Nigella Lawson, who I admire very much, has produced many great recipe books. In Nigella Express, she offers a variety of recipes that are easy and quick to make, without sacrificing great ingredients. Pragmatically Nigella embraces shortcuts in her everyday cooking, so long as meals don’t loose their authenticity.

A key principle underpinning Nigella Express is that if you keep a really great store cupboard or pantry of essentials, you are able to easily rustle up a quick yet fantastic “store cupboard standby” meal. Nigella enthusiastically uses lashings of flavoured oils, frozen vegetables and tinned beans and fruits. Her philosphy can be summed up as ‘a little cupboard love goes a long way’. Ingredients like flavoured oils, capers and olives may cost a little bit more up front, but earn their worth when you can easily rustle something up without having a) leave the house and b) accidentally spend sixty three dollars in an unplanned trip to the supermarket. And a lovely meal made quickly is a beautiful thing itself.

Jamie Oliver’s , The Return of the Naked Chef also offers a detailed list of store cupboard essentials list. I admit that some of these probably would not feature in old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, but here is a bit of an amalgamation of Nigella and Jamie’s essential store cupboard items:


  • Vinegars – red wine, white wine, balsamic, rice wine
  • Horseradish cream or Mustard:Dijon, wholegrain, English
  • Salt and salty things like capers, olives and anchovies
  • Sugars: brown, white, icing
  • Flour: plain, self-raising, corn
  • Baking Powder and bicarbonate of soda
  • Semolina, couscous, polenta
  • Dried pasta: spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle, penne, (although for us its seashells and risoni in my cupboard)
  • Pulses: borlotti, cannellini, chickpeas, split peas, lentils
  • Rice: long grain, basmati, Arborio or Carnaroli risotto rice
  • Tinned fish
  • Sauces: soy, fish, oyster, sweet chilli, tomato
  • Tomatoes – tinned, paste and also sun-dried tomatoes
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Chocolate and cocoa powder, with a good amount of cocoa solids
  • Coconut milk, evaporated milk
  • Curry pastes
  • Herbs and spices
  • Stock –  cubes, pre-made or homemade (stores well in the freezer).


Fresh stuff to have in:

  • Limes or lemons
  • Parmesan cheese, and other cheeses
  • Cream
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Onions and Shallots
  • Chillies
  • Potatoes/kumara
  • Herbs (growing in your garden is ideal)
  • Frozen vegetables: peas, spinach, corn etc
  • Smoked salmon, cured sausage (if vacuumed pack these last well in the fridge).

What are your favourite store cupboard ingredient? What ingredients do you use a lot of in your cooking?

Mummy to three small boys
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