As I mentioned in my semi-recent salad post, I often don’t cook from a recipe. I have upwards of 20 recipe books, which I regularly flip through for inspiration or if I’m trying a new dish. However, on a day-to-day basis I simply like to be creative with the ingredients in my fridge and my cupboard. And that’s when it hit me – one of the keys to home cooking is a well-stocked pantry. By this I mean, keeping a supply of basic spices, oils, vinegars, and condiments that turn your fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, beans, etc. into an actual, delicious meal. While the pantry basics aren’t necessarily local, they make all my local cooking possible. They form the basis of the dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces and flavourings for my salads, soups, curries and casseroles made with local produce, cheese and meats.
I started to brainstorm a list, then asked my co-workers, and then posted the question to my Facebook page. I loved hearing everyone’s answers. There are a few key basics that most everyone has, and then variations which show off one’s personal cooking styles.
Here’s what was on my original list (all of which are in my cupboards right now):
- Salt & pepper
- Oils: Olive, Sesame, and sunflower
- Vinegars: white, balsamic, red wine, rice, and apple cider
- Lemon juice
- Dry herbs & spices: I have about 35, so I won’t name them all. The most used are basil, oregano, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, chili powder
- Onions & garlic
- Curry pastes: I usually have at least one Indian and one Thai curry paste in the house
- Mustard: dijon & regular yellow prepared
- Soy sauce
- Honey & maple syrup
- Peanut butter: all-natural, unsweetened
- Coconut milk
- Canned tomatoes: either canned by me, or store-bought once I run out
While not condiments or spices, I also always have the following items in stock: various nuts, various dried beans, various grains (oatmeal, rice, quinoa, kasha), various dried fruits, and eggs.
Here are some things suggested by others:
- Bacon/Pancetta: Alison mentioned that she often uses a small amount as flavouring
- Celery: Charlene notes that celery is “a condiment, not a veg, don’t kid yourself”
- Plain yogurt
- Worchestershire sauce
- Fish sauce
- Sriracha: This is an Asian hot sauce. I will admit that I had to google this. And then I realized that I actually have this in my fridge too. My partner tends to cook the spicy food.
- Engevita yeast/nutritional yeast
- Anchovy paste
- Herbes salees
- Additional oils: coconut, canola, avocado
- Additional vinegars, such as maple rum vinegar, which Elizabeth Bailey splashes on meats and root vegetables. (Can I come over for dinner?)
- Zest from citrus fruits
What would I use these for, you ask? Here are some examples.
1. Coconut milk + curry paste + canned tomatoes + vegetables + tofu/meat/beans = curry.
2. Peanut Butter + soy sauce + ginger + garlic + water + lemon juice = peanut sauce for quinoa salad
3. Olive oil + parmesan + basil +onion + garlic (with pasta, beans and vegetables) = a simple pasta supper
Although, as I mentioned above, most of these products aren’t locally produced, there are some local options. For example:
- Oils: Foxmill has a local, cold-pressed sunflower and canola oils
- Butter: various local options
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Boates
- Honey: various local options
- Maple syrup: various local options
- Parmesan: Foxhill Cheese and Rancher Acres
- Plain Yogurt: Foxhill Cheese and Rancher Acres
What’s in your pantry? Are there other condiments you like to use? Are there any local options you think we should know about?
Yours in Food,