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8 essential kitchen ingredients for amateur cooks

Not exactly Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen? Help is at hand.

THE AMATEUR COOK’S dilemma: you’ve followed the recipe to the letter, done everything it said to do, and your meal still doesn’t taste quite right. Do not fear, help is here.

These food items are largely cheap and easy to find in your local supermarket – perhaps you even have them in the press already – and they’re good to keep to hand to bring a lacklustre dish to life.


2539666512_c99ee68d70_b Source: Flickr/logorrhoea

A handy one that can be used to thicken sauces or make a light batter for chicken and fish. Cornflour is great for experimenting with Asian cooking at home, without the need for heavy batter and deep-frying.

Dried mixed herbs

oregano-321037_1280 Source: Pixabay

Dried mixed herbs can be added to pasta sauces, stuffing, sprinkled over homemade potato wedges – you name it. Best of all, they’ll keep for ages, until you’re ready to graduate to fresh herbs.

Red pepper flakes

IMG_7319 Source: Flickr/katerha

Red pepper flakes (they can also be called ‘crushed chillis’) come in varying degrees of heat – they can be added to soups and pasta sauces for an extra kick, if that’s your thing.

Balsamic vinegar

303425592_67a04a5c1d_b Source: Flickr/jasmic

This is brilliant for simple homemade salad dressings, a nice dip for fancy bread, and also strangely delicious when drizzled on strawberries, FYI.

Stock cubes

11456333426_b6548c2333_b Source: Flickr/iguana_azul

Chicken stock is probably the most versatile option, but there are all sorts available. Use it to bulk up soups without the need for heavy cream, or mix the stock with curry powder for a more flavourful curry sauce.

Sesame oil

5344014862_3d6a375058_b Source: Flickr/shelbzyleigh

Sesame oil costs around €2-€3, is fairly good for you, and is a great addition to stir fry sauces. PS: It smells AMAZING.

Worcestershire sauce

173073147_2dff338eff_b Source: Flickr/stone-soup

Worcestershire sauce is a traditional addition to steaks, but a little in shepherd’s pies and stews (and homemade Bloody Marys, obv) is also delightful.

Lemon juice

12950385095_0e11fe164b_k Source: Flickr/pixeljockeyth

Not just for Pancake Tuesday. Lemon juice is a multi-purpose wonder - a dash in some pesto sauce really brings out the flavour, it can be used as a marinade, and it’s also excellent in salad dressings for a hint of freshness.

How you got any sure-fire ways to liven up a meal? Share them with us in the comments.

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