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Better cooking: Stock your pantry the smart way

Cooking luxurious meals doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s a common misconception; many adults feel like they’re separate from the chefs and enthusiasts they see on TV and watch on YouTube – and that they’ll never be that skilled themselves.

The truth? Being a great cook is as much about preparation and planning as it is, shall we say, raw talent.

And the secret to it all? Stocking up. Here’s how.

Doing it live

Before we start listing ingredients, there’s a little gem to pass on: view your cooking as an adventure experiment. By now, you’ve probably got a good idea of what you generally like and dislike. By purchasing ingredients, you enjoy and experimenting with new combinations, you transform your cooking into an adventure that’s uniquely your own. Instead of relying on recipes, you can discover your own palette and unique dishes by doing a little improv.

It’s transformative – and it works. Before you know it, you’ll be trying new things without the rigidity of a recipe hanging over your head.

Quality matters

The next thing to appreciate on your path to being a better cook is the importance of a supply of high-quality seasonings and ingredients. By having excellent items with which to finish and fine-tune your dishes, you’ll always be equipped to push the quality of your cooking further.

Here are a few suggestions.

Oils:

Quality extra virgin olive oil can be the cornerstone of excellent cooking. Added during and after cooking a dish, it’s incredible taste is pervasive and instantly recognisable. Look for cold-pressed options, which are often on sale at supermarkets.

Peanut oil is also a fantastic option to tweak your cooking further. Once again, cold-pressed tends to indicate quality and an unrefined peanut oil will have a higher smoke point than refined, making for safer cooking and experimentation.

Lastly, it’s helpful to consider adding a neutral oil like grapeseed to your stock. This is ideal for when you don’t want any influence on the flavour of a high-quality ingredient like meat or fish.

Flours:

Having excellent flour transforms your cooking. Here you’ll want to look for variety in grain size and mixture. 00-grain size flour is great for use in homemade pasta and pizza bases, whereas all-purpose unbleached organic flour is your versatile staple. For a further flair, consider a strong flour with a high gluten content, which makes it an elastic flour ideal for making bread.

Salt:

Fine salts are affordable and truly distinct from the cheap table varieties we all grew up on. By using larger salt flakes instead of fine ground salt, you provide a pleasant ‘spark’ of flavour across your meal when you season it after cooking.

There are three kinds of salt experts agree on considering. These are sea salt, kosher salt and pink Himalayan. Sea salt tends to be finer, making it ideal for delicate foods like fish. It also disperses in food well, making it well suited to baking.

Kosher salt, by comparison, is very coarse. Its texture makes it perfect for special dishes like dry-rubbed meat – and it’s also great for seasoning boiling water. Finally, pink Himalayan salt. Interestingly, this has a distinct and subtle flavour that is different from other salts. It’s a great finishing touch for your best work.

Sugar:

Quality sugar can transform your dishes without breaking the bank. Here you’ll want to consider three options, some of which you may have already: granulated, brown and superfine. Granulated is your basic sugar and it’s ideal for cooking and drinks. Brown sugar imparts a deeper caramel and toffee-style flavour to dishes. Superfine, also known as caster sugar, is particularly useful because it dissolves quickly. It’s perfect for baking recipes and importantly is the perfect sugar to use in cocktails.

The bottom line

It’s a great feeling to appreciate the joys of experimenting in the kitchen. Stock your pantry with quality ingredients from a supplier like Springvale Foods and embrace the learning phase before mastering a dish and you’ll never be short of options. Cooking gets easier the more you do it and the same applies to every dish you create, so why not get stuck in? Before you know it, you’ll be rustling up incredible meals even when you’re tired, rushed and doing things freestyle. And that’s a great feeling.