A good supply of some basic ingredients gifts you the ability to easily create wonderful meals whenever you need.
USE HERBS AND SPICES
Having a good range of spices gives you lots of flexibility to create flavours. Cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli are great for quick curries and for coating meat and fish before frying. While herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves are good for adding flavour to casseroles, stews and soups. Stock cubes are also useful to have, great for soups, risottos, casseroles
STOCK UP ON TINS
Chickpeas, puy lentils, flageolet beans, plum tomatoes, kidney beans and tinned fish are great basic canned foods. You can blend the chick peas with olive oil, garlic and lemon to make a basic hummous, blend beans with yoghurt and herbs to make a dip to go with bread and you can create a pasta sauce with the tomatoes and tinned fish.
THE BOTTLES EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE
There's nothing like a good olive oil, which is great as a salad dressing, for dipping bread into or drizzling over pasta. Fish sauce is essential for Thai dishes while soy sauce is good as a marinade or to add flavour to stir fries. Honey is great with porridge in the morning, drizzled on toast, mixed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a salad dressing or glazing a joint of ham.
MAKE IT FILLING
Dried pasta is reliable and versatile, great in simple dishes such as lemon spaghetti or three cheese pasta. Risotto rice is great to create a quick dish - try adding leftover chicken or frozen peas for a quick dinner. Crispbread, oatcakes and flatbread are good to have for a snack and go well with a bean dip or hummus. There are so many uses for flour - you can make your own bread, pasta, cakes, pastry, Yorkshire puddings and pancakes.
KEEP SWEET TREATS
Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and tastes good too; it's great as a sweet snack, used in desserts and cakes or even to add depth of flavour to recipes such as chilli. Dried fruit including raisins, currants, sultanas, mixed peel and apricots can add sweetness to cakes and desserts as well as savoury dishes such as tagines and chutneys.
With a reasonable collection in the cupboard you really can whip up a meal in no time.