lemons or limes
chicken and beef stock
fresh nuts: slivered almonds, pistachios, walnuts - all kept in the fridge for freshness
fresh thyme and rosemary
With these essentials you've got the base of almost any meal. I've also always got red wine, white wine, rosé, champagne and beer in the fridge to make any sauce special. If I find any of these items on special, I'll stock up, they don't sit in the pantry for long. This way I can always stretch a meal too - adding an extra side dish or a baguette if we have an unexpected guest or two for dinner.
Nibbles with drinks are also easy to whip up - a hot spicy nut mix is easy made by popping nuts on a baking tray, dotting with butter and brown sugar and a bit of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Baked in a hot oven for 5 minutes, it's delish. Or I'll sauté up some slices of chorizo, deglazing the pan with a little red wine and pepper to pour over the top. A little more time and I'll caramelise some onions and thyme and make teeny puff pastry tarts.
A well-stocked pantry is a frugal-foodies best friend, as Liss from frillsinthehills.blogspot.com can attest with her latest challenge! What are your pantry staples?