Spice up your lockdown meals with these big-flavour pantry items

It's easy to fall into having the same things over and over, but these pantry items will add something a little special to even the most mundane meals


After weeks confined to our homes, it's no surprise that many of us have been cooking the same meals frequently. And while there's nothing wrong with that, it's easy to get a little bored and crave something a bit different.

While you could dive into an elaborate cooking project, we don't always have the mental energy (or the long list of ingredients) that this requires. We simply want to jazz up our normal meals a little. My favourite way to do this is by turning to a really great condiment to bring some big flavours.

Here's a list of great ones to try, all of which can either be ordered online or found in supermarkets.

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Kewpie mayonnaise 

big-flavour pantry items

A Japanese version of this everyday condiment, Kewpie mayonnaise will elevate anything that you would usually put mayo on (and plenty of things you wouldn't). As it uses only egg yolks, not the whites, it has a rich, creamy consistency, and the use of rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar gives it a sweeter, more delicate flavour.

If you've ever had okonomiyaki pancakes, this was the delicious yellow sauce on top, but Kewpie mayo is equally good on a BLT, squeezed over vegetables, or just as something to dip chips in. Kewpie Mayonnaise 500g, €4.55, Asia Market.

Salsa verde

big-flavour pantry items

Many countries, including Italy and Spain, have their own versions of salsa verde. It's also relatively easy to make one yourself, should you have a food processor, and large bunch of tender herbs to hand, but this Mexican one has a delicious tang that comes from green chillis, tomatillos and coriander.

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While it's amazing on tacos or as a dip for tortilla chips, it will also add some zing to fried eggs, and is delicious stirred through rice or drizzled over cooked meat. Salsa verde, €4, Picado.

 Peanut Rayu

big-flavour pantry items

I probably don't need to tell you about White Mausu's addictive peanut rayu, but on the off-chance that you haven't tried it yet, now is the time. Created by Irish chef Katie Sanderson, it's a delicious mix of peanuts, sesame, honey, crispy garlic and Korean chilli flakes. Believe me when I say this is good on pretty much everything, from eggs to avocado on toast, to noodles, to just a bunch of fried vegetables.

If you've already fallen in love with the peanut rayu, I recommend trying White Mausu's other two offerings: black bean rayu and cashew crunch. White Mausu Peanut Rayu 240g, €6.40, Ardkeen Quality Food Store.

Gochujang

big-flavour pantry items

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A bright red paste made from red chillis, sticky rice and fermented soy beans that is hot, sweet and salty, with a deep umami taste. Gochujang is a staple of Korean cooking and it can be used in countless ways. With a thick texture and a very strong flavour, a little goes a long way — it's easier to use (and less firey) when you thin it out with something like oil.

It pairs really well with meat when used as a glaze for cooking (try smearing it over a whole chicken before you put it in the oven), adds heat when stirred through a soup or stew, and is delicious spread over vegetables before roasting. You can also mix it into sauces and dressings. Korean Haechandle Red Pepper Paste 500g, €2.95, Asia Market.

Tapenade

big-flavour pantry items

Maybe one that you've had on holiday in Italy, or with bread at a restaurant, but olive tapenade is good for so much more than sating your hunger while you wait for your main course. Its punchy, salty flavour makes it a great accompaniment to roasted vegetables, an excellent addition to a sandwich, or even stirred through pasta when you just can't be bothered to make a sauce. Belazu Beldi Black Olive Tapenade 170g, €3.75, Tesco.

Harissa 

big-flavour pantry items

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Originating from Tunisia, harissa is a paste made from dried chillis blended with olive oil, spices, and often garlic. It ranges from mild to very spicy, and different harissa paste might be smoky, peppery, or floral from the addition of rosewater.

It's worth trying a few brands to find your favourite, but whatever one you choose, it's delicious in any kind of marinade.You can also use it to spice up hummus, or spoon over rice, vegetables, or anything you want to add some flavour to. Love Olive Harissa Paste 150g, €2.99, SuperValu.

Featured image: White Mausu


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