Food & Drink

Inside Chefs' Cupboards: Josh Katz and the ingredients he can't live without

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Chris Sayer
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The first of a new series in which we take a sneak peek into the home cupboards of culinary geniuses and discover the shelf staples they make sure are always within reach

We’re going to go out on a limb and say, without ever having stepped into your home, that you too have a little jar of cumin seeds at the back of your kitchen cupboard that’s a good, ooooh, eight years out of date. And a little thing of smoked paprika that you could probably make about a thousand quid from because it’s from the nineties and god knows that anything from the nineties or even looks like it’s from the nineties is now worth about a thousand quid. We’re going to say this confidently with 100 percent bet-your-mother-on-it certainty, because we’re exactly the same. 

It’s why, over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking to rectify this by taking a little peep inside the home kitchen cupboards of some of the UK’s biggest, smartest and coolest chefs. Rounding up the go-to shelf staples they make sure are always within reach, and what you too should be keeping a steady supply of.

First up, it’s Josh Katz, chef and co-owner of Haggerston’s super-ace middle-eastern grillhouse Berber and Q, whose glorious line-up miiiight be the push you need to throw away that antiquated oregano and pre-war tin of tuna… 

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1. Anchovies

“These boys pack a real deep, salty punch. My girlfriend says she can’t stand them, but when I pulp them in a pestle and mortar and fold them through a sauce, such as a tapenade to go with lamb, she loves it. And she never has to know…”

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2. Red chillies

“Chillies are critical in all my cooking. I’m a sucker for a Scotch bonnet and a bird’s eye.”

3. Date syrup

“There’s a dark depth and sweetness that makes it a perfect alternative to a barbecue sauce. I like to finish a smoked short-rib with a glaze of this.”

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4. Cumin

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“My favourite of all the spices. I almost use it like salt – it goes into everything. You cannot, cannot, make hummus without cumin.”

5. Pul biber

“Say you’re cooking for a date for the first time, and want to add some spice but haven’t yet gauged how much heat they can handle. Pul biber’s your guy. It’s a dried red pepper flake that’s a little lighter on the heat than chilli flakes, and a safer bet.”

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6. Tahini

“This is my ketchup. I’m yet to find a protein that this doesn’t improve – roast lamb, barbecue chicken, anything. Tahini with lemon, garlic and a splash of water makes an amazing sauce.”

7. Preserved lemons

“These have an unusual saltiness and acidity thing going on that’s difficult to find in anything else, and is a perfect match for fish and chicken.”

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8. Harissa 

“Want to bring some heat to a dish? I always go for harissa. I look for a slightly chunkier one with a deep, rich red colour – that tells me it’s not been heavily processed.”

9. Pomegranate Molasses 

“Think of it as a Middle-Eastern equivalent to balsamic vinegar. It’s sharp and sweet and sour and salty, so hits all your taste spots. It’s my must-have for any salad or mezze dressing.”

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10. Biber Salcasi

“I use it in place of tomato purée. It’s a red-pepper paste with the power to take your spaghetti bolognese up a level.”