Level Up Your Pantry With These Chef Favourites

The modern pantry goes beyond storage cupboards in tiny rooms ⏤it includes the refrigerator, freezer and anywhere we keep food for future use. Pantries are our home ingredient and food inventory, representing the potential we have to feed ourselves and our family and the scope of creative culinary or nutritional opportunity we have at any given moment. Beyond the beans, tomatoes, root vegetables and condiments any expert will tell you to keep on hand, we’ve compiled a list of great products that can help elevate everyday standards to new levels of taste and experience, without adding complexity. 

Fire Roasted Red Peppers: Add fire-roasted peppers to pasta sauce, bean and legume salads and grilled cheese sandwiches for an easy gourmet twist with little effort.

Lemon Juice: Add a teaspoon of this citrus juice to sauces and meat dishes for a subtle, magical freshness. Don’t worry - it won’t taste like lemon. The acidity contrasts the sensory notes in many dishes, intensifying the flavours in your dish without overpowering your main ingredients. Be sure to add the lemon juice at the end, just before you finish cooking.

Fresh Mint: This often overlooked herb is a great ingredient to contrast strawberry, melon or pear and yogurt parfaits, with lamb or merguez sausage or in virtually any spring green salad. It also looks great as a garnish. Mint is easy to grow and can subtly alter many standard dishes in captivating ways - consider growing your own in your kitchen window.

Anchovy Paste: The briny, flavourful anchovy paste is great for adding that elusive note of savoury umami to pasta sauces, stews or soups, without giving it a fishy flavour. While it’s made from anchovy filets, the oil, vinegar and a little sugar work together to tone down the fishiness and let the flavours in your dish shine.

Unsalted Grass-Fed or Local Butter: Any chef will tell you that there’s no substitute for butter. Butter unlocks flavour and taste in a way that simply can’t be imitated by other cooking fats. What kind of butter you use can have a significant effect on the taste of your dish. If butter is the star, choose local or grass-fed varieties for their freshness and distinct flavour profile. Choosing unsalted butters allows you the control to add salt to match your taste.

Canned Pumpkin: We’re not talking about the spiced pumpkin pie filling. This is the 100% plain, pure pumpkin puree readily available to add texture, creaminess and punch to your soups, stews and breads. Pumpkin goes well with just about any milk, yogurt or cream-based recipe. Try it, it’s amazing.

Wonton Wrappers: These delightful kitchen cheats can be used for so much more than, well, wontons. Think of them as versatile, bake ready packaging for brie and pear appetizers, mini pie cups, homemade taquitos, egg and cheese bites - there’s really no end to what you can make with these.

Plain Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is a culinary multi-tool. It can transform from the star player in yogurt parfaits, bowls and smoothies into a ready substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise. It’s a great base for meat marinades, salad dressings, guacamole, soup, dips, cake toppings and cream sauces.

Allspice: Not just for the holidays, this spice combines notes of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace and can be used as a savoury anchor in marinades, stews, soups and even salad dressings.

Aged Cheese Rinds: Any non-waxed edible hard cheese rinds can be stored in your freezer for use in making amazingly flavoured soups. Simply freeze until needed to add to your stock when ready.