“I do not stick to rules when cooking. I rely on my imagination.”
A Few of My Faves… Or… How I Plan my Pantry!
I am addicted to cookbooks. I suspect it’s actually a problem. I also am quite certain that there are no 12 step programs for such a beautiful addiction so I’m safe.
One of the things I enjoy most about this little cookbook problem of mine is that I have a pantry list for almost any cuisine for which there is an associated book written. Most (read:the best) of them prepares you to deal with whatever fabulous style of cooking you’ve recently become enamoured of with a “boy scout” list. Sort of makes sense really. I mean how can you be expected to make a perfect Moroccan tagine if you don’t have any Ras El Hanout!
And so taking the lead of these cookbooks which I so admire, I thought I might make a “Perfect Pantry” list for you. I would like to offer you suggestions for a basic pantry. I won’t include a “Baking Pantry” in this post… I think it might need a post of its very own… maybe when we aren’t all a little sick of sweet stuff 🙂
Let’s start with some obvious spices shall we…
- Salt & Pepper is obvious so let’s kick it up a notch and include kosher salt, sea salt and whole peppercorns (assorted colours would be nice!) for always fresh ground flavour.
- Allspice, cinnamon and white pepper which as you know combine to make Syrian Pepper
- Thyme, oregano, tarragon & mint are always useful in a number of recipes and can change the flavour profile of dishes with ease.
- Chilli pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom & bay leaves are always useful
- Nutmeg, ginger, cloves, dry mustard & both chilli & curry powder definitely
- and of course, celery salt if Caesars are your thing 🙂
I won’t recommend more than this for the essentials as spices do go stale and more quickly than you might think. If you buy that big jar of garam masala but only plan on using it once a year you might want to reconsider. I really like the Bulk Barn (or those like it!) for cuisine specific spices as you can buy them in reasonable sized quantities. And as a side note, you won’t have to do that massive purging of your spice cupboard every year or so!
So next let’s move over to the cupboard with tinned and dry goods…
- Tinned tomatoes (including tomato paste) are essential and so useful for last minute soups and sauces… excellent quality tinned tomatoes would be even better… short of fresh in season of course!
- Tinned kidney beans, chick peas, white kidney beans, broad beans & lentils and if you’re into it then the dried versions of these beans are even better… soaking doesn’t really take that long but I will admit that it’s not always convenient when you’re looking for something quickly.
- Rices… my go to is almost ALWAYS brown long grain except when I make Syrian Rice in which case I use white long grain. I also always have an assortment of wild, carnaroli or arborio, basmati & jasmine rice. It keeps… go crazy!
- Pasta… assorted shapes. Brown rice pasta is my first choice but I do keep whole wheat and white pasta on hand as well so that I’m ready for any sized group.
- Chicken, beef & vegetable broth. Of course making your own is always best but not always realistic and so I like to have Campbell’s tetra pack at the ready… they make full salt, 30% reduced and no salt versions.
There are so very many choices available in the area of Oils and Acids… and honestly possibly my favourite area to discuss.
- Olive oil is painfully obvious, both regular and extra virgin, but perhaps levels of olive oil is worth discussing. I wrote a brief article on the that very subject and if you would like to hear all about how obsessed I am with it pop on over here…
- Safflower and/or canola oil are always great to have on hand as mild flavoured counterparts. Useful too when cutting the stronger taste of olive oil is preferred, and of course for baking.
- Grapeseed oil has a wonderful flavour, emulsifies well and has a high smoke point.
- Lemon juice, horseradish & capers… Oh! My!
- Tabasco (or other hot sauce of preference) & Worcestershire sauce
- Red wine, white wine, and cider vinegar are essential each with their own distinctive flavour.
- Balsamic vinegar is a gift from the heavens and comes in a plethora of flavours. Quality as with olive oils really does make a difference here and well worth the price.
- Mustards are so many and varied that I could literally go on for hours… and I might given the opportunity: I ADORE mustard! Let’s say start definitely with yellow, dijon and a country style and I’m really having to control myself by not including nice wasabi mustard and a white wine mustard to name just two of my faves!
And finally, after much debating with myself over the matter, I‘ve decided that I would be remiss if I didn’t include Garlic & Onions (fresh of course)! Now I realize that technically they are not pantry items per se, however they keep well when stored correctly, meaning NOT in the fridge but rather a cool, dark place, and there are very few things they can’t improve! Consider the humble tin of tomatoes, enhanced with some garlic and onion sauteed in a gorgeous olive oil and finally a tiny drizzle of balsamic… Perfection and ready in less than 10 minutes!
With this pantry and a freezer full of veg or fresh produce when in season, herbs and other perishables like eggs, fruit and protein and you’re all set. All you need after that is a little imagination!
Enjoy & Namaste!