1. Salt and pepper
Duh!, you might think. But not any salt or pepper. Go for real salt flakes and grind your pepper fresh to get the most our of both. They can elevate a dish in less than no time and – albeit more pricey than their table salt and ground pepper cousins – don’t break the bank.
2. Vegetable oil
I’ve got a whole array of oils in my cupboard:
- olive oil for dressings (not cooking!)
- organic sunflower oil for infusing with garlic and/or onion
- nut oil for baking, cooking and nut butter-making
- sesame oil for Asian marinates
- coconut oil for… pretty much everything 🙂
- ghee for when cooking could do with buttery softness
… but if I had to choose one, I’d probably go with the nut oil. It’s subtle in flavour and lends itself to a variety of Low FODMAP tasks in the kitchen. I know, I know, there’s a real buzz around coconut oil and it can be delicious, especially in pan-Asian cooking and baking. Other than that, it’s got a strong flavour, which I don’t necessarily want when I’m frying up a steak or scrambled egg. But that’s just me.
I started out with your ol’ faithfuls: a few green herbs (e.g. thyme and rosemary), a splash of red (paprika), some Middle Eastern ones (e.g. cinnamon and cumin) and chilli (you gotta have chilli). Now my drawer is full. I literally can’t fit another spice or herb in. There’s
- chilli in all variations – powdered, crushed, whole, cayenne pepper,
- herbs from all corners of the world: thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, coriander – seed (whole, powder) as well as leaf – , parsley, basil, curry leaves, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, fennel seeds, tarragon, bay leaves
- flavour enhancers: paprika (sweet, smoked, hot), cumin (whole, ground), Chinese five spice (only M&S’s is garlic and onion-free), mustard (powder)
- “baking” spices: cinnamon (whole, ground), allspice, nutmeg, cloves (whole, powder), vanilla (essence, grinder), ginger (ground)
Now, it appears like I have an awful lot of spices and I do, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s the labour of months and years, not a one-haul shop. Start with the basics and build up your repertoire – it’s worth it.
You can make your own stocks really easily by keeping some of your Sunday roast carcasses and bones, adding some roughly chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, leek (the green bits), etc), water, salt, pepper, a bouquet garni (a herbal mixture in a cheesecloth) and let it simmer for a while. You can keep it in the fridge and use within a week or freeze in useful quantities, e.g. in ice cube trays, 250ml containers and so on.
But as luck has it, some supermarkets actually stock (!) powders and cubes:
- Knorr 25% less salt chicken stock powder
- Sainsbury’s stock cubes, chicken
- Sainsbury’s stock cubes, fish
If for vinaigrettes and salad dressings or indeed to for from-scratch concoctions, like my Ketchup-like tomato sauce, a good vinegar is a handy thing to have in your cupboard. Aside from balsamic vinegar, which is only Low FODMAP at a serving size of one tablespoon, vinegar is #lofo. I personally don’t care for white or malt vinegar, but I slowly and steadily built up my vinegar collection from a lonely red wine vinegar to include: apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar and rice vinegar.
Strictly speaking, they are not kitchen cupboard essentials but worth investing in: windowsill or garden herbs. Us Low FODMAPpers are giving up on two strong flavour characters in our cooking – onion and garlic – so the flavour needs to come from somewhere else. Sure, you can infuse oils and use the green parts of spring onions for some of that, but herbs are your friend. Along dried spices in your cupboard or drawer, herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, bay, chive, parsley and basil can elevate your dish to new heights (plus, make them look pretty for Instagram).
On the topic of spring onions, did you know that they grow back? No? Oh my, you are in for a treat. When you chop off the green parts of the spring onion, simply put the remaining part in a glass of water and pop it in your window. In a couple of days, it’ll start growing back the green parts (make sure you change the water every day or it’ll start to develop a foul smell). After 2-3 days, the roots will have recovered from the shock of having been ripped out of the soil, put in supermarket aisles and sold to… well… you. You can now plant them in soil and see them come to life once more. Voila, an endlessly replenishing kitchen essential for anyone on the Low FODMAP diet.