I won’t lie to you, my pantry (yes, I have a pantry…) is overflowing with condiments, sauces, chutneys and spices. Some people collect stamps, I collect condiments!
That said, many of them are lovely luxuries. Some condiments, however, are essentials in my kitchen that I would truly be lost without.
Today I’m going to share my top 5!
- Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic has to be at the top of my list. As well as its total and utter deliciousness on its own, add balsamic vinegar to tomato based sauces and it just takes them to another level. I add balsamic to pasta sauce, Bolognese, lasagne, ragu, chili con carne, ratatoille, I even drizzle it on top of pizza sometimes.You can go Italian and macerate strawberries in it to bring out their natural sweetness, reduce it into a sticky, sweet glaze, throw it over roast lamb for Sunday dinner and at its simplest, mix it with olive oil and dunk some good quality bread in it.I have no less than 5 types of balsamic vinegar in my cupboard: balsamica modena, raspberry infused, ginger infused and lemon infused from Little Doone (which I highly recommend) and a sticky fig vincotto from Aldi (I know!). I couldn’t live without the stuff, nor would I want to!
- Chilli sauce
I am a chilli fiend. If there’s a chilli sauce being sold at a food festival, market, restaurant or shop, I’m all over it. I like them sweet, smokey, fruity and just pure firey.My ultimate favourite chilli sauce has to be La Boca Del Diablo from local legend Pip’s Hot Sauce. It’s their original and best, with peppers, chilli, garlic and lime. It packs in tonnes of flavour and heat in a small but perfectly formed bottle. If you really like fire then Pip’s Nagatropolis is also noteworthy.
I recently discovered Gochujang, a Korean fermented chilli sauce, which I’m really loving at the moment. I picked up the gochujang cooking sauce from Yogiyo which I’ve used in stir fries and to marinade pork and I love its sweet and savoury flavour.
From Korea to Jamaica now. I always have a bottle of Jamaican hot pepper sauce in my cupboard too, to add fruitiness and fire to Caribbean and cajun inspired dishes. The garlic and pepper sauce from Tan Rosie is my bottle of choice, you need only a few drops to really up the flavour and heat level, and I love that it’s made locally to me. As in, literally just a few miles away!
Finally to Mexico and Cholula original hot sauce. I love the tangy spiciness of this, I put it on avocado toast, shakshuka, and I use it in bloody Marys. Perfection!
- Hoi Sin
For me, hoi sin is an addiction. Once I start, I can’t stop eating it. I’ve even been known to put it on crisps and eat it like a dip!I don’t know exactly what it is about hoi sin, I just know that the mixture of sweetness, garlic, savouriness and umami makes it one of my favourite things to cook with.Most people probably only eat hoi sin with Peking duck and pancakes, but I love to slather it on ribs, marinate pork in it for a stir fry, top rice bowls with it and use it with mushrooms. One of my go to stir fries is pork strips, chesnut mushrooms, spring onions, garlic, chilli, pak choi, green beans, green peppers, beansprouts and rice noodles, smothered in lashings of hoi sin. It’s absolutely delicious and so flavoursome in so little time!
- Worcestershire Sauce
Not just for cheese on toast, Worcestershire sauce is something I always keep in my cupboard when I want to add tang to my food.It has an amazing ability to bring out meaty flavours, so I always add it to stews, casseroles and things like cottage pie, ragu and bolognese. I also use Worcestershire sauce in Marie Rose sauce for prawn cocktail to give it some depth and complexity.It’s not limited to just food either, I also use Worcestershire sauce in my aforementioned bloody Mary recipe, to give it a tangy kick!
Last but not least, mustard. English, Dijon, wholegrain, German, I am a fan of all types of mustard. This is another condiment that I have many variations of in my pantry, including a wholegrain mustard with whisky in it, and a German mustard I brought back from Dusseldorf which is infused with their local Altbier.As well as being smothered all over sausages, hot dogs and steak whenever I eat those, I like to add a dollop of English mustard to roast beef gravy, a spoonful of dijon to cheese sauces and often make my own salad dressing with wholegrain mustard, olive oil, honey, garlic and seasoning. I also can’t eat a pastrami or roast chicken sandwich without a good slathering of mustard!
As a footnote, I have to add tomato ketchup too. My other half would want ketchup on this list, and although I genuinely don’t like tomato ketchup, I can’t deny how useful it is as an ingredient. You can use it as a base for barbecue sauce, sweet and sour and all sorts of others, so I should give it a mention, much as it pains me to do so!
So there are my 5 condiments that I can’t live without. What are yours?