Hi, my name’s Josh, and my friends think I’m good at cooking. But here’s the thing; I’m not. I’ve just managed to convince them I am by using some very simple tricks to take basic food and blast it into the territory of “Hey, you know that thing you made? Can you make it again?” – and believe me, there’s no better feeling than having your cooking requested.
So where do we start? Well, have you ever made one of your favourite home recipes and it just hasn’t been the same? You swear you made that pasta bake just like your dad, but it didn’t taste as good? You swear that looked just like your grandma’s mac and cheese but just didn’t live up to it? Well that’s probably ‘cause you were missing the most crucial part of cooking: seasoning.
This article contains a complete guide to some of the most common seasonings you’ll find, and how to use them to really amp up your food and bring it to a new level.
All prices in this article will be based off how much they cost at Tesco, as that’s one of the main supermarkets in Cheltenham, although they may be cheaper or more expensive elsewhere. I will also not be including seasoning like curry powder and garam masala as they have less general use than other seasonings.
Salt and Pepper:
These seem obvious, but they’re are used in pretty much everything you’ll ever cook. Now, the key thing is this; GRIND IT YOURSELF. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference this really makes. Salt and pepper grinders are super cheap – in fact you can get pre-filled rock salt and black peppercorn grinders at Tesco!
Rock salt grinder: £2
Black pepper grinder: £2
Basil is a good all rounder. You can put in most dishes and it will help add depth of flavour. However, special mentions go to tomatoes, onions, garlic and olives. It helps to make amazing tomato-y pasta sauces and anything they can be used in, like pizza and lasagne. You can buy basil fresh if you so wish, but that requires you caring for a plant, so dried works fine.
Dried basil: 70p
Basil plant: £1.25
Bay leaves are a weird one as they don’t work like a normal seasoning. Bay leaves are, as they say on the tin, leaves. You buy them dried and pop one or two in stews, soups or sauces if you’re cooking something over a long period of time, and they add a huge amount of oomph to flavour. Whilst they aren’t instantly recognisable when eating something, you will notice there’s something missing when they’re gone.
Bay leaves: 70p
Does this really need an explanation? If you want to spice things up or just love the taste of chilli then chilli is for you. Tesco has both chilli powder and chilli flakes; chilli powder is better for heat, but chilli flakes impart more chilli flavour.
Mild chilli powder: 85p
Hot chilli powder: 85p
Crushed Chillies: 85p
Oregano is best known for working well in Italian, Greek and Mexican food. It pairs very well with tomatoes and cheese, making it perfect for pizza and pasta dishes, especially considering how well it works with basil. As well as this, it’s a great addition to soups. You can buy fresh oregano but due to its flavour coming from the oils inside, dried actually works a lot better, meaning you get more flavour from less.
Dried oregano: 70p
Paprika has such a distinctive taste that it doesn’t often play second fiddle to anything else. If you use paprika you USE paprika, and its presence will be known. It goes with pretty much anything: eggs, meat, fish, vegetables and cheese, as well as adding a beautiful colour to the dish. I personally love it and put in a multitude of things. Unsure about whether you’ll like it? If you enjoy the smell you’ll likely enjoy the taste.
My favourite seasoning. It adds a delicious smoky sweetness and a really mild heat to food that just makes it sing. A main ingredient in many Spanish, Mexican and Hungarian dishes. smoked paprika is delicious. If you ever wondered why chorizo is so great, here’s your answer.
Smoked paprika: 85p
Easily one of the most fragrant and recognisable of all the herbs. Rosemary is the god of roasts and goes well on all red meat, as well as potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables. Rosemary is best in long slow roasts to get the flavour out of it, and whilst dried rosemary works I would recommend fresh. You can either buy a small bag or a plant, but again, you will have to take care of it. I’d recommend just buying a few sprigs when you need it.
Dried rosemary: 70p
30g fresh rosemary: 70p
Thyme is another one to have if you’re a fan of Italian cooking. Pairing very well with tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables, thyme is another one that needs, well, time! So be sure to use it over long cooking processes like stews, simmering sauces or roasts!
Dried Thyme: 70p
Thyme plant: £1.25
I’ll be honest, I don’t use sage that much, if ever. It’s not that its bad, in fact it’s very versatile, but you would mainly use it alongside other herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil. Goes well with chicken though and if you wanna throw it in then go for it!
Dried sage: 70p
So there it is, go forth and season! On a final note; these are not the only things you will need in your cupboard to create delicious food, so keep an eye out for my recipes in the future! I hope this has given you a general idea of how seasoning works. Tune in next time for my favourite food, and a big crowd pleaser:
MAC AND CHEESE!