A list of some of my most used and favourite ingredients and the reasons why I use them, and why you should too!
I adore the rich flavour of sesame oil and use it in lots of savoury dishes. I get mine in my local asian market.
Coconut oil tolerates high temperatures so it is the perfect plant based alternative to butter. It also has antimicrobial properties and is full of healthy saturated fats.
With a Japanese granny, miso is a must in my fridge. It’s made from fermented beans (usually soybeans) and it transforms whatever you add it to with incredible umami flavour. You can get it in loads of varieties in most supermarkets and in any asian market- find one you love and always have it in the fridge.
Tahini is basically sesame seed butter and it’s a staple in my kitchen. I use it in sweet and savoury recipes and usually go for light tahini as the flavour is more versatile.
Harissa is one of my favourite condiments. It’s an oily chili paste, full of spices and herbs and is a great way to add flavour in seconds. Use it in dressings and sauces or simply toss some veg or tofu in it before roasting. It varies a lot so try some and find one you like.
Nutritional yeast is another wonder ingredient for boosting flavour. I use it dressings, sprinkled over veg before roasting and for adding a ‘cheesy’ flavour to sauces. You can get in any health store.
I am obsessed with vanilla powder, it’s my favourite secret ingredient. It’s made from ground whole vanilla pods (and nothing else) and it has the most incredible, powerful vanilla flavour that’s just so delicious. It really intensifies the sweetness of whatever it’s added to and smells amazing. It can be hard to find so I order it on Amazon.
Cacao powder comes from the cacao bean and is raw, unprocessed and extremely rich in nutrients. It’s an excellent source of essential fatty acids, fibre, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and sulphur.
The first tip I always give for cooking at home is to have a well stocked spice rack. They create deep flavour instantly and are the foundation of most of my recipes. My favourites are paprika, garam masala, cumin, cinnamon, ground coriander and turmeric but you can never have too many.
Tinned beans and legumes are the best- they’re already cooked so there’s no need to soak and simmer for hours and they are incredibly nutritious, full of protein and fibre. To make them easier to digest, make sure to rinse them well (until the water runs clear) before using them.
When you have more time, dried beans and legumes are so delicious, however they require soaking and a longer cooking time.
I always have tinned tomatoes in my cupboard. Add some onion, garlic and lots of spices and you can always make a meal out of them. I usually go for Italian ones as they have the best flavour.
I love coconut milk’s luxurious creaminess in curries, soups and desserts. I use full fat, tinned coconut milk. Often, my recipes call for coconut milk that’s been in the fridge overnight, this is a way of separating the cream from the liquid and leaves you with a layer of amazing coconut cream which is heaven in desserts.
Coconut yoghurt is a dream- it’s so creamy and thick and I love it for sweet and savoury recipes. You can get it in most supermarkets, my favourite brand is Coyo.
I use plant milks (I mainly use oat milk and cashew milk) every day for everything from my morning coffee to cooking and baking. When buying them, stick to the unsweetened and unflavoured kinds and look out for brands with no preservatives.
Porridge is one of my favourite foods but I also use oats a lot in baking. I use them whole and as flour- oat flour is so easy to make, just blend it in your food processor until fine, and you can get it in most health food stores.
When cooked right quinoa is gorgeous and fluffy with a slight nutty aroma and it absorbs sauces and flavours incredibly. My fool-proof way to cook it is to use a 2:1 ratio of stock to quinoa, then simmer it on medium heat with the lid on until all of the liquid has evaporated.
I love using ground almonds as a nutritious swap for flour in some recipes. Almonds are a delicious source of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium and they’re also rich in protein, fibre and monounsaturated fats.
Coconut sugar is loaded with vitamin C and amino acids and it’s a great, slightly more nutritious substitute for white ugar. It barely tastes like coconut at all and has a gorgeous caramel flavour.
Pure maple syrup is my favourite liquid sweetener. It has the most incredible flavour and contains some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Dates are high in fibre so they’re great for digestive health. They’re full of essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins such as Vitamin A, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. I use them in my recipes as a natural sweetener, adding a gorgeous chewiness to baked goods.
I use a high percentage, dairy free dark chocolate in my recipes. Nobo and Ombar are two of my favourites. Use your favourite but my recipes are best with one that is at least 70%.