Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Essentials: How does your pantry compare?

In The Age today, foodie Charlotte Wood revealed the staple ingredients contained within her pantry. Naturally, whilst reading it I was mentally comparing each necessity to my own kitchen stores. Here's my take on Charlotte's list:


Currants, dried cranberries - For me these only make an appearance in the pre-Christmas months when I stock up with the intention of baking a pudding and a couple of boozy fruitcakes. Rarely eventuates. Generally end up moth-riddled or I open the packet and add to batches of muesli and nibble on the rest while standing in the pantry trying to remember what I went in there for.

My staple equivalent: The currant and cranberry's boring, ubiquitous cousin, the sultana. A must for the mothers of toddlers, mostly found squashed at the bottom of every nappy and school bag.

Stock - Agree that cubes/powder are a guilty but necessary staple. I try to make a stock with the carcass of the roast, but to be honest, we just don't have enough roasts to keep up with every second recipe calling for stock.

Spices - Yes, yes, yes. Especially the Indian varieties. Agree that whole spices are the bomb compared to the pre-ground version - although both have their place (and some nights even the prospect of spending an extra two minutes bashing away at the mortar and pestle is just to difficult).

Lentils, dried - I really wish I was lentil-savvy, but I ain't. I found a dog-eared copy of 'Cooking with Kurma' at one of my local op-shops about 6 months ago and hoped it would kick-start the lentil-phase of my culinary efforts. Not so. The whole soaking thing eludes me and all I can think of is a bad tummy-ache should I get it wrong.....

My staple equivalent: baked beans. At my husband's insistence. Apparently every home needs 'em.

Quinoa - Coincidentally, this month's Donna Hay magazine has a little section on quinoa which, for the first time, actually got me enthused about this mysterious little seed. Hence, her beef, oregano and tomato meatballs with quinoa are on my menu this week.

My staple equivalent: Rice. Arborio, basmati, jasmine. Tick, tick, tick.

Capers and anchovies - Agreed. Especially the anchovies. A spag bol isn't the same without 3 or 4 anchovies added at the beginning. I would add cornichons, a must for stroganoff.

Chickpeas, cannellini beans and lentils, canned - Agreed. Come winter in particular, these are needed several times weekly for soups and casseroles. And a homemade hommus is like no other.

Red wine, balsamic and raspberry vinegar - Yes, yes and no. Substitute raspberry for the good ol' plain variety - a cleaning must.

Dijon mustard - For steak, sandwiches and mayonnaise. All three together is a dijon dream.


Chorizo - Sometimes I buy these and stash in the freezer when I have hazy ideas of spanish baked beans for breakfast in the future. Mostly absent.

My staple equivalent: Sausages. Good quality pork or beef, natural casings. For lazy weekend fry ups and kids dinners.

Butter - Ohhhhh, yes.

Bacon - Pretty much a necessity. I should think like Charlotte and keep half a kilo in the freezer at all times. Unfortunately I make the mistake of parking it in the fridge instead and it just disappears....

Parmesan rinds - Sadly, we are not posh enough to be the type to buy our Parm cut from the round, thereby denying us the opportunity to stockpile said rinds. Prepackaged block Parmesan is our choice at the checkout, rindless.

My staple equivalent - Grated mozz and cheddar. For pizzas and potato bakes. Sometimes we even posh it up a bit by mixing with Parmesan....

Pine nuts, hazelnuts, slivered almonds, walnuts, pistachios - Slivered almonds only, for Indian curries and muesli. The others don't get called for enough and the moths have a field day...

Almond meal - Again with the moths. I just buy it when I need it.

My staple equivalent: Nope. Don't have one.

Chicken stock - Didn't we cover this at the beginning with 'stock'?

Breadcrumbs - Yes, when we are into chicken schnitzels (which, by the way, I maintain are far superior when made with the thigh than the breast). When schnitzels are not in favour, the moths, again, get busy.

Frozen peas - Hello? We have a three and one year old. Duh....

The Fridge

Carrots, celery, onions - Agree on all three. My three year old is a slave to the carrot and will eat them any way, particularly raw. Celery and onions are also a staple, due to the number of risotto's, casseroles and stirfries whipped up in our kitchen.

Pomegranate honey - Puhlease. Really?

My staple equivalent: Er, honey. Okay, organic honey. Fancy enough?

Thick, Greek-style, creamy yogurt - Totally agree. I cannot eat any other type. I love the tang of natural yogurt and am using it regularly in curries and as a healthier, zestier alternative to sour cream.

The Bench

Olive oil - Like Charlotte, I am a dedicated consumer of Aussie extra virgin olive oil. It is proven to be the best in the world. Preferred supermarket brand is Cobram Estate in big cans.

Salt - Yes, Murray River pink salt flakes are definitely the best. Maldon Sea Salt? It's okay, I suppose....

Garlic - Australian, of course. Homegrown is best, naturally. Charlotte, I feel your pain buying the imported stuff....

At least one orange and two lemons - No on the oranges. Buy them only as needed, or, if we've been visiting our parents, we will often return home with a milk crate loaded with oranges from my dad's ridiculously prolific tree which we juice. The lemons are taken care of by our own tree, which is also fairly prolific.

Tomatoes - In summer our kitchen has that heady, green smell of gorgeous homegrown tomatoes in various bowls around the kitchen at various levels of ripeness. In winter I resent buying the pseudo-tomatoes presented by our supermarkets and try to locate Murray Bridge grown fruit at the market.

Woody perennial herbs - Always got them growing like Topsy just outside the backdoor - rosemary, thyme and bay. A definite staple.

Soft annual herbs - Again the garden delivers on these. Parsley, sage, chives, oregano, mint, tarragon, basil mint, and in spring and summer, basil and coriander. We are spoilt.

Curry leaves - Dried ones in the pantry, I'm afraid. Must get one into the garden...

Leaves - Like Charlotte, we plant and use a lot of leaves, be they of the lettuce, spinach, Asian green or cabbage-type. There is no end to uses, and the lettuce, spinach and Asian greens are especially successful in our garden.

Whew! That's the lot. How does your pantry compare?

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