Basic cooking and seasoning checklist

One common mistake people make with cooking from scratch is thinking that there’s no point having a wide selection of spices if you don’t know much about cooking. We’d actually argue the opposite is true, since there’s no better way to learn than through experimentation! Whatever your skill level, we have a checklist for you to make sure you’ve always got all the essentials in to produce restaurant quality flavours at home.

Bay Leaves

These leaves are best when they’re a rich green in colour, and they’re usually dried. Whole leaves added to your dishes will impart some great savoury flavour, but make sure you take them out before serving.

Black Pepper

Go for whole black peppercorns since the flavour will be much better if you grind them fresh.

Cayenne Pepper

This is particularly useful in many Indian recipes, and pretty much anything Cajun or involving hot pepper sauce.

Chilli Powder

Made from a combination of chillies plus various herbs, this adds a touch of heat to a great variety of Mexican dishes.

Ground Cinnamon

Cinnamon is very fashionable at the moment, especially to add some bittersweet warmth in the winter. Everything from cake to curry can benefit from a bit of cinnamon, just be careful not to overdose.

Ground Cloves

Another perfect ingredient for festive baking, this one is powerful too so be careful not to use too much.

Cream of Tartar

A functional spice used mainly to help make meringues, this is actually made from a substance that collects inside wine barrels.

Ground Cumin

Perfect for curries and used in many Indian and Asian recipes, this aromatic spice is made from fine seeds ground up.

Curry Powder

Although this actually contains up to twenty other spices, it comes in handy with more than just curry, and also comes in various heat levels.

Ground Ginger

This is ideal for baking because when it’s been ground, ginger has an even more delicious and powerful flavour.

Kosher Salt

Table salt usually has smaller crystals as well as added iodine. Kosher salt has coarser, larger crystals making it easy to measure out by hand.

Nutmeg

Another one common in winter baking, this is also perfect for certain sauces and goes perfectly with spinach.

Oregano

Although related to mint, oregano is widely used for savoury dishes in the Mediterranean as well as Cajun recipes. Use it with even the most basic dishes from cheese on toast to chips to add a summery European flavour.

Paprika

Usually this power made from ground red peppers is sweet, but it also comes in a hot variety. It works perfectly to season most meat and adds a deep red colour to anything from vegetables to seafood.

Dried Red Pepper

Crushed, dried chilli flakes are a perfect garnish if you also want to add a touch of heat to your finished dish.

Rosemary

This basic herb is ideal for roasting meat such as lamb as well as a variety of other Mediterranean dishes. It has a citrus, woody flavour.

Sesame Seeds

A great balance between sweet and savoury, sesame seeds have a very distinct taste and smell when roasted. They don’t keep well due to their high levels of oil, so need to be frozen for best results.

Thyme

Another basic essential, this is also popular in European dishes and ideal for many types of poultry and other meat.

Vanilla

Using alcohol to soak vanilla pods produces this extract, but it works much better if it’s pure rather than having artificial additives.

If you’re able to keep your kitchen stocked up with all these essentials, you can turn simple ingredients into delicious meals with a little guidance and bit more practice!