If you are not accustomed to cooking at home, there are a few basics we need to cover. First, you’ll need a kitchen cupboard stocked with the basics, the staples if you like! The basics for cooking does largely depend upon your culture and the sorts of cuisines you regularly eat, but this page will generalise for the typical British household, which normally spans over many different cuisines.
The basics for any kitchen cupboard are essentially items that will keep, so we’re not including perishables here that you would pick up each week (bread, milk, cheese, fruit & veg etc). I will break these down into groups and you may wish to store them in groups too, so that it’s easier to keep track of any items you’re getting low on!
Rice (naturally I would prefer you stocked brown rice! But if realistically this isn’t going to happen, keep a good Basmati)
Pasta (I suggest you always keep spaghetti and penne as your basics, as these will cover most of your pasta dishes)
Flour (thickens sauces, great for pancakes and drop scones, which can be made quickly)
Chopped tomatoes (they’re so flexible, always ensure you’re never out of them)
Baked beans (great for adding to stews / casseroles or many other dishes for extra fibre and take no effort)
Pasta sauce (OK, I prefer you made your own, but you do need something you can grab if you need to cook and eat at lightening speed)
Curry sauce (same reason as above – emergency purposes, not for regular use)
Peanut butter (go for pure nut butters with no added ingredients such as Meridian which are easily available in supermarkets)
Marmite (you might not like it spread on toast but does add ‘something’ to gravies and stews)
Chilli flakes (really helps give a lift to tomatoes, even if you use the smallest pinch)
Dried mixed herbs
Pepper (ground black or white)
Stock cubes/powder (such as bouillon)
For Indian curries, there are a few basic spices you will need. A little tip, try and not buy powders as they really don’t last long and the flavours fast lose their punch. So for the following, buy the seeds:
When ready to use them, lightly roast them in a pan without oil for around 30seconds or until the aroma is released and then powder them down using a pestal and mortar.
Other Indian spices: turmeric, asafetida, garam masala are most commonly available as powders.
You will need at least one oil in your cupboard, but which one you choose will depend upon a number of different factors:
your budget, what you’ll mostly use it for (salad dressings, frying, deep frying, roasting etc.), what’s available in your usual supermarket.
Choosing an oil can be a minefield in itself. The best oils for cooking have a high saturated fat content, but they’re the least best for your health. Unrefined oils are the worst for cooking, as they are unstable in heat. Olive oil (not extra virgin) or rapeseed oil will best for most of your cooking, but not frying at high temperatures. Salads and drizzling over food, go for the nut or seed oils (walnut, avocado, flax), or extra virgin olive oil. Deep frying or shallow pan frying, coconut oil is better. I advise you simply keep a small bottle of olive or rapeseed oil and another for drizzling. Don’t buy large bottles unless you have a family, oils can and do go rancid over time. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.
If you’re interested in reading about oils for cooking, I recommend this site:
How to choose your culinary oil