Do you love looking in people’s fridges? Welcome along. This time last year, my own contained: one of those giant bags of kale, and three full shelves of jars and bottles. We had the usuals – raspberry jam (for the porridge we never made), red onion marmalade (from Christmas), Branston pickle (ever so sticky on the rim, from neglect), ketchup (we are people). And the unusuals – chestnut puree (thought it would be Christmassy), red fermented bean curd (from a fling with Chinese cookery) cajeta (caramelised goats milk from Mexico).
We’d hit peak condiment, and something had to change – there was barely room for my Babybels. Not that I regretted a single jar. At the beginning of their careers, they’d been a right laugh. Who’d say no to a bit of chutney in their toastie? Or some salted caramel on their ice cream? Or red fermented bean curd on their Greek yoghurt? Just kidding.
Raspberry jam (for the porridge we never made), Branston pickle (ever so sticky on the rim, from neglect), ketchup (we are people). We’d hit peak condiment, and something had to change – there was barely room for my Babybels
My husband wrote an A4-sized note and stuck it to the fridge door using about six magnets because he meant business: “Have you considered a condiment?”. What a summer it was.
But, listen. I feel like I’m bad-mouthing my best friends. I love condiments! They are basically fairy dust. Nigella (my other best friend) keeps salt, mustard, chilli sauce and soy sauce by her bed, and carries salt and mustard in her handbag. Of course she does! Nigella knows. In this life, we only get so many cheese on toasts.
Here are five condiments you need. And if you find that your capsule collection is – in reality – two, three or 9,000 times the size of this one, that’s fine. You’re only human. Just make a fridge poster, like the rest of us.
Sriracha is the Thai chilli-garlic sauce you can’t escape, but it’s earned its place as hot sauce of the moment, because it’s much more than just a fiery, peppery hit. It’s thicker – more ketchuppy – than its peers, and absolutely rammed with flavour. If you’re a fan, you’ll have no problem using it up, but just in case you need help, here’s a Sriracha-lime corn salad, some Sriracha roasted cashews, and a Sriracha Bloody Mary. And, just so you know, it comes in a keyring.
2. Soy Sauce
We’ve all got our solitary dinners, and I will very contentedly eat a bowl of rice with a chopped up omelette and some soy sauce on top. Soy doesn’t have to be mixed into an elaborate cooking liquor to be good. It’s a "table condiment" – use it in place of salt when it’s relevant. But for special occasions, you can infuse your soy by heating it, and adding a little water and some mushrooms, garlic, or chilli. A soy-ginger glaze is a handy thing to have on your team, too. I like this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to use with it.
3. Marmite (or Vegemite)
I’m neither a lover nor a hater, but who can deny that a spoonful of Marmite offers a brilliant smack of flavour? As an ‘umami booster’, it’s intense, salty and super-savoury; stir it into chillis, stews and pies for richness and depth. (Alternatives include Worcestershire sauce, if that’s more your scene.) Marmite is good friend to cheese, too, as evidenced in Nigella’s Marmite spaghetti, and these cheddar and Marmite straws.
4. Dijon mustard
Creamy-hot Dijon is my mustard of choice because it’s so good in vinaigrette, and if you haven’t got something you can turn into vinaigrette, then what have you got? Use three parts olive oil to one part acid (lemon juice or vinegar), add a lug of Dijon, and shake it all in a jar. Of course, mustard also gives pep to macaroni cheese, mashed potato, and 99% of sandwiches.
5. Ballymaloe Country Relish
Unlike other products of its ilk, this one won’t sit around for long because it’s not a one trick pony. It’s just tomatoes, vinegar, sultanas and a gentle mix of spices, and it’s as good with your cheese and biscuits as it is with chips, burgers, sausage rolls and salads. It’s your buddy at a barbeque, but it won’t let you down at Christmas either.
And a final note on salt…
Maldon makes handbag-friendly pinch tins, but they’re hard to track down. You could achieve the same lifestyle enhancement using this item from Amazon’s bushcraft department, unless you’ve got something better to do.