Essential Larder

Chef Peter Evans takes us through the staples in his pantry to ensure you can always pull together a quick and tasty meal. Here are Peter's suggestions for the best-stocked larder:

  • Olive oil is a necessity. Use extra virgin for dressings and a normal olive oil for cooking. Peanut oil gives the essential Asian flavour to your stir-fries. For a touch of indulgence, truffle oil is great on pastas and eggs.
  • Always have some wine on hand. If it's is not good enough to drink, it's not good enough to cook with. You don't need to spend a fortune, a good everyday drinking wine is all you need.
  • With vinegars, use rice wine vinegars for Asian preparations. For salads, buy a balsamic vinegar that has been aged 10 to 15 years, instead of the normal five years. It's a bit sweeter so you don't have to use as much and your salads will taste even better.
  • For south-east Asian cooking the essential holy trinity is tamarind for sour, palm sugar for sweet, and fish sauce for salty.
  • For Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese cooking you need only two soy sauces - tamari soy sauce, the naturally brewed first pressing of soy sauce, and kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet sauce great for flavouring stir-fries and nasi goreng. Use wasabi in mayonnaises and Bloody Marys – the easiest to handle comes in a tube that lasts for ages in the fridge. And every Asian cook keeps sweet chilli sauce and coconut milk on hand.
  • Staples for pasta include linguini and spaghetti for thinner sauces and a chunky pasta like rigatoni or penne for thicker sauces. You need arborio rice for risottos, basmati or jasmine rice for curries, brown rice because it's healthy, an assortment of noodles, and polenta and cous cous for Moroccan dishes.
  • For real flavour, anchovies and capers go in everything from dressings to pasta sauces, and you can always scrape a meal together using whole peeled tomatoes and tinned tuna.
  • Essential seasonings and spices include salt and pepper - sea salt because it gives a much better flavour than normal salt – cardamom pods and fennel seeds. Star anise and peppercorns are great for flavouring stocks and sauces.
  • For baking you need cinnamon quills and vanilla beans. Preserved lemon provides great flavour to cous cous and fish dishes. Finally, you need pine nuts for pesto, and quince jam or paste, which goes beautifully with cheese boards or roast lamb.

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