We interviewed the prince of pretension… And now it’s time for the baron of bennuendosI Let’s raid Ben’s kitchen to find out the top ingredients that he simply can’t live without. Before the ingredient tour began, I was very curious about how Ben would be able to condense his essentials to just 5 things. I was definitely surprised (in the best way) by what made the final cut. Let’s get straight into it…
What is the difference between regular salt and smoked sea salt? Smoked salt is created when smoked over a fire of real, natural wood – helping to enhance its flavour! An ingredient like this is perfect for Ebbers, because he doesn’t get to enjoy BBQs as much due to the lack of outside space.
“I also have an open kitchen plan so I try to avoid too much heavy charring, as it stinks out the whole flat. That said, a pinch of smoked sea salt in marinades, on roasted veggies and to finish a steak can give that lovely lick of smoke to just elevate a dish beyond what’s practical inside.”
Ben loves using oyster sauce… And not just within Chinese cuisine! This dark, rich sauce is all things savoury and umami. It is very popular with stir-fries and marinades… But why not take it to the next level?
“It provides such a rounded depth to many dishes and can make stews, ragus and casseroles taste like they have been cooking for hours! That’s the beauty of fermented foods. Or… Combine a ratio of 1 tbsp of soy sauce to 1 tsp oyster sauce and use that to season any stir-fried veg! A great, impromptu way to get dinner on the table whilst using up stuff that might be kicking around in the bottom of the fridge.”
The first two ingredients are quite salty, but it’s important to remember that there are other ways to elevate your dishes! The acidity of lemons is a perfect finishing touch to your culinary masterpieces – the food team loves using this tip during food lab days.
“In our Sidekick app, we make use of lemons and limes quite a bit to provide a quick lift to staples like couscous, pasta, sauces, soups, and purées. The acidity wakens the tongue and helps to highlight and accentuate other flavours in the dish. My fridge is never without lemons… besides… it’s also great in a gin ‘n’ tonic!”
Leftovers can be an absolute saviour for lunch the next day at work, when you’re feeling lazy, or even when you’re fragile from a Friday night (a lot of us have been there)! The only problem is, it can sometimes not taste as good. Well, you might not know this, but adding fresh herbs to reheated leftovers can completely transform them back into a much more ‘fresh’ state.
“Often I cook multiple portions of a dish and save the leftovers for another day (in the fridge for 2-3 days time, or in the freezer for whenever). Things like fresh coriander are tricky to grow and have a fairly short shelf-life so if I have them, I buy them and keep them in the fridge. Having said this, parsley, chives, basil and fresh oregano all are pretty good if in pots on the window sill. Buy once and use multiple times over the spring and summer… It’s such great value for money. I also keep hold of rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves – I either pick these or buy them and wrap them in damp kitchen paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge. They survive for weeks like that.”
Ahh butter, the versatile little tub/block of foodie heaven. Ebbers didn’t have to convince me much, or shall I say butter me up, to get his point across on this one. It might sound basic (and it has a bad rep), but butter can truly lift dishes in ways that we completely overlook!
“Whilst so much of what we read tells us that saturated animal fats are ‘bad for us’… That’s not the whole picture. Quality butter, when used sensibly in a balanced diet, provides essential nutrients – often a challenge to get from poly or monounsaturated oils. Besides… It tastes great and can transform other humble ingredients into something we can’t wait to eat. Smashed roots, braised rice, potatoes, wholegrain toast, pan-fried or oven-baked fish and… When combined with white miso… A real game-changer! It lasts for several weeks when wrapped up in the fridge, so I’m never without a block!”
Ishy @ Sorted Food