Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kitchen essentials for a student on a budget

What kind of cooking ingredients do you always have on hand? Taking a cue from ioyces's earlier post, here's my list of essential condiments/ingredients:

Cooking oil: I use two types, a vegetable oil and olive oil, although the latter is optional (but tastes darn good)
Soy sauce: There are two types, light and dark, but I've opted only for the light version. Great as a mnarinade base and salting soups
Ketchup: Not only great with fries, but great as a marinade and flavouring too
Oyster sauce: Another great flavouring for Asian dishes
Worsteshire sauce: Another meat marinade
Sesame oil: This one's purely for flavour, a few drops make all the difference
Kicap Manis: A dark sweet sauce. I use this to add colour and flavour to my fried rice and noodles
Salt and pepper: 'Nuff said
Herbs and Spices: Currently, I have paprika, cumin, coriander and a mixed dried herb blend
Alcohol: Usually it would be wine, currently it's just a small bottle of rum (on a budget mah...)
Rice, Pasta and Instant noodles: Varied carbos. Rice is standard Asian fare, current pasta is linguine, and instant noodles are always good for a quick snack - but I never use the flavour sachets because there's more than enough condiments that can be used!
Butter: A sometime oil-substitute
Mixed vegetables: The frozen kind, quick convenience food
Plain flour

Onions and Garlic: Why? Because they go well with everything!
Stock: Homemade, of course. I usually make a big batch (about 1 1/2 litres) over the weekend, using a base of onion, carrot and garlic and whatever leftover greens left in the box, coupled with meat and bones that have been saved over. In fact, I keep a "stock box" where I stash away bones, prawn shells and veges-about-to-go-bad in the freezer and make them into a stock at the end of the week. That way, it's a different stock every week that makes for an excellent soup base.

As usual, the practice is to buy in large sizes and a preference for house brands, which are mostly established brands disguised as a way to draw customers away from the competition. (You probably can tell that I live near a Tesco.) I haven't found any reason to get canned goods yet, but I think I'll stock up on some canned tomato and canned soup soon enough.

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