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Flavourtown, on the cheap

Cooking up flavourful meals doesn’t have to break the bank. With a nifty list of pantry staples, you can take a detour around the fancy bottles and expensive additives and never have a dull meal (or dull bank balance) again!

By Jana du Plessis

1. Salt and pepper

Don’t underestimate the power of this happy twosome. Although they both lift and enhance the natural flavour of food, they can get a little lost if you only add them while you are cooking. Season a little less while your dish is still on the stove, and add a few more grinds of each to the finished meal. This way, you will be able taste it more prominently.

2. Lemon juice

This sunshine citrus may be too sour for some to eat by the segment, but a little of its juice will win you over. Add some to meats, especially fish and poultry, or squeeze over a salad for instant zing.

3. Herbs

Stock up with two or three bottles of your favourite flavours. Things like dried basil, mint or rosemary liven up roast vegetables and add lovely depth to soups or stocks. But keep the herbs on rotation by buying different ones as one bottle finishes – it’s the best way to explore new tastes without getting bored of the old one.

4. Spices

From spicy cayenne pepper to toasty cumin, or if you like warming cinnamon and fiery ginger, there are so many options to choose from. Scour the internet for interesting uses and discover culinary delights you never knew existed. Ever thought of putting cocoa in your chilli con carne or ginger in your apple pie?

5. Tomato paste

This one may come as a surprise to you, but we promise: it’s a gem! Spread some on toast with avo, cheese and a sunnyside-up egg or add it to stews and meat for another level of flavour. If your pizza base needs some tomato reinforcement or the last pasta sauce jar has headed for the bin, this will be your go-to.

6. Garlic

Buying crushed garlic in bulk is great for heaps of flavour that will last all month long. You don’t need to use a lot and the possibilities are endless – roast, sauté, fry or simmer your way into flavourtown with this one.

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