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These 10 ingredients are Rachel’s key to delicious, healthy meals at home

Rachel Dare inside Organico Cafe making a coffee at the espresso machine

When cooking is your full-time job, you want simple, healthy meals at home that are just as nourishing as they are delicious. Rachel Dare, the natural foods chef who runs Organico Cafe, has figured out which ingredients fuel her creativity while also satisfying her desire for a more plant-based diet. She shares with us the 10 ingredients she always keeps in her home kitchen, and gives us great ideas for using them in our own kitchens...

1. Clearspring Organic Japanese Yaemon Tamari

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Why she likes it:

‘I love the flavour of this tamari—I sometimes reach for it before adding salt to foods. Also, I have lots of friends who are gluten-free, so I naturally find myself gravitating toward gluten-free foods. The tamari is strong, so you have to be careful with how much you add. Almost everything I cook ends up with a few drops added, either when I’m first seasoning the dish, or stirred in at the very end. Clearspring recently changed the name of this tamari to Yaemon, which is the family name of the creators of tamari in Japan. It’s a testament to its quality that they’re allowed to use the name.’

How she uses it:

‘In any lentil dish—I make a lot of dhals and I’ll use tamari as a seasoning just before serving, after adding a little salt at the beginning of cooking and letting all the flavours develop. I also use it for Hannah’s recipe for tamari toasted seeds (available here) which I always have in a jar at home, ready to sprinkle over lots of dishes including salads and stews. The seeds are great because I will eat less crips if they’re hanging around!’

2. Honest Toil Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

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Why she likes it:

‘This is an excellent cold-pressed, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil from Greece. The producers work to support small-scale farmers and pay a fair wage, so you know that more of your money ends up where it should. The oil has a good peppery taste and a lovely grassy punch to it.’

How she uses it:

‘I wouldn’t roast with this olive oil—it’s too lovely for that. I use it for sautéeing or drizzling on foods just before serving. It’s perfect for salad dressings, or for replacing a small amount of the flavourless oil in your mayo recipe—that makes for something really special.’

3. Clearspring Barley Miso

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Why she likes it:

‘I have many types of miso in my kitchen, but I get a lot of use out of barley miso. It has a slightly lighter flavor than some of the darker misos and a lot of complexity. And like all the Clearspring misos you can buy in jars, it’s fermented and unpasteurised so it contains lots of good bacteria.'

How she uses it:

‘I love it in a simple miso soup with lots of veg, it makes such a delicious broth. It’s great in salad dressings and goes so well with roasted veg.’

4. Meridian Almond Butter

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Why she likes it:

‘Normally, I aim for organic nut butters, but in my mind, there just isn’t one that matches this. Meridian roasts the almonds which develops the most amazing rich toasted flavour. It’s very simple, just 100% almonds—no salt, no sugar, nothing added.’

How she uses it:

‘I use almond butter in raw desserts, like the sugar-free raw balls in the cafe, where it’s mixed with dates, almonds, seeds, and cacao. I love a spoonful of it on porridge. I make this porridge that I serve with bananas that I slice lengthwise and caramelize in a frying pan with Biona’s coconut butter. Then I stir in cacao nibs and top with almond butter—who knew porridge could be so decadent?’

5. Your Nature Organic Buckwheat Pasta

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Why she likes it:

‘In trying to cut down my wheat-intake, I’ve tested all different types of gluten-free pasta in the shop, and this one remains my favourite. In fact, it’s a hit with everyone who’s tried it in the shop. It has a lovely nuttiness and a little bit of chew, and it holds its texture nicely. I can eat a bowl of this and it feels really light.’

How she uses it:

‘I regularly make a lentil Bolognese that suits the buckwheat pasta. I also make a simple pasta dish with Sally Barnes smoked tuna, black olives, red onions, lemon zest, maybe some kale or chard stirred in—that’s really good.’

6. Organic White and Whole Spelt Flours

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Why she likes it:

‘Organic spelt flour is my go-to flour for everything, although it’s not gluten free both my partner and I find it much easier to digest. If I’m making a white sauce or thickening something, it’s interchangeable with plain flour. For cake or bread baking, the recipe may need to be altered slightly but most of the time, especially with sweet recipes, it works to swap out regular flour with spelt.’

How she uses it:

‘If I’m not coming into work, I’ll make a spelt sourdough at home so there’s always a loaf of bread around. I also make savoury spelt scones that have mustard powder, smoked Ballinrostig cheese, chives, and nori flakes. They’re amazing and the spelt works so well in them.’

7. Red Lentils

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Why she likes them:

‘I keep a variety of lentils in my kitchen and I love them all, so I couldn’t possibly choose just one favourite. However with red lentils, they are inexpensive, easy to find anywhere, versatile, and so quick; you can have them cooked in 15 minutes.’

How she uses them:

‘In the cafe, they’re the lentil we use the most to build bases for soups and dhals. That includes our Sri Lankan Dhal, one of our most popular soups that we’ve been making now for eight or nine years. That’s thanks to a friend who visited Sri Lanka and brought me back a kilogram of the spice blend! I’ve also been playing around with a red lentil hummus that’s an alternative to chickpeas. They just blend into this lovely smooth paste. All the other ingredients are exactly the same, it just needs a little bit more garlic and lemon juice.’

8. Pumpkin Seeds

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Why she likes them:

‘I nearly always have a mixture of pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds hanging about. I usually have a small amount of seeds in at least two meals a day. I enjoy the fact that they’re tasty and so healthy. In the shop, we have these Europeaen-grown pumpkin seeds. They’re massive with this lovely green colour, and they toast so well.’

How she uses them:

‘Pumpkin seeds are great in any kind of veggie burger, but I especially like them with butternut and black bean burgers. I’ll blitz the seeds in a spice grinder so they make a nice coating for the burger that crisps up when cooked. I’ve found that for beetroot burgers, sesame seeds look and taste great. Aside from that, I’ll eat the tamari seeds as a snack, or scatter a toasted mixture over salads, soups, even pasta bakes. They add that extra bit of satisfying crunch.’

9. Organic Quinoa

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Why she likes it:

‘Quinoa is great to have around. It cooks quickly, and it fills outs anything it’s added to, such as soups or stews, and gives the dish more depth and texture. It contains all the essential amino acids, so it’s brilliant for people who are starting to replace meat in their diet and looking for other forms of protein. When my sister and baby nephew visited recently, I added pre-cooked quinoa to a soup I had made, so it became something he could eat with us as he goes through baby-led weaning.’

How she uses it:

‘It’s so important to give quinoa a thorough wash to remove its bitter flavour. On its own it's really neutral, which makes it perfect for adding to other foods. Besides adding it to soups, stews, and chilis, I use a small amount in the lentil Bolognese I make for pasta.’

10. Organic Tinned Tomatoes

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Why she likes them:

‘I tend to get a little bit nervous if I don’t have a few tins of tomatoes in my kitchen—they’re key to so many meals I make. I choose chopped tomatoes instead of whole so I can just pop them straight in. I like these better than passata for curry or stew, when you want more of a body.’

How she uses them:

‘They’re great for any kind of tomato soup. I use them in chili, lentil Bolognese, they’re lovely in dhal. I generally follow up with a little bit of tomato paste—the kind in a jam jar, the toothpaste tubes drive me mad with all the waste! If I use the tinned tomatoes on their own, I’ll just cook the dish a bit longer to reduce the liquid and get the same concentrated intensity that tomato paste adds.’

See more of Rachel's recipes:

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