A pantry equipped with staples makes it easy to whip up something quick, delicious and budget-friendly. Plus, it helps to reduce unnecessary trips to the supermarket and last-minute takeaways.
Now, by staples we don't mean tins of spaghetti and baked beans - pantry staples are versatile and frequently used ingredients, and often the key to transforming meals. They are there for you when you find yourself scrambling to put something together for dinner or have a sudden sense of inspiration to get creative in the kitchen.
Here is a breakdown of some of the staples that we think deserve prime real estate on your shelves.
Oils and vinegars
Oils help to cook food, carry flavour and enable a Maillard reaction to occur - aka that delicious caramelised surface on roasted veges, grilled and fried meat. For cooking, we recommend using an oil with a high smoke point, such as coconut oil or olive oil (butter is also a great option). We love to use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling over finished dishes and in dressings.
Vinegar is crucial for dressings, marinades, pickling onions and other vegetables. The acidity helps to tenderise meat, enhance flavour and balance a rich dish. We like to stock our pantry with at least 2-3 varieties like rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
Herbs and spices
Having a variety of herbs and spices means you can cook meals inspired from around the world, as different spice combinations create flavours specific to different cuisines. They can make eggplant the centrepiece for a Moroccan inspired spread or a key player in an Indian inspired curry.
Condiments add flavour, sweetness, saltiness, spice and body to dishes or can be the base for a sauce or dip! Think honey, mustard, tamari, miso, olives, capers and nut butters - be sure to keep an assortment on hand.
Grains and legumes
There are many grain options available, perfect for salads, sides, stir-fries and more. Grains and legumes add sustenance, texture and flavour and can often be interchanged in recipes.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are delicious roasted and are ideal for elevating vegetables and salads, adding flavour, protein and crunch.
Liquid and tinned goods, such as canned tomatoes, coconut milk, broths and stocks are the foundation for quick sauces, slow-cooked meals, soups and curries. Other staples like flour are always good to have on hand for dredging and crumbing, to thicken sauces and of course, to make pancakes!
Here are two Asian-Inspired recipes showcasing pantry staples.
Thai red curry pork meatballs with bok choy
500-600g pork mince
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp tamari
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp ginger, grated
1 ½ cups jasmine rice
1-2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste, depending on the brand you use
400ml coconut cream
250g bok choy, ends removed and leaves separated
1 cup coriander, roughly chopped
⅓ cup cashews, roasted and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1. Add the pork mince, fish sauce, tamari, garlic and ginger into a mixing bowl and mix well until combined. Roll them into small golf ball-sized meatballs.
2. Heat about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until nicely browned. Remove and set aside.
3. Cook the rice as per packet instructions.
4. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan, add the curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the coconut cream and cook over medium heat for a few minutes so the coconut cream can reduce slightly.
5. Add the meatballs into the pan with the coconut cream and simmer in the sauce with the lid on for 3-4 minutes. Add the bok choy, then pop the lid back on and cook for 2-3 minutes.
6. Divide the rice between four bowls, top with the meatballs, bok choy and pour over the fragrant curry sauce. Garnish with the coriander, cashews, chilli and a squeeze of lime juice.
Peanut and miso noodles with stir-fried broccolini
Peanut and miso sauce
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp honey
1 tsp miso paste
1 lime, juice and zest
Noodles and vegetables
190g egg noodles
250g broccolini, cut in half
3 spring onions, cut into 1cm chunks
½ cup fresh coriander
¼ cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
1. Add all the peanut, miso sauce ingredients into a small bowl and mix well to combine.
2. Cook the noodles as per packet instructions.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat, add the broccolini and spring onion; stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through and slightly charred. Add a dash of water if you find that it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, this will allow the broccolini to steam slightly and cook faster.
4. Once the noodles have cooked, drain well and return to the pot; stir through the peanut and miso sauce.
5. Add the noodles to a plate, then scatter over the charred broccolini and spring onion. Garnish with some fresh coriander and roasted cashews.
Assortment has created a free downloadable list of pantry staples and how to use them. So you can be sure to have a delicious dinner, even during the busiest of weeks. Head to assortmentfoods.com/shop-assortment to download.