Before you start cooking, it’s good to know what to have in the fridge & the cupboards of your (probably tiny) student kitchen. I would have loved to have had this trivial but essential tip at 18 when I moved from Lisbon to Paris for my studies. It would have prevented me to run in my DocMartens to the supermaket to buy olive oil or salt in the middle of a tentative cooking endeavour. Since money is scarce and everything is expensive, choose wisely what to buy. If you don’t like pepper, your friends can bring their own when you cook for them. After all, if Beyoncé always has hot sauce in her bag, why not ground white pepper?
Without further ado, here are the sine qua non ingredients to have sitting by the stove or in the nearest cupboard.
- Coarse sea salt (this is what you use to cook as opposed to the salt you grind on your cooked dish)
- Olive oil
- Sunflower or rapeseed oil
- Cider or balsamic vinegar
- Organic soya sauce (either tamari or shoyu, the latter being slighly cheaper): the reason to choose the organic variety is that, as far as I know, regular soya sauce can be made from genetically modified soya beans. Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist and therefore this is some acquired knowledge that I will always be ready to discuss and enlarge – you’re welcome to leave comments. Anyway, organic is always less toxic.)
- Chilli flakes (if you like your food with a bit of a fiery twist – spice may also contribute to longevity as per this Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/05/frequent-spicy-meals-linked-to-human-longevity).
- Sesame oil
- Sugar (the less refined the better)
- Spices: italian herbs, bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cinnamon sticks and powder, madras curry, and anything else you like.
- garlic, ginger and onions & shallots (there are never too many of these in any house where there is cooking).
Sine qua non fridge ingredients
- mustard (if you prefer soft and slightly sweet use French’s and if you are a REAL mustard lover always buy Dijon mustard, in between, you have the strong and reliable Colman’s)
- vegan butter (there are several kinds, from coconut to olive oil based)
- coconut oil
- soya cream or oat cream
- ginger and garlic paste
- oat milk (there are other varieties which are less directly and incredibly beneficial to your health such as soya or rice milk)
- soya or coconut plain yoghurt
- ketchup & vegan mayo if you have to (you can easily go without but sometimes you just have to indulge)
These are my basic ingredients but they can change from household to household and from culture to culture so you might want to check with your family or that family friend who cooks really well and who knows what you like.
Now, it’s also useful to find out what your fun sine qua non ingredients are. This is what can replace the processed food (i.e. the devil) you crave when you are tired or moody. Instead of Pringles, why not have some Basmati rice with Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce or vegan mayo and sauté courgettes? Or even some chips from the fish &chip shop with said sauces?
Sine qua non fun ingredients. Examples after this idiosyncratic sandwich of a vegan who definitely let his freak flag fly.
- Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce
- barbecue sauce
- mint sauce
- cranberry sauce
- crispy onions
- ground sea salt
- ground pepper
- pesto (I will add a recipe for different kinds of vegan pesto)
- pickled cucumber or any pickle
- chopped basil leaves
- chopped mint leaves
- chopped coriander
- chopped parsley
- chopped dill
Another important thing in the kitchen is kitchenware. To keep it simple and cheap two essential devices (apart from pots and pans of course) to follow my recipes: a hand blender for hearty soups in the Winter or cold soups in the summertime and a small food processor for sauces and shredded vegetables. Yes, being 18 or more means asking for kitchenware for Christmas or your birthday. Welcome to adult life.