A well-stocked larder is the secret to kitchen calmness. When a delicious and nutritious meal can always be rustled up from just a few fresh ingredients and the staples that fill your shelves, the words ‘there’s nothing to eat’ become a thing of the past.
We like to revisit what’s in our larders seasonally, making the arrival of spring and autumn a time to refresh, taking out what’s never used and introducing ingredients and flavours that are perfect for the months to come. To inspire you to do the same, Georgie, the nutritional therapist from our café The Provenist, is here sharing her kitchen cupboard must-haves for year-round and for the warmer and brighter weeks just ahead.
For all year long
The beauty of larder ingredients is that they’re very often the kinds of things that’ll keep well for months – and even years – on end, forming the backbone of your cooking throughout the year. And while we’ll swap some things around with the seasons, there are others that you’re guaranteed to find on our shelves at The Provenist (and my own at home!) from January to December. We just wouldn’t be without them.
This isn’t quite an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.
- quinoa and pearl barley (for warm salad bowls)
- lentils (green ones take a little while to cook but keep their texture and shape well)
- wild rice (lower in calories and higher in protein than brown rice)
- oats (rolled, jumbo oats are best for porridge)
- buckwheat flour (this lends a nutty depth of flavour to pancakes, and is naturally gluten-free)
- maple syrup (more flavourful than sugar, maple syrup also has a lower glycaemic index, so it won’t cause spikes in your blood sugar levels)
- local honey (another natural, low-GI sweetener)
- almond butter (add to pancakes and porridge for a protein, antioxidant and good-fat boost)
- mixed seeds (sprinkle these over soups, porridge, salads and smoothie bowls)
- chilli flakes (essential for smashed avocado or poached eggs on toast)
- beans (butter beans or cannellini, dried or in tins, for making posh beans on toast)
- soy sauce and miso paste (both for adding that essential umami flavour)
- dried herbs (bay and thyme dry particularly well, and are better in dishes that you’ll cook for a while than fresh herbs which would lose their potency)
- coconut oil (for baking)
And, of course:
- olive oil (normal, for cooking, and extra-virgin for serving)
- salt (you can get all sorts of salts for different purposes, but if you only buy one, I’d make it sea salt flakes, which are delicate enough for finishing and melt well into sauces. Try a British brand like the Cornish Sea Salt Co. or Halen Môn from Anglesey)
- pepper (whole peppercorns that you can grind fresh. We use mixed for a more complex flavour)
For spring and summer
Now’s the time to think ahead to the kind of dishes you’ll be making over the next six months – from lighter, fresher soups and tarts to Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern inspired meals – and add to your larder with the spices, seasonings and sauces you’ll need to create them.
For sprinkling and seasoning
- fennel seeds (an essential if you’re grilling fish on the barbecue)
- coriander seeds (these have a citrusy-minty flavour that’s perfect for summer)
- dukkah and za’atar (both of these Middle Eastern spice and herb blends are great for adding flavour to all sorts of dishes, including simple bread and olive oil. We’ll be sprinkling dukkah onto minted peas on toast at The Provenist this spring)
- pink peppercorns (lighter in taste than black peppercorns, try these ground into summery sauces and rubs)
- pickling spices (I like to keep Steenbergs’ blend on hand for making fresh and crunchy pickles out of spring and summer vegetables)
- infused oils (you can use these all year round, but their flavour will be most noticeable in simpler, fresher summer dishes. Try making your own with olive oil and garlic, rosemary or fresh chillies)
Tins, packets and jars
- capers (these tiny, salty flower buds are a key ingredient in lots of Italian dishes. We’ll also be using them in a salsa for our beetroot and feta fritters at The Provenist this season)
- chickpeas (useful all year round, but falafel and hummus always feel like especially summery dishes to me)
- pesto (fresh is best, but in a pinch, a good basil pesto is worth having in the cupboard. Always try for organic)
- pine nuts (for making that fresh pesto. You could also use walnuts or almonds)
For your ‘second larder’
Aka, your freezer. Make the most of it this season to capture fresh produce at its very best (such as raspberries and peas that quickly lose their nutrients and texture) and preserve anything you have too much of to use now. We always save fruit – such as chopped-up, tender, pink stems of forced rhubarb in early spring and berries and currants come summer – in ours to use in compotes. And you can also chop up fresh herbs like chives and freeze them in oil in ice cube trays. Just take them out shortly before you serve and add to warm salad bowls and soups.