Pantry staples - the facts behind the flavour

The facts behind the flavour – everyday essentials that make a meal.

Let’s start by shaking it up with boring old S & P. Well, turns out salt and pepper are more exciting than you think. In fact, in the middle ages salt was so expensive it was referred to as ‘white gold’ and often used as currency. The first salt shaker was invented in 1858 by John Mason, he’s the handy guy that invented the screw-top Mason jar.

It turns out peppercorns have been used to spice up foods for more than 4000 years, as early as the 4th century BC, texts (let’s call them recipes) describe pepper being used as seasoning for Indian feasts. These days, we use salt and pepper to add even more flavour to this fabulous Bacon, Egg and Potato Pie.

Speaking of spicing up food, an article on pantry basics wouldn’t be complete without talking about spices – not to be confused with herbs. Herbs come from plant leaves (fresh or dry), while spices are every other part of the plant including roots, stems, flowers, seeds and berries (mostly dry). That means plants with edible leaves and seeds are both herbs and spices – like dill, which is a tasty ingredient in this Salmon and Potato Fritatta.

With canned tomatoes on hand, you’ve always got a meal in the making. Originally from Peru, the Aztec name for tomatoes literally translated to ‘plump thing with a navel!’ Because it has seeds and grows from a flowering plant the tomato is classed as a fruit not a vegetable. Either way it’s great in soups and sauces and delicious in Ratatouille with BBQ meatballs.

A pantry wouldn’t be a pantry without Olive Oil. Part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, Olive Oil is said to help reduce blood pressure and act as an antioxidant, among other things. A hardy Olive tree can produce four litres of oil every year for hundreds of years which may be one of the reasons legendary author Homer named it Liquid Gold. Another might be how great it tastes like in this Sweetcorn Croquette recipe.