Semi-skimmed milk – I get a bit panicky when we don’t have milk in the fridge: the wherewithal for a cuppa is really essential. I like Yeo Valley or Rachel’s Organic. Cow’s milk is one of the few ingredients that I really prefer to be organic, where possible. I’ve experimented with using dairy alternatives in my tea, but only cow’s milk will do.
Oat milk – Oatly and Rude Health are both good. I like this with granola or to make smoothies (I do one with cashews, dates and cinnamon which is great), and my husband makes flat white coffees with it. I don’t prefer it to real milk in coffee, but I like the different flavour notes it offers.
Coconut yoghurt – While breastfeeding, I’ve cut down on dairy, as it’s said to encourage colic in babies. So, I’ve swapped plain yoghurt for this with my breakfast (alongside granola and a banana).
Burford Brown eggs – Since these golden-yolked beauties came into my life, regular eggs don’t hold quite the same appeal. My favourite breakfast is boiled eggs with buttery Marmite soldiers.
Plain yoghurt – Crucial in my house, used in its purest form at breakfast time, but also cooked within marinades, dressings, cakes… even the dog has it on his food. My smoky yoghurt chicken kebabs (found in my book Mamma: Reflections on the Food That Makes Us) are a winner, the yoghurt tenderising the meat. We eat them with crunchy fattoush salad and pillowy pitta bread.
Feta cheese – There’s always a tasty meal to hand if you have a packet of feta in the fridge. It’s great that each packet lives for a while, as there’s no pressure to use it instantly. I love to bake it in foil with grated lemon zest, chilli flakes, thyme and a drizzle of olive oil, then dunk sourdough into it. We often sprinkle it on baked potatoes, pasta dishes and in sandwiches.
Butter – Always salted. I don’t use margarines.
Whole organic chicken – We tend to buy our chicken from the local butcher, but on the occasions when Ocado feels more convenient, we’ll get one delivered – always, always organic. I prefer to spend more on the very little meat I buy. We will roast a chicken for the two of us at the weekend, and then hope to get two subsequent meals from it: something like a pie the next day (we’ve been doing one with mushrooms and tarragon, topped with Jus Rol puff pastry), and then use the carcass for a dashi stock in which to cook udon or ramen noodles, using the remaining scraps of meat on top alongside a soft-boiled egg, pak choi, wakame seaweed, sesame seeds and chilli oil.
Hummus – There’s always a snack on hand when you’ve got a pot of hummus. We’ll often get in hungry from work and attack a tub with a packet of Peter’s Yard crackers and a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce. I like the Sabra and Yarden brands.
FRUIT & VEG
Tomatoes – I like the Sicilian datterini from Natoora: unrivalled sweetness and so worth the extra buck if you’re using them in their purest state.
Potatoes – We eat a lot of them. Along with pasta pomodoro, baked potatoes are our fallback, go-to weeknight supper.
Sweet potatoes – We’ll also bake sweet potatoes sometimes, instead of regular spuds. I like to eat them with a bit of coconut oil, some grated ginger and finely chopped fresh chilli.
Bananas – For my breakfasts, but I don’t like them with cereal and yoghurt when they get too speckled… which offers the perfect excuse to make banana bread. I like chef Claire Thomson’s recipe in her book, The Five O’Clock Apron.
Lemons – I see lemons less as a fruit and more of a seasoning and rely on both their zest and juice to sharpen and add kick to all manner of dishes, from salads to pasta, roasted veg, soups and beyond.
Spinach and broccoli – I’ve mentioned these together as they are our weeknight go-to vegetables. We’ll douse the spinach in lemon juice and shake a few drops of ponzu (citrus soy sauce) on broccoli.
Cauliflower – We love to roast them whole, and my husband does a particularly good version of this on our Big Green Egg barbecue.
Onions – For laying the foundations to most of the things I cook. Also, carrots and celery, for a classic soffritto.
Garlic – Again, I like the Natoora’s because they come in giant bulbs with big cloves for generous flavour and easy peeling.
Little gem lettuces and rocket – Other salad leaves come and go throughout the year, but these are the two I will buy year-round.
Tarragon, basil, parsley – Basically all the herbs that aren’t hardy enough to survive in my London garden through the winter.
Pasta – Spaghetti and rigatoni most often. I make a pasta dish at least once a week. I make tomato sauces throughout winter, sometimes with sausages, and we also love pasta with broccoli, clams and pulses. Now that wild garlic season is upon us, I’m looking forward to making my favourite seasonal pesto.
Extra virgin olive oil – We buy the Waitrose-own bottle. This oil has a good rich flavour but isn’t so special that you wouldn’t cook with it. There is much debate about whether it’s necessary to cook with extra virgin olive oil versus whether a lighter, cheaper olive oil is better. I always prefer to use extra virgin, taking the view that the flavour of an eventual dish is built up in layers from its very foundations. We buy special bottles of early harvest or single estate olive oils abroad or in delis for dressing salads and finishing off dishes.
Peanut butter – A brilliant short cut for quick-fix noodle dishes, or just for slathering on toast with plenty of jam on top.
Oats – For porridge. My winter breakfast of choice, I love it with tahini and honey or, my new discovery, date syrup.
Honey – I use honey instead of sugar for sweetness, because it adds that extra caramel note.
Granola and muesli – I like to mix plain muesli with a more elaborate granola like Eat Natural or Gail’s.
Tinned tomatoes – Peeled whole plum ones, for pasta sauces (mostly) and for the bases of stews, hotpots and pies.
Dijon mustard – We get through gallons of the stuff, which I rely on for béchamel sauces, salad dressings, marinades and to eat neat alongside almost everything.
Branston Pickle – Is there anything more delicious than a baked potato with butter, cheddar and BP?
Maldon salt – Worth its salt.
Marmite – I’m in the ‘love’ camp: I can’t live without the stuff. Simply on toast, or to top buttery soldiers alongside soft-boiled eggs, or in my beloved Marmite pasta.
Pulses – Red lentils for dahl, kidney beans for chilli (we make a veggie one), cannellini and butter beans for salads, chickpeas for all manner of things (I subsisted on a chickpea diet at university). For special occasions, we’ll buy jars of the El Navarrico brand for super tender and tasty fat beans, but generally I think bog-standard tins of supermarket pulses are one of the great, cheap versatile staples of all time.
Miso paste and udon/ramen noodles – The Clearspring and Misotasty brands are good. We’ve taken to making quick dashi stocks (sometimes with stock from leftover roast chicken) then making bowls full of noodles for our suppers.
FOR THE SNACK CUPBOARD
Salted peanuts – A Friday night ritual with beers.
Peter’s Yard Sourdough Crackers – You’ll never be able to go back to Carr’s Water Biscuits.
Campari – One of the best things about not being pregnant anymore is that I can enjoy a Campari Spritz or four in the garden this summer. I much prefer it to Aperol: I love that intense bitterness and its glowing red colour.
Beavertown Gamma Ray IPA – We love these American-style craft beers, and this is always the one of choice from Ocado. We’ve also recently enjoyed The Kernel Table Beer, which is lower in alcohol, so a bit more conducive to broken nights with a baby!
Essential Waitrose sparkling water – We buy this in bulk, which gives me a great sense of guilt about plastic, but fizzy water is exactly what this one says on the label for me: essential. In our next home, we plan to install a fizzy water tap.
MUST-HAVES FOR THE FREEZER
Frozen peas – One of the few freezer items we rely on: it’s just always there on standby when there’s nothing green in the fridge.
Cauldron Lincolnshire sausages – Plenty of people turn their noses up at vegetarian sausages but I’m happy to own the fact that I’m a big fan. They’re another weeknight go-to, accompanying baked potatoes and piles of spinach and broccoli. They’re delicious dunked in plenty of Dijon.
Wholemeal pitta bread – Great for lunches when you’ve not planned in advance. I like to toast them and stuff with hummus, crumbled feta, a handful of rocket and chilli sauce.
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