10 VERSATILE INDIAN CUPBOARD STAPLES
…for when it’s too cold to go outside but you still need to feed yourself.
We know that dilemma, frantically raiding the cupboards trying to see if half a jar of peanut butter could be a meal with…something?? Well, Auntie’s got you covered if you need a to whip up a healthy Indian meal in a jiff or if you’re looking to spruce up any basic meat or veg you have in the back of the fridge.
Take a look at these 10 staples for any cupboard that are easy to buy, last for ages and versatile!
If you’ve got rice, that’s 50% of your meal done! White Basmati rice works with all Indian food; it’s light, easy to cook and naturally gluten-free. If you fancy more of a fibre boost, then go for brown basmati rice. Brown rice is also great for making super-healthy rice bowls from and pairs well with fish. No harm in keeping both in the pantry – just remember to keep it dry and sealed!
2. Daal (Lentils)
The second 50%. You can get all different types of daal (lentils), Auntie normally keep red lentil daal for a nourishing, healthy lunch with a spicy kick and mung daal for a deeper, mild, earthy taste. Again, store lentils the way you would with rice – nice and dry, away from natural light and it will last a while. Making a large batch of daal is bound to last you for a few meals; it’s cheap and is a huge time saver when batch-cooked. Bonus.
Superfood of the moment, turmeric is used in most Indian cooking from curries, to daals and hot drinks. Turmeric has a bitter taste so it’s best to use small amounts when cooking with it – in Indian cooking it’s mostly used for its health benefits rather than for its taste! It’s also versatile – one of the few spices that can be used in drinks! If you fancy warming up, you can always whip up a nourishing Golden Milk – a blend of warm milk, turmeric, cloves, black pepper and honey.
4. (Fresh) Ginger
Fresh ginger is used in almost every Indian dish. It’s also fantastic for making Ginger juice shots or a ginger tea if you need to get rid of that cold! Ginger is a great one to have in the cupboard as it’s a flavour that marries well with Asian and European food from tossing it into stir frys to rubbing it all over a salmon fillet.
Cumin, either whole or ground is magical. It’s wonderfully fragrant and brings food alive. It can be used across either Indian, European, Mexican or Middle Eastern cooking – try it as part of a taco seasoning, or mix in ground cumin with natural yogurt and a sprinkle of salt, or try glazing carrots in honey and cumin!
6. Garam Masala
For an Indian cupboard staple, this is a big one. Auntie makes her own at home but there’s nothing wrong with a store bought one. It can either be used as a rub, for rubbing into chicken and pork to give the skin some flavour, as a seasoning in daals, curries and soups – or pop it in a pan with some butter and sautee some veggies in with it.
7. Crushed Red Chillies
If you like heat, then this is a must in your cupboard as a staple! If you’re organised, then fresh green chillies are also fantastic to add into a daal or curry. Authentic Indian food has heat that you either feel at the beginning or at the end – heat shouldn’t be the main aim, ideally you want some flavour in there too! Crushed red chillies last for an age, are great sprinkled on top of pizza, or liven up your eggs in the morning!
8. Coriander Seeds
We’ve put coriander seeds here instead of ground coriander (both is ideal), but if you just have the seeds then you can always grind them as and when you need to in a pestle and mortar. Normally, coriander seeds are to give flavour to the oil you’re cooking with – they can also be used for rubs, marinades and go well with our other Indian cupboard staples of cumin and chillies.
Oil (or butter or ghee) is an essential part of any cooking. Rapeseed oil can be used for most dietary requirements and is low in saturated fat. It can be used for ordinary cooking, frying, baking, roasting or cold as part of a salad dressing. For authentic Indian cooking, use Ghee – Ghee is butter but without the milk proteins and water, making it super flavourful and nutrient-rich, as well as lactose-free.
Even with all those other spices, you still need salt! There’s just no substitute for enhancing flavour naturally. If you can get sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, add those to your cupboard too as they have a richer mineral content and generally have a saltier taste, so you’ll need to use less of it. With salt, always remember to add little by little and build the flavour up – once you’ve put in too much salt, there’s generally no going back!