Pan-fried bone-in chicken with pan jus and mayo mash-1

Unexpected store cupboard heroes

Lift any dish with these food items you probably have in the pantry

Unexpected store cupboard heroes

Ever cooked a dish that should have been delicious but when you came to tuck in, tasted a bit flat? Top chefs know the importance of adding different dimensions to dishes based on five main flavour profiles – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami – and how to layer them in a dish. But you don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy food of this quality. Below are some unexpected store cupboard heroes that can help give dishes real impact:


When added to casseroles and stews, yeast extract gives a hit of umami and saltiness. Spread a thin layer over chicken skin to heighten the savoury roast flavour, or add to cheese on toast to give delicious earthy tones.


Tangy balsamic glaze adds sweetness when drizzled on tomato salads and helps to balance the acidity. The glaze can also be used as the base for a sticky chicken marinade, or to help save an overly spicy pasta sauce.


A splash of wine will balance rich sauces, gravies and stews and give them a hint of sourness. Also, use to deglaze the pan after cooking pan-fried chicken for a tasty sauce.


The grassy notes of extra virgin olive oil make a great finishing touch to a dish. In salad dressings, it adds a hint of bitterness that complements the sourness of a lemon or a punchy mustard. Or use with tangy balsamic vinegar as a dip for crusty bread.


The richness of butter adds umami flavour to sweet, softened onions and carrots, making them a perfect base for many classic soups and casseroles.

now, try these three delicious recipes using more store cupboard stars:

Soy sauce

This Chinese condiment is great for giving veggie dishes a ‘meaty’ flavour, and adds savoury umami to Eastern-style stir-fries and marinades. Try our Sticky Soy and Chilli Tofu with Pickled Rainbow Veg


Most of us know coffee a little too well, but did you know it can be used like a ‘spice’ to intensify flavours, too? You could rub it on steak while cooking or use it in marinades. Or, add coffee to chocolate desserts to give a sweet and bitter sensation, similar to salt in caramel. Try our Coffee-Rubbed Steaks with Matchstick Fries:



Mmm delicious luscious mayonnaise... a sandwich staple and great with fries, yet it can also add a hit of umami to mashed potato which gives it a nice creamy texture, too. Or try in toasties and sauces to give a flavour boost. Try our Sherry Roast Chicken with Mayo Mash:


Inspired by these flavour combinations? Find everything you need and more at or pop into your local store