1. Flavoured olive oils
The most well-known, and perhaps overrated, is truffle oil, but there are less pricey and more interesting oils flavoured with ingredients like roasted garlic, paprika and mustard.
USE THEM: The delicate flavours of these oils are lost when cooked, so they are best drizzled over pasta, steak, steamed vegetables, roast potatoes or French fries.
TRY: Colonna Mustard Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $28.90, from The Providore; O De Oliva Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $32, from Dean & DeLuca
2. Dry Rubs
Mixtures of chopped dried herbs and spices, usually unsalted.
USE THEM: Mix with olive oil, salt and pepper as a marinade for grilled chicken, pork chops or roast beef. Let the meat stand for at least 45 minutes to infuse it with flavour. If pan- frying meats marinated with dry rubs, wipe your pan clean of charred herbs before you cook the next batch of meat.
TRY: Dean & DeLuca Herbs for Meat and Herbs for Poultry, $10.50 each, from Dean & DeLuca
3. Wet Marinades
Sweet, savoury or tangy mixes of oil, vinegar and herbs, these all-in-one marinades take just 15 minutes to infuse meat with their flavour.
USE THEM: Wrap the marinated meat in aluminium foil to bake. This keeps in the juices and flavours better than any other cooking method.
TRY: Marks & Spencer Italian Lemon + Garlic Marinade + Sauce, $6.50, from Marks & Spencer
4. Flavoured Salt
Coarse salt is mixed with dried herbs, spices, fruits, dried petals or tea leaves for a light fragrance and flavour.
USE IT: Grind it right over a steak just before searing the meat. Salts with herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano pair well with beef. Use salts with lemon, lime or chillies to season oven- baked or pan-fried fish or prawns before cooking.
TRY: Terre Exotique Diamond Salt with Grilled Spices, $18.90, from The Providore
Balsamic vinegar is a reduction of grape juice – good quality ones are usually thick and rich, with a good balance of sweet and sour. Fruity vinegars are lighter, and more crisp and tart.
USE THEM: Mix balsamic vinegar with olive oil to make a simple vinaigrette that can keep chilled for up to a week, for salads. Fruit vinegars can be added to olive oil and finely chopped lemon grass, chillies, onions, coriander and lime leaves to make a Thai seafood or salad dressing.
TRY: Sudachi Lime Rice Vinegar, $25.50, from Dean & DeLuca; Tartuflanghe Balsamic Vinegar from Modena with Black Truffle Juice, $42.90, from The Providore
6. Cooking sauces
Instant condiments to transform your dish – no need to chop and mix ingredients!
USE THEM: Marinate your meat with just salt and pepper before pan-frying or baking. Warm up the sauce separately and serve in on the side. You can add butter to make the sauce richer, or add fresh cream to thicken it.
TRY: Marks & Spencer A Terribly Clever Shallot, Thyme & Parsley Sauce Base for Chicken, $6.90, from Marks & Spencer
Not just for brekkie, no. Think onion, apple or chilli jams that add oomph to otherwise average mains.
USE THEM: Great as meat or seafood dips, salad dressing, or as a spread over toasted bread or in a burger. Pair apple jam with roast duck, onion jam with grilled pork, and chilli jam with grilled chicken or seafood. Or dice a steamed chicken fillet, duck meat or boiled prawns, chop up some greens, and mix them with the jam to make a sandwich filling.
TRY: The Providore Chilli Jam, $14.90, from The Providore
This story was first published in Simply Her October 2013.