A well-stocked store cupboard needs a few quality ingredients lurking alongside the baked beans and Oxo. Elaine Lemm picks her winners
When inspiration is lacking or you really must impress the neighbours, good oils, vinegars, salts, herbs and spices can help you transform the simplest ingredients into a culinary fest in a flash.
It’s almost misleading to call Womersley vinegars vinegar. Any acidity is carefully balanced with sweetness, making the range some of the most versatile condiments I have come across. The botanically infused herb and fruit flavours are so pronounced they can also be used in the cooking, not just on the food. Give a good shake of the Lime, Black Pepper and Lavender over a chicken stir-fry before serving, and you won’t be disappointed. Find more inspiration and stockists on the Womersley website.
Mother’s Garden olive oil
With vinegar comes oil, and I am addicted to the stuff. I can’t get enough olive oil and am always on the lookout for new varieties. This Spanish oil was a pleasant surprise, as the Spanish ones can be a little harsh. Not the case here, though. This fresh oil will have you gasping at its fruitiness. Fresh salad, a drizzle of this oil, a few drops of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt equals heaven. Visit Mother’s Garden Olive Oil Shop.
Crossing continents, making an authentic curry requires authentic spices and ingredients. With so many in just one dish, this can be a tedious process. However, Rafi’s Spicebox will do the work for you, right down to the pinch of salt and pepper for the final seasoning. The shops are an institution in Sudbury and York, where each curry pack is put together by hand and to your taste. The online shop may lack that personal touch but does cleverly guide you through your preferred choices and has a built in ‘heatometer’ so you get the heat you prefer. The packs freeze really well and all come with instructions, so order loads, and you’ll be glad you did. Visit Rafi’s Spicebox online.
Steenbergs organic herbs
From spices to herbs, and my preference in cooking is to use fresh ones when and where I can. That is not always possible and certainly not through the winter. So reach for the dried. But forget the jars stacked on supermarket shelves and think organic and Fairtrade. They’re in such cool jars and tins you’ll want them on display. (Cooking tip: crush dried herbs lightly in your hand before adding them to a dish to release more flavour.) Visit Steenbergs organic herbs page.
Sadly, I can’t afford to travel up to Edinburgh to browse at Valvona & Crolla, the UK’s best deli, so the next best thing is to shop there online. This is total and unmitigated food porn for me. There are so many wonderful ingredients to choose from that the website should come with a warning that it can cause serious damage to your debit card. Choose your Valvona & Crolla treats right here. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.