Tuesday’s Top Five (on Wednesday) – Favourite new ingredients

In my attempt at decluttering I’ve been going through my collection of old cooking/food magazines and one thing that caught my eye was the little survey of must-haves in the pantry.  You know, the items that you always have on hand to whip up a quick meal, snack or anti-pasta plate.  It got me thinking about what my must-haves are and I realised that my pantry supply has changes considerably in recent times especially since really getting into the growing of vegetables.  So here are my top five must have ingredients:

1. Goat’s milk cheese/feta
We’ve always been into feta and actually all sort of cheese, but I recently discovered goat’s milk cheese and feta.  It’s delicious, salty, creamy and moreish.  I especially like this in salads with beetroot, salad leaves, crispy pancetta and walnuts with a dressing of walnut oil and red wine vinegar.  I also added it to a gnocchi dish (I’ll post about that later) and it went all gorgeous and oozy when warmed up a little.

2. Anchovies
I never thought I would be writing about my love of these salty little fish, I HATED them and who could blame me as I’d only ever had the dry, fishy salt-balls found on pizzas – YUK! Then I started stumbling across more and more recipes calling for anchovy fillets.  At first I left them out and just seasoned with salt and pepper, then I got brave, bought a jar of them and gave them ago.  When added to a dish while cooking they simply dissolve, adding a wonderful saltiness to the dish, but without the fishy taste.  Since then I’ve gotten even more brave and add them to salad dressings without cooking them.  I now make a great caesar salad dressing with Dijon mustard (beats the hell out of the stuff in the jar) and Jamie Oliver’s Tuscon Bread Salad with ciabatta, tomatoes, roasted red capsicum, basil, capers and anchovies.

3. Chickpeas
Last week’s Top Five post on recipe books made me realise just how many meat-free or mainly vegetable dishes we now eat (almost all the recipes that I mentioned in my most used books were vegetarian despite me claiming we were meat lovers).  I’ve started ensuring that I always have a can of chickpeas (as well as lentils – canned and dried) in the pantry.  They’re fantastic to bulk up a pasta or salad making what might have been a side dish otherwise into a main in it’s own right.  I love the nutty flavour of chickpeas and the versatility of them makes them a valuable addition to my shopping.

4. Dried Beans (currently borlotti, but others have also been tried)
The one problem with dried beans is they need soaking and usually slow cooking to give them time to soften, but they are super cheap, healthy and when cooked well have great texture.  I have used tinned beans in the past, but even with rinsing I find them a bit salty tasting and can become too soft with slow cooking.  My favourite way to use dried beans is in Stephanie Alexander’s baked beans recipe, it takes about four hours to cook and you wouldn’t want to do it on a hot day, running the oven for that long would make the house unbearable, but the effort is well worth it.  I make a big batch in my cast iron pot and then freeze it in portions.  Both the girls love this dish on it’s own, but it can also be used to fill tacos or burritos with salad, adjusted to make a meat-free chilli con carne or served as a side dish with a Sunday brunch.

5. Tortillas or other flat breads
Obviously these are perfect when you’re going through a quesadilla craze (as we currently are) but they have so many other uses.  Filled with sandwich fillings (even just peanut butter or vegemite) they make a more toddler-friendly sized lunch than a sandwich made with bread – if that is, you have a two year old with a very small appetite – and there’s no crust to cut off.  You can add some herbs or spices and a little olive oil and toast them under the grill until crispy for home made chips/dippers.

So that’s my top five favourite ingredients (for the moment anyway).  What are your must have pantry or fridge fillers? I’d hate to be missing out on some inspirational or essential item that I haven’t yet discovered.

Forgot to add, I’m piggy-backing on Liz’s theme so check out her Tuesday Top 5 post here.

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13 Responses to Tuesday’s Top Five (on Wednesday) – Favourite new ingredients

  1. I made bean burgers as my Tuesday Vego Challenge recipe this week, from home grown beans. I usually try to grow enough to store several big jars full for winter, and when I have the wood stove going often make Stephanie’s Baked Beans – or something similar – I can’t often get free range pork. It’s a great recipe. With a jar of beans available, and a vegie garden, you can conjure a meal out of nothing.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I’ll be having a look at your bean burger recipe Linda and growing beans to dry sounds fantastic. This has been the first year I’ve managed to grow green beans successfully so I’m now thinking next year I should try some different varieties. I’ll be checking out some beans for drying definitely.

  2. Alison says:

    Alas, my top five simply reveal our non-adult (or ‘non-parental’) cooking habits, and possibly the fact that we’re each out at least two evenings a week. These are mostly substitutes for time!
    1. Canned tomatoes – cooked pasta, this, zucchini/carrots and garden herbs in the pan = instant meal!
    2. Indo Mei Mi Goreng noodles – for desperate times, just in case
    3. Eggs – may be a bit ‘no doy’ but for french toast/omlette in the sandwich maker it’s a healthy and quick meal
    4. Bread in the ‘frozen pantry’ – because we’re not home enough to have fresh bread that won’t go mouldy, it’s important for us to have bread in the freezer (some raisin toast doesn’t go astray either).
    5. For S.O.: Chick peas and Sweet chilli sauce – He loves the former (too gritty for me) and has the latter with any toasted sanga.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Oh canned tomatoes are a given around here Alison. I try to get to the Ardmona outlet in Ballarat on my way to or from home so I can buy them by the dozen (several at a time!) And every parent I think has a ready supply of eggs for a super quick meal (scrambly eggs or humpty dumpty eggs) when all hell breaks loose in the late afternoon. Mr Good is a def sweet chilli toasted sanga fan too. As for bread in the freezer, we go through it so quickly I need at least two loaves a week so it usually doesn’t make it to the freezer, though I do make Mr Good sandwiches for work which I freeze.

  3. I have always loved anchovies – even the salty fish balls on pizza ;p Cheese is essential for me too – P always jokes about how many different types I keep in the fridge, but I love them all ( especially feta and haloumi).
    Other things I can’t get by without are capers, wholegrain mustard, and dried risoni pasta – I make so many warm and cold salads with it. Canned tomatoes are a given.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Is there anything better than cheese L? Haloumi isn’t something I’ve gotten into, but plan to give it a go soon. Mr Good loves it grilled when we eat out at a Greek restaurant, so it should be a winner for him at least.

      I like all your other suggestions too and all of them in the pantry, though I’m the mustard fan rather than the rest of the family so have to use this a bit more sparingly. I have a fabulous lamb, feta and risoni bake recipe that I make, and also love it in soups.

  4. Liz says:

    Funnily enough I was going to do this as a Top 5 too at some point, now I’m debating about whether to do it next week or wait awhile…pros & cons for either…. Anyway my vote is alarmingly similar to L’s feta and haloumi, mustard, but I’d also add garam masala, Zaatar and a really nice extra virgin olive oil. Oh and lentils, and beans, and, and, and, and…..How do you make your caesar dressing? It sounds nice3 and I have Cos at the moment.

    • I had to look up Zaatar – I’d never even heard of it. Reading one of your posts this week about garam masala has now shamed me into acquiring some fresh stuff. I hate to think how long my current lot has been sitting in the jar. Why can’t I taste the fact that it is old? I seriously need an Indian food education!

      I want your dressing recipe too Barbara, but more so the pasta bake one. Would you believe that I’ve never actually made a pasta bake? My mother never cooked them and my MIL did them to death. After 12 years of marriage P might have gotten over it, so might let me attempt a good one 🙂

      • Liz says:

        My personal view on spices is that they just lose their potency and aroma rather than change flavour too much per se. If you leave them long enough you can barely taste them at all……In defence of your palate if you bought the garam masala already ground and mixed then chances are it has lost a lot of its oomph before you even brought it home so there may not have been much of a difference to notice. If you grind your own I think yoú’ll see what I mean. If you cant tell the difference please feel free to write me off as a pretensious foodie.
        On zaatar – If you have a place near you that Lebanese pizza get a zaatar pizza – its fabulous!!! Barbara Good – if you haven’t been to Al Alemy in Coburg to eat their zaatar pizza I highly recommend it.

  5. Barbara Good says:

    Duly noted Liz, I shall check them out at the next opportunity. Have you tried the Lebanese pizza place on Edward St, Reservoir. They are very nice, I’ll see if they have a zaatar pizza there too.

  6. Victoria Clyne says:

    Ok, so I’ve putting a lot of thought into my and it’s not really five individual things and they don’t all belong in the pantry, but hey it’s my list, so here goes.

    1) Garlic, onion and ginger, I can’t tell you how many meals I start by sauting these three items, I’ve been out of ginger lately and missing it badly. I do a lot of Asian style cooking so these are the first three ingredients for my flavour base. Garlic and onion are also great as the start of a flavour base for lots of other styles of cooking.
    2) Eggs, I agree with Alison and Barbara, eggs are a must. They are great to have on hand for breakfast, lunch or dinner (I subscribe to the thought that breakfast egg dishes can be served for any meal). They are also essential for so many more dishes, baking etc.
    3) Couscous, this is my quick standby. I freeze a lot of foods and if I’m in a hurry I substitute couscous for rice. It’s also great for a quick yet filling salad. I usually throw it into a bowl add double the amount of boiled water as couscous and cover with a teatowel and leave for 3-5 minutes. If I want to flavour the couscous I stir through sun-dried tomato pesto.
    4) Something sour, this could be lemon, lime or something more exotic like tamarind paste. I love food that is sour with a touch of sweet. Sometimes I make a sour sauce and then cook fish or chicken in the sauce wrapped in baking paper and tin foil and bake in the oven. And yes I use garlic, onion and ginger as the start of the sauce. Lemon is also a must for crepes. And I love making (and eating) lemon or passionfruit curd (butter). Lemon and lime are also great flavours for desserts and cakes.
    5) I couldn’t decide on what to put in at number five. Again I agree with Alison and Barbara, I always have at least one can of tomotos in the cupboard, very useful for pasta sauces, baked beans etc. I also usually have a can of coconut milk in the pantry as I frequently cook curries and chocolate in the fride (no need to explain here). I also don’t like starting the day without a bowl of museli with yoghurt and fruit. I’m sorry but I just couldn’t decide between these must have but very different ingredients.

  7. Pingback: Top 5 – Salads to eat on Australia Day | Suburban Tomato

  8. Pingback: Top 5 – Pantry items for the Kitchen Gardener | Suburban Tomato

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