix the apples with the chicory and serve, or keep the apples aside in an airtight container and toss with the chicory before serving. Scatter some mint leaves on top for an extra burst of freshness