Balsamic vinegar


Dried Breadcrumbs

Put some pieces of two-or-three-day old good white bread in a food processor and whiz until the bread is reduced to fine crumbs, then spread them on a baking tray and bake in a warm oven (150°C/300°F/gas mark 2) until golden (not brown), about 10–20 minutes. Store in a jar in the freezer and use as required.


Olive Oil

Buy in small quantities, keep in a cool place and use quickly, as light and air will gradually affect the taste.

Provence in France and Lucca in Italy are renowned for the best olive oils but Greece and Spain produce popular oils too.

Italian is warm and peppery and nutty in flavour, Provence is fruity, Spanish is aromatic and fruity with a strong olive taste, and Greek is fresh and grassy and has a heavy texture.


Extra virgin olive oil

Is made from the first cold pressing of the oil and as a result has a distinct fruity flavour. A blended extra virgin oil has a standard flavour which can be relied on. Extra virgin olive oils from single estates (like wine) are expensive and vary in flavour from year to year. Use extra virgin from central Italy for salads, grilling or roasting vegetables and to add to soups or sauces at the end of cooking.

Also for making a vinaigrette. When whisking by hand add the oil to the vinegar slowly to produce a thicker emulsion and add Dijon-style mustards or 1 tablespoon of natural yogurt or double cream to the oil and vinegar blend to stabilize it.


Pure olive oil

Is a blend of extra virgin olive oil and refined olive oil and has a milder flavour than extra virgin. It is refined chemically. Use for shallow frying, sautéing and roasting.


Plain olive oil

For lengthy cooking or pan-frying.



When marinading meat use a full-bodied extra virgin oil, but for fish and poultry use a lighter virgin oil.



Olive oil has a low smoking point, so avoid using for deep-frying.


Mascarpone Cheese

A rich, fresh cheese with the texture of thick whipped cream.


Mozzarella Cheese

Bland and soft in texture. It can be chopped, grated or sliced.


Parmesan Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano. Buy in one piece and grate as needed. Store in the fridge wrapped in cling film and then foil.



Similar in style to Parmesan but made from ewe’s milk and cheaper to buy.



See ‘Cooking with Pasta’


Polenta (cornmeal)

Instant polenta cuts the cooking time to 1 minute.



Risotto rice. There are three varieties; two superfine varieties of carnaroli and arborio and the fine variety vialone nano. The fine variety goes better with vegetables and fish, while superfine with meaty risottos.