Friday, 22 November 2013

Feelgood Friday: Hamper of Heroes

I've been starting my Christmas shopping online, and looking at the hampers put together by the department stores. Hampers are the loveliest gift and always such a treat to receive ... but it is rare to find one that contains much of use. Even the fabulously expensive Harrods hampers have stuff in them that you just know will sit at the back of the larder for ten years! It's the same story for the mid-range hampers, with a couple of feature items, then a lot of fillers. Who eats shortbread anyway?

So I've put together my own hamper of uber-useful kitchen heroes. Call it a basket of fantasy, or just a sandwich short of a picnic, these are the foodstuffs that keep on giving.

Here they are, some familiar, some less so.

Chez moi, these are the triumvirate - a mere teaspoon-meaure capable of bringing to life salads, sauces, grilled meat, pasta.

I discovered the tomato vinegar on a now-closed shop in Kensington that sold only specialist vinegar. A tricky business model to pull through a recession, perhaps, but the vinegar is superlative: light, flavoursome, not too tart, not too sweet. A bottle lasted me a few years and when I needed to restock, I discovered that Wholefoods sold the range so I have added Figue to my repertoire.

My great friend Grant introduced me to Belazu balsamic vinegar - dark, syrupy, unctuous - and the vinegar isn't bad either!! It makes plain old rocket and toms into a kicking salad.

Many of my heroes are already legends and need no introduction


And when I come to make my own sauces, it is rare these old stalwarts don't make an appearance

Is is legal to write a food blog these days without paying homage to Ottolenghi? Sumac is definitely getting my attention of late, but I think my heart will always belong to rose harissa (Belazu again).


It wouldn't be a proper hamper without a bottle of cheap and not-very-drinkable (although we do try our best) booze. And Vermouth is about the cheapest of them all - I like to think it has the taste and price tag of 1981.

No risotto can really come alive without a dash of Vermouth stirred in at the end of cooking. And once you have it in your larder, you will reach for it time and again when making sauces and casseroles. 

Which are your always-to-hand kitchen goodies? What secret ingredient do you cherish most?

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