I’m currently a bit incapacitated having just had an operation on my right hand – nothing serious, but it’s left me a bit useless for a while.There’s no possibility of me cooking up a new post at the minute, but I thought I could write something a little different instead.

Throughout all of my posts, there are certain ingredients that you’ll see reappearing. These are my cupboard staples. I always have these in my kitchen. I’m sure everyone will have their own, but I figured I’d share mine with you (hell, it’s my blog). I’ve actually been meaning to write this for a while, so here you go.

Frozen Chopped Onion

I very rarely chop an onion nowadays, seriously. The bags of frozen chopped onions that are available from most supermarkets are way too convenient. I use them in most of my cooking. From curries, to casseroles, to my Traditional Scottish Stovies. If the recipe calls for chopped onion, I’ll use frozen. And I’m totally unashamed of the fact.

Simple Sausage Casserole - A really simple, warming bowl of comfort food at its best. | thehecticcook.com

Simple Sausage Casserole

Frozen Chopped Basil

The difference between fresh basil and dried basil is massive. The fresh taste of basil is beautiful. I think it can lift an entire dish. Pasta sauces, pizza sauces, risottos etc – if a dish calls for basil, chuck in the fresh stuff. And by fresh, read freshly frozen. It tastes the same. Again, it’s all about convenience. That and the fact I’ve killed every basil plant I’ve ever bought within days of getting it home. But I wouldn’t be without a bag of frozen chopped basil in my freezer (I usually get mine from Waitress as they do a handy little pouch, but I’ve also gotten it from Sainsbury’s in the past). Occasionally I have been known to be super-efficient and I’ve chopped fresh basil leaves then frozen them in small tupperware boxes. This totally works and is undoubtedly cheaper. Usually though, I’m just not that efficient.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family. | thehecticcook.com

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake

Beef Oxo Cubes

These are my ‘secret ingredient’. Just not that secret. I chuck them into a tonne of recipes. If I want something to taste a bit meatier, I’ll add an oxo cube. Bolognese, chilli, Sloppy Joes – they all get an oxo cube thrown in. I use them in gravies (including chicken gravy) and casseroles, and stews.

Sloppy Joes - a really simple dish, perfect for those busy week nights, that will keep everyone happy | thehecticcook.com

Sloppy Joes

Stock Pots

Pretty much the same goes for these as the oxo cubes, I’m just a little bit more selective (they’re more expensive). I’ll be more inclined to chuck one of these in gravy, and I use one plus an oxo cube in my Stovies.

Traditional Scottish Stovies - The ultimate comfort food, Scottish Stovies are loved by a nation for good reason. So simple to make and really delicious. | thehecticcook.com

Traditional Scottish Stovies

Frozen Garlic / Garlic Paste

For a long time (aka my triplets first 5 years) I had gotten really lazy with my cooking and I was only really using both frozen garlic and garlic paste in place of fresh garlic. There is nothing wrong with this. I tend to find frozen garlic has a bit more of a natural garlic taste. But the paste is good, and if I’m cooking something where garlic isn’t the overriding taste you want ( e.g. curries, stir fries), I’ll happily chuck paste in. I have gotten slightly less lazy of late, and have gone back to using fresh garlic in certain dishes – sometimes a dish really needs the more intense flavour. However, I still have both frozen and paste in stock, and I’m not afraid to use them.

Filling Lentil Curry - A really substantial and filling vegetarian curry that is simple to make and won't disappoint | thehecticcook.com

Filing Lentil Curry

Frozen Peas / Frozen Sweetcorn

My kids love peas and sweetcorn. If I’m in any doubt about the nutritional value of a meal, I’ll chuck a mix of the two onto each plate and feel much better about my parenting. Although I’d always used frozen peas, I was a bit more skeptical of frozen sweetcorn until I tried it. It’s every bit as tasty as the tinned stuff, and a lot more convenient. I’ll chuck peas and sweetcorn into a wide range of meals too, just to up the veg content. If in doubt, add peas and sweetcorn.

Crispy Chicken Nuggets - Nuggets of chicken breast coated in mayonnaise and Rice Krispies, chicken nuggets you shouldn't feel guilty about! | thehecticcook.com

Crispy Chicken Nuggets

Tins of Tuna

When it comes to feeding the kids, there are at least 2-3 meals a week where we don’t eat as a family. More often than not, I make simple grub – quesadillas, baked potatoes, beans on toast etc. If we’re dashing out to Beavers/Rainbows/swimming (*delete as appropriate), I generally can’t be arsed fannying about with proper cooking. However, sporadically the ‘mum-guilt’ will set in and I’ll feel the need to give them something a bit more nutritionally balanced, or at least something that I’ve spent more than about 5 minutes cobbling together. This is where tuna is handy. For a start, they like it. Halle-bloody-lujah. It can also be turned into really simple dishes that don’t take forever to make. Both my Tuna Pie, and Tuna Pasta Bake are regulars on the menu and so I wouldn’t be without a couple of tins of tuna in my cupboard.

Cheats Tuna Pie - a really simple dish that goes down well with the kids | thehecticcook.com

Cheats Tuna Pie

Quark / Creme Fraiche

I like indulgent cooking. Why have a tomato sauce if you can have a creamy tomato sauce? Unfortunately, indulgent cooking doesn’t really like me. Or at least my waistline. But I’ve found that simply adding a spoonful of either creme fraiche or quark (a new discovery as I was completely cynical of it before I tried it) has pretty much the same effect as adding double cream – ok, the result is lighter, but personally I like that. I mostly use them in pasta sauces and risottos. You can always find a tub of one or both in my fridge.

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner. | thehecticcook.com

Sausage Pasta Bake

The Other Stuff

When I think about it, there’s a whole host of stuff I like to keep stocked up in my kitchen. I’m not going to bore you with everything. But some of the other things include: condensed milk (a lot of traybakes I make need this, like my Nutella Magic Bars); bars of chocolate – milk, dark & white (I like to bake, so a stash of chocolate is useful – see my Triple Chocolate Fudgy Brownies); the ingredients for making a simple sponge (i.e. butter, sugar, eggs flour – that way I can throw together a simple jam sponge for pudding, or my Microwave Banana Pudding). And obviously things like pasta, rice, potatoes and tinned tomatoes are an absolute must.

That’s pretty much my must-haves. As soon as they start to run low, they get replenished. I have been known to run out and it’s been fairly catastrophic, let me tell you (#firstworldproblems). Oh, and of course the wine rack – god forbid that should ever run dry.

Let me know what you like to keep stocked in your kitchen – is it different to me?

Happy cooking!

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