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
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).
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?