Some cookery writers are sometimes a little bit snobbish about dried herbs and spices. Dried may mean less flavour but better that than no flavour at all. As a Garreteer, you may lack a space that is proper for growing your own. The kitchen at Laughing Garreteer Towers, for example, lacks a window and therefore a source of natural light. (And there are no viable alternatives elsewhere within the Garret.) We rely on the herbs, spices, and flavourings in our cupboard to liven up our budget cooking.
It goes without saying that you should always have a good supply of black peppercorns and sea salt and that you should have grinders for both. NB: Pre-ground black pepper is good only for use in sneezing powder.
Parsley This mild dark green herb is incredibly useful for flavouring anything from tomato sauce to scrambled eggs. Unlike fresh parsley, it is not recommended as a sprinkle to finish a dish. But use it liberally in sauces, stuffings, and gravy.
Basil Basil can add a touch of flavour to a dish even in dried form. Put it in tomato sauces, scrambled eggs, and on fried mushrooms.
Oregano A mellow addition to sauces, fried mushrooms, and pizzas.
Sage, Rosemary, Thyme Excellent in stuffing, with roasts, and in onion gravy.
Ground Cinnamon, Ground Cloves, Ground Ginger A trio of spices which are useful in both sweet and savoury dishes. All can brighten up a home made curry and all can be used to mull wine or cider at the holidays.
Nutmeg Get it in nut form and grate it yourself. Delicious with apples and on top of creamy drinks.
Bay Leaf Useful for livening up stocks and soups.
Vanilla It is worth spending a bit more to get real vanilla extract instead of â€˜vanilla flavourâ€™ extract. The later can have a chemical aftertaste that really is not pleasant. A good bottle of vanilla extract might set you back as much as Â£6 but, at a teaspoon a go, it will last a long time. In the question of â€˜spend v saveâ€™ it is worth spending here.
This is only a small selection but do be adventurous in trying new ways to add flavour. A small initial investment can lead to months of flavour since dried herbs and spices by their very nature keep well. A bit of creativity can liven up an old favourite dish or give it a fresh taste.