What are musts in the kitchen?
Get the basics right. With these ingredients in your larder, things will always be that little bit easier in your kitchen.
Fleur de sel, my favorite salt. It is mild and salty, much milder than ordinary kitchen salt. It is obtained from sea salt that is allowed to dry out in special beds, after which the salt crystals are scraped off. This gives fleur du sel its typical grainy, crisp structure.
Black pepper, ground from the mill. Black pepper gives a strong, spicy flavor to your dishes and is coarser, sharper and, in my opinion, has more character than white pepper. Black pepper is actually an unripe berry, which turns brown or black when dried after harvesting. It contains a number of beneficial active ingredients, such as piperine, which promote good digestion and help with the absorption of other important substances, such as curcumin from turmeric and the powerfully anti-oxidizing co-enzyme Q10. I use black pepper every day.
Extra virgin olive oil. Nothing beats a really good extra virgin olive oil. I usually choose a different olive oil (made from different olives) each time I buy, so that I can search for new and exciting flavors. I can eat it by the spoonful! Delicious! For me, extra virgin olive oil is the best flavoring in the kitchen, as well as being very good for your health.
Balsamic vinegar rivals olive oil as a great flavoring for your food. It is made in Italy from grape juice that is allowed to ferment in wooden vats. This gives the vinegar its typical characteristics: mild, syrupy, sweet and sour. The longer it ferments, the tastier it becomes - but also more expensive.
Garlic is something I would use in just about every recipe, if I could. Like most herbs and spices, it makes your dishes more flavorsome and more visually appealing. Usually, I just crush the clove with the skin still on, using the flat blade of a table knife. It is great for stews and casseroles: super tasty and super healthy. It is also one of the most cancer-retarding foodstuffs.
Turmeric gives an extra dimension to your dishes on a number of different levels. The flavor is hot and spicy, with just a hint of bitterness. It colors your food an attractive yellow. It is nutritious and healthy. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which helps to prevent inflammation and has a retarding effect on the growth of cancer cells. Turmeric belongs to the same family as ginger, which is also healthy and flavorsome. In India it has been used for centuries, both for cooking and for medicinal purposes. I call it my golden spice and you will find it in a number of recipes in my books. Nowadays, you can buy turmeric in every supermarket.