Capsule Kitchen Collection
my essential kitchen kit
Meals are about so much more than simply a punctuation of your day or the food on your plate, they are the perfect occasion to bring people together, slow down, share an experience and create magic around the table. While accessible, seasonal recipes are an essential vehicle for such gatherings, what you cook in and the tools in your kitchen can definitely help to simplify the process.
With simplicity being the key, here are my suggestions for your basic kitchen kit to easily execute a meal, including those essential oven to table pans for effortless serving. Feel free to build your kitchen collection over time. I love to trawl markets and shops while on my travels for useful yet unusual items that just layer the story and make my kitchen just a little more interesting.
Unlike in my real life kitchen (but that’s another story) I believe only the bare minimum of items are truly necessary in any kitchen to create varied and delicious feats. I urge you to welcome this opportunity to clear out and pass on your supplies to others. There are always just a few pieces that are worth investment, but not everything needs to cost the earth. Like with your ingredients, I want you to procure wisely and efficiently. It is a quality not quantity situation – your pots and pans should ideally all be multi use and last at least a generation. There is no one pot wonder here.
Let’s start with pots and pans.
For maximum use potential, the majority of your pans (with only one or two exceptions) should be both oven and hob friendly. Make sure they are visually pleasing enough that you are happy to take them straight to the table, avoiding any extra crockery needs or excess planning brain power when thinking about serving dishes. Some of my most loved pans are vintage and inherited pieces from family cast offs. (Helps that I am an avid collector). The pots and utensil age and history also adds a beautiful patina to the finished dishes on the table.
A large, heavy bottomed sauté pan with a lid (30 cm)
This is the ultimate multi use pan, and the one pan really worth the investment in your kitchen. Do not compromise on the heavy bottom here as it ensures even cooking when both simmering and roasting. I use this pan for cooking all grains, for roasting chicken and vegetables, braising, sauces, blanching vegetables, baking crumbles and even the odd cake. Make sure the lid fits snugly to ensure perfect grains and greens every time.
My ideal combo would be a small, medium and large.
A small (20cm / 8 inch) non stick frying pan is an omelette essential (and is the only non stick pan in my kitchen).
A medium (25cm / 10 inch) and a large (30cm / 12 inch) frying pan complete the set. I like to have medium size cast iron and a large heavy gauge stainless steel pan, again used for all roasting, pan searing, shallow frying schnitzel (very important) toasting seeds needs these are also ideal for rewarming leftovers.
Note: cast iron frying pans are the best for searing and braising but also for roasting and baking. They do not need to be expensive, look fantastic on the table, they are a doddle to clean, can even be used straight on the bbq. Just make sure you have a lid from any of your other pots that can fit.
One large soup pot
I mean….how else do you keep warm in the winter without soup? And it doubles brilliantly for an ice bucket at parties.
One small (18-20cm) pot with lid
Not only for storing and reheating those all important leftovers for a solo lunch or dinner, this size is ideal for confit garlic (our ultimate on hand cooking essential for almost every dish) and spiced oils.
They don’t have to match your pans, they just need to fit. They ensure even steaming, braising and the all important few minutes of cover when quickly pan searing vegetables and fish. They are the secret to cooking through without losing colour, flavour or risk overcooking.
Roasting tins and sheet pans:
Useful for prep as well as all of your basic oven cooking needs, I like to have a couple of large heavy metal sheet/swiss roll type roasting pans with a small (1-2cm) lip. This means I can cook a whole side of fish and roast vegetables at the same time. They are perfect oven to table serving pieces and ideal brownie/cookie sheets too. Again the heavier the metal, the more even the cooking. These are also easy to store as they stack inside each other.
A large higher sided roasting tin that can be used on the hob as well as the oven is very useful in the kitchen for saucier roasting recipes. But depending on your style and preferences, a very large frying pan could double as your roasting tin (just be aware of handles making them to large for a regular oven).
Knives & Utensils
I am not going to be so prescriptive here. It’s up to you how many wooden spoons and whisks your kitchen can handle. But there are a few pieces that I think are incredibly useful.
A 20cm chefs knife
A serrated bread knife (for everything from tomatoes to loaf cakes)
A pairing knife
If you only have 3 good knives, these are it. But most importantly make sure they are sharp (there is nothing more unsafe in your kitchen than blunt knives). I would also have a 25/30cm chef’s knife in the armoury because it’s also great for carving and large batch chopping.
I can’t live without mine. 1 large and 1 small is a great start (don’t judge me by my collection). There is no other way to scrape clean your baking bowls and ensuring all the batter makes it into the tin. Also for scraping ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, including your blender or any other slightly wet or liquid mixture (think melted chocolate, cake batter). And my large rubber spatula is my secret to perfectly folded omelettes. The smaller size is essential for scraping those harder to reach nooks and crannies – think jars of jam, mayo, you get the idea.
Note: Please don’t put them in the dishwasher, they might give an after taste of soap after a while………
Definitely one of my top gadgets as this makes salads and garnishes much more interesting and delicate slicing an absolute dream. Just use it carefully please.
Vegetable Peeler & Zester
I use mine every single day. You might think it’s odd I am including them here, but you would be surprised how many kitchens I go into without them and honestly, how do you zest, ribbon, anything????
Mortar and pestle
A mortar and pestle possibly my most universally used kitchen tool. It’s used daily here to grind our spices, crush our garlic, macerate herbs, to make sauces (pesto, salsa verde etc.), dressings, crush toasted nuts, and as a serving bowl. I often use it it instead of a food processor. It allows me to decide the precise texture and how much to mix. Plus, pouncing a sauce is wonderful therapy.
Few people would call me lazy, but given how many lemons I go through in a week I consider a lemon juicer to be an essential. Just the simple hand held version is perfect here. No one wants to spend their time fishing out rogue lemon pips……..
Scales & Measuring Spoons
A baking and cooking essential. No more eyeballing quantities when they need to be exact for a recipe to work (eg. cakes). I prefer digital scales because they take up much less space.
A few storage/serving essentials
Glass jars with lids
I urge you to up-cycle your old jars to store all of your fridge basics, sauces, dressings, toppings, leftovers…..you get the picture. Just make sure you fully clean/sterilise them. Obviously you can invest in some jars too if you feel its is necessary, but this is one area I am definitely not encouraging you to spend unnecessarily.
Stackable glass or stainless steel mixing bowls:
These are very useful for mixing, meal prep, storing leftovers (they look good enough to take to the table for another meal) and also a brilliant option for marinading. Note: do not marinade in metal as it can change the flavour over a few hours, so I always marinade in my glass bowls. If they have lids, even better to save on cling film.
A large serving plate or two
For those occasions when your oven to table ware is already in use and for the room temperature salads and sides which just look better on a plate than in a bowl.
This is a whole other world of essentials and a much less contained list depending on what you like to bake.
To be honest, to make a basic batch of cookies, brownies, or a cake or a crumble, you can use your already existing sheet pans (thus why various sizes are helpful), cast iron pan or sauté pan, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, rubber spatula and maybe a whisk.
I would be inclined to advise you to also have a 24cm loose bottom or springform cake pan and a 20cm square pan (which can double as a small roasting tin) for bars or coffee cakes and a loaf tin (because I love loaf cakes and its a great way to store ice cream and granita). If you do not have the room or the desire for a stand mixer a handheld electric whisk works a treat and will help tone your arms at the same time.
Outside of these bare bones baking essentials the world is your oyster. Go forth and collect muffin pans, bundt tins, a variety of cake tin sizes, cookie cutters to your hearts content. But beware, it can be addictive…