A capsule pantry - how I chose my favourite 12 ingredients

Annajones pantry

I want my books to be lots of things. I want them to be beautiful and tactile. I want them to feel like something new but also have recipes that feel like old friends. Above all though, I want them to be useful. A book full of recipes that become friends. On your average Tuesday, I want you to be able to pick up a copy and feel inspired to cook something achievable that feels easy but tastes like more than the sum of its parts. Unreasonably delicious food for the time and effort you spent on it.

When I was writing Easy Wins, I thought long and hard about the things that help me make my meals the best, easiest and quickest they can be, and I realised that most of my recipes were relying on a few favourite flavour-packed ingredients. A capsule pantry as my friend Gurd called it.

Lemons, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, tinned tomatoes, capers, chilli and harissa, tahini, garlic, onions, miso and peanut butter.

These are the twelve ingredients I use most often in my kitchen to make food taste great, and I know they will be the favourite ingredients in your kitchen too. They seem to be favourites for almost everyone I talk to – loved ingredients that are already in our kitchens.


To me, lemons are a third seasoning. So often when a dish is lacking something, lemon will complete it. Once I have tasted for salt, my next thought is lemon – often juice added at the end of cooking for a lift, or zest for zing.

Olive oil

I couldn’t cook without olive oil. A good olive oil improves almost anything – it’s one of my most-loved and most-used ingredients. Your food will taste good if you start with a good oil.


I often think acid is the most important and forgotten aspect of cooking. That often means vinegar to me. It’s a highlight, a top note that brings a plate of food together.


A tiny teaspoon of mustard adds an unreasonable amount of flavour. I use it in so much of my cooking. It can be a subtle, warm note or an upfront sit-up-and-pay-attention flavour.

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I eat fresh tomatoes for most of the year – colourful British ones in the summer and the hardier, saltier Italian and Spanish winter varieties in the winter. But nothing comes close to the ease of a tin or the squeeze of a tube.


Capers are a constant in my kitchen. They are the perfect balance between salty and acidic. They bring salt, acidity and umami, with a perky, almost mustardy, note. They ask little of me and sit in my fridge for months.


From searing heat to gentle hum. Chilli is the warming heart. A spike of heat. I love mellow, rounded heat, so I use dried and preserved chillies.


Tahini, the colour of caramel, sits on my counter next to the oils and vinegars. It’s used too often to be put away. Buttery and sweet with some backup from gentle bitterness. It walks the line between sweet and savoury like nothing else.


Garlic’s transformative power to make food tasty is unparalleled. I use it sparingly, as an accent, not to overwhelm. Often, when I’m making tomato sauce, I will bash the clove with the side of the knife and let it sizzle whole to flavour the oil it’s cooking in, then lift it out. That hint of garlic is all I need (and is good if you are cooking for gentler palates).


Every cuisine uses onions. In my kitchen, they are used 100 ways. From slow-cooked and buttery to pickled and punchy. From crispy shards to buttery leeks. Onions and the other alliums (shallots, leeks, spring onions) make my cooking what it is.


Miso fills a pot with flavour with very little effort. It’s great in soups, stews, broths, dressing and marinades and is even good in sweet things like caramel. Miso is such a useful ingredient in vegetarian cooking, as it brings a hit of umami that can be hard to get with veg alone.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is something I crave. It was part of my childhood, eaten on toast or rice cakes for a snack. I use it most in cooking. From a quick cheat’s satay sauce to cookies and cakes. Good in soups and stews, it adds a very good creaminess to tomato soup, for example, as well as a richness to a variety of soups and stews.

So these twelve favourites, they sit quietly on the top shelf of your fridge, in your cupboard or on a bowl on your worksurface, asking nothing but ready to bring triumphant flavour to every meal you cook. It is my hope that this book is full of recipes that show you how to use them in new but simple ways. To make your dinners simpler but tastier and to bring easy daily moments of triumph around the dinner table.

To pre-order or find out more about my new book Easy Wins click here

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