Obvious and Obscure Pantry Essentials

As a child, I used to love going through my grandma’s pantry and being awed by it. From very traditional ingredients from the area to good quality Spanish delicatessen, my grandma’s kitchen had it all. She used to tell me: “you never know who is coming unexpectedly and you need to be prepared if you want to be a good host”. She would have big bottles of extra virgin olive oil (from my grandpa’s little olive plantation), jars and jars of preserved tomatoes (that she would make herself with her friends once a year), olives (marinated the traditional regional way), onion and garlic, potatoes (in a proper sack), very good quality tinned Atlantic bonito, plenty of other typical Spanish canned seafood (e.g mussels, cockles, clams, razor shells), cured meats such as blocks of Serrano ham and diverse Iberian sausages, and so much more.

My mum’s pantry was also impressive and had very similar ingredients but also some more “exotic” ones. Next to the essential spices and herbs from my region (black pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, bay leaves and saffron) my mother stored cloves, cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. With my grandpa’s extra virgin olive oil, she would fill up glass bottles and add herbs and chillies to infuse the oil. Together with the usual canned seafood, my mother would also have sea urchin roe and more adventurous versions of the normal preserved mussels and clams.

When I first moved out, my pantry wasn’t very impressive. Since I was a student and I had other priorities and not a lot of money to spare. It was as basic as it gets: cheap pasta, cheap rice, cheap tinned tuna, and not much else. I didn’t really care about it until I officially (officially in my mind, that is) I became an adult, about 6 years ago. I was already living in the UK and my palate was by then much wider and extremely curious. I started experimenting with different flavours and diverse cuisines and needed to start paying attention to how to store all the new ingredients appropriately.

It has been 6 years of adjusting, trying, and testing, but now I know exactly what I absolutely need in my kitchen to be able to cook on a daily basis without having to rush to the store or spending silly money unexpectedly.

This is a pantry for a household of two with a minimal meat consumption but no allergies nor other diet restrictions.

Here are my essentials:

  • Pasta: I like to change pasta shapes often so I rotate a lot. Also, I absolutely hate the taste of whole-wheat pasta, so you will never find that in my pantry.
  • Rice: Arborio or Carnaroli (mainly for risotto), Basmati or Jasmine (for anything really), and Bomba (mainly for paella) are always in my cupboard.
  • Oil: Extra Virgin Olive, Sesame, Coconut, and Sunflower.
  • Vinegar: Apple Cider, White Wine, Balsamic, and Rice.
  • Seeds and Nuts: Pine Nuts, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, and Almonds.
  • Spreads: Peanut Butter, Marmite, Apfelkraut, and Honey. All great not only for bread but also for cooking.
  • Spices and Herbs: Oregano, Black Pepper, Cumin, Garam Masala, Ras El Hanout, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme, Turmeric, Paprika, and many many more.
  • Flours and such: I’m not much of a baker so my essentials are Basic Flour, Whole-Wheat Self-Raising Flour, Baking Powder, Caster Sugar, Demerara Sugar, Muscovado Sugar, and Polenta.
  • Cans: Chickpeas, Red Kidney Beans, Butter Beans, Corn, Diced Tomatoes.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, and Lemons.
  • Others: Eggs, Mustard, Tomato Paste, Soy Sauce, and Lentils.
  • In the freezer: I always make sure I have Peas and Spinach.

I also keep a little herb garden in my kitchen with mint, basil, rosemary, and sage.

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