What are the things in your kitchen you just can’t live without? When you pick up a new cookbook, often the chef will set out in the introduction their pantry and kitchen essentials. These might be foods, spices, utensils or other equipment. We thought we’d put together a list of the 9 most useful or beautiful things that make our kitchens functional yet feeling like the heart of the home. Do you have any others? Drop us a comment, we’d love to hear what you couldn’t part with in your kitchen.
1.Cast iron dish/ skillet
We have a set of Le Creuset cast iron dishes that my parents were given as a wedding present 50 years ago! And they are still going strong. It’s worth investing in a good brand as cheaper makes can end up chipping or rusting. Find the right ones and they will last you a lifetime, whether you use them as a Dutch oven, for making bread, stove-top stews or family-sized curries. They are completely essential and righteously sustainable, thanks to their long durability.
The simplest meal can feel like fine dining if you set your table beautifully. A linen tablecloth can elevate even a humble boiled egg and make it into a special meal. We love to spread a clean, white linen tablecloth over the kitchen table and gather round on a Friday afternoon for ‘fika’ – the Swedish-inspired tradition of sharing pastries or bread and cups of tea or coffee. A plain, soft, slightly crumpled tablecloth or runner will pull together any table setting. Linen napkins also add a simple finishing touch, and they wash brilliantly so there’s no need for wasteful kitchen paper or serviettes.
3.Ceramic mixing bowl
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as kneading dough in a heavy, sturdy mixing bowl. Mason Cash make lovely traditional-looking ones, but whatever you choose, make sure it looks good enough to leave out on the counter in case you don’t have enough storage. A pile of plain white or muted grey bowls piled inside a homely mixing bowl looks great on freestanding kitchen shelving or a wooden worktop.
It’s best to avoid Teflon coated pans if you can – cooking without chemicals has to be the best way. But you still need a trusty frying pan that will make fluffy omelettes, perfect pancakes and crunchy stir-fries without having to scrape bits off the bottom of the pan. There are lots of great ceramic or copper pans out there that do the job without any added nasties, and look super stylish.
5.Pestle and mortar
Grinding your own spices and crushing fresh herbs is an economic and healthy way to cook, so a decent pestle and mortar is essential. Stone (granite) sets are durable and sturdy, wooden ones look lovely but are better for lighter weight grindings. We have had this one for years and it is still going strong. This lovely clay pestle and mortar looks sleek and chic.
Whether you go for the classically stylish Mason or Kilner jars, or just use recycled jam jars (Bonne Maman jars are beautiful and great for storage, making salad dressings or using as simple vases. Dried foods like lentils, cereals and pasta look amazing lined up in matching jars on open shelves or in a larder, and they will keep longer.
7.Dr Bonner’s castille soap
This is such a great, versatile soap. We use it to make eco-friendly kitchen cleaning sprays and hand soaps (we even use it to wash the dog!). Just mix with water and essential oils and you will save money, minimise packaging and keep your kitchen chemical-free.
Beware: kids hate silicone spatulas because they are so good at getting every last scrape of mixture out of the bowl! They are durable and highly effective, and you can get some great colours if you want to add a pop of brightness into your utensil drawer.
Although not fans of lots of gadgets (all those blenders and juicers cluttering up the back of your kitchen cupboards), we couldn’t do without our trusty KitchenAid mixer. You can make amazing cakes, easy breads, even chop meat and whisk masses of egg whites in these iconic beauties. Every kitchen should have one standing on the counter, ready for the baking urge to strike.