Five key cupboard staples to really boost your flavours in the kitchen

There are a few cupboard staples which most of us have in the kitchen, from tomato ketchup, to mayonnaise, dried pasta, rice and baked beans. But there are a few additional cupboard items which you may, or may not already have, that can help boost dishes of all shapes and sizes and help pull together a meal when it looks like there’s little in the fridge

1 Worchestershire Sauce

It’s maybe something of a staple for many already, but Worchestershire sauce is a more versatile savoury condiment than you might think at the outset. It already holds a place in hearts for cheese and toast and maybe the odd stew, but the rich, brown stickiness, salty anchovy tang and meatiness enhances almost any red meat-based sauce. A good glug into a slow-cooked ragu will boost all that umami, and the same goes for braising tough cuts, like cheek, and, of course, shepherd’s or cottage pie. It also does a great job at fortifying any stock or reduction, even for the likes of pork or chicken.

2 Smoked paprika

While its unsmoked cousin may be a common sight in spice cupboards, the smoked variety punches well above its weight and is the easiest way to add that character to a range of dishes. Its natural bedfellow is as a key component in a barbecue rub, helping to bring out and accentuate that natural smoke flavour. However, it pairs easily as well when seasoning sauces or stews, is a key component in making dishes like goulash, or can be added to any savoury rice or paella-type dish.

3 Maldon sea salt

If you haven’t already gotten past the idea that salt is just salt (it really isn’t) then now is the time. There are a host of sea salt varieties, but England’s Maldon should be your first go to when it comes to flavour, versatility and availability. It’s often referred to as a finishing salt (meaning you use it to season food after it’s cooked and served) but it’s ideal for each stage of the journey. It has a fresh, clean, ionic character to it, and will change how you think about seasoning your dishes. The impressive pyramidal flakes are soft and can be crushed easily in the fingers, forgoing the need for any type of grinder, while the flavour is considerably less harsh than traditional table salt.

4 Capers

The pickled and jarred little buds of acid, tangy and piquant should find their way into more dishes than they currently do. While they are a key component in beef tartare, they are superb additions to anything with chicken, pork, or fish. Thrown in to the end of a cream sauce, toss through a salad of fresh herbs and olive oil, chop with herbs to create a punchy green sauce, blitz with mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and pickles to make a burger sauce, or toss through linguine with butter, black pepper and lemon.

5 Stock pots

I’m sure we’d like to have the time whereby we can spend a couple of hours roasting beef bones, then bung them in a big stock pot for hours on end, before straining and reducing into a deep, dark, rich mahogany beefy punch in the face. But it’s not realistic. It feels like a bit of a cheat, but chicken, vegetable and, particularly, beef stock pots can cut significant corners and get your rounded, meaty (or vegetal) flavours in check. They are also very useful in turning around a quick sauce, whether it’s with a few roast chicken drippings, stock and wine, or adding to a pan with some wine or port, and emulsified with butter, for a sticky, luscious, steak sauce. Just be careful with the seasoning as they tend to be quite salt-heavy.

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