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.
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.
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.