When I worked down South at the Manor, there was a huge larder/pantry just off the kitchen through a swinging door. It had an old black slate counter top to keep things cool and it's walls were lined with shelves. At the very back and around the corner there was a huge upright deep freezer and the walls were lined with shelves full of cut glass bowls and platters and copper and gilt. Next to that on the back wall, there was a huge wine rack filled with wines and liqueurs and cordials and tinctures . . .
The remaining shelves were stocked with the goods which I needed every day to create the magic in the kitchen that I worked . . . pastas, and flours, grains, tins, jars and packets. It was a veritable Aladdins cave for the keen cook. It came with a smell and an aura . . . spiced and earthy and wonderful.
We all have a larder and a pantry. It may not be a big room with slate shelves . . . it may only be a small cupboard that is set aside and reserved for those things that you deem important enough to have to hand to make the magic work in your kitchen . . . but anyplace you store the genius behind the amazing things which work their way out of your kitchen . . . is a larder/pantry. It's all a matter of perspective. Key ingredients. A dash of this and a pinch of that. Must haves. Magic wands. These are my top ten store cupboard ingredients you will never find me without.
1. An assortment of dried beans and lentils. If you make sure you always have a variety of dried beans and lentils in the house, you have the makings of a tasty soup or oven bake. I often opt to bake my own beans. I also love making lentil and bean soups. They are not only a great source of fibre, but also protein. And they will store in a dry and tightly lidded container for a long time without going off.
2. A variety of good quality dried pasta. I do like the Napolina brand best of all, but I am a bit of a pasta snob. I always, always have . . . macaroni, penne, spaghetti, fuzilli and lasagne noodles. I know that the Toddster is not overly fond of pasta, but it's a great economizer when it comes to stretching your budget and filling tummies. It's also a very adaptable ingredient, lending itself to many flavours and additions. I have been known to eat nothing but a bowl of buttered and seasoned pasta. If you have pasta in the larder . . . you have a meal.
3. A variety of jarred sauces for pasta. I am a bit of a snob here as well and have my favourites. I really like the Napolina best of all and Loyd Grossman is nice as well as Sacla. I also like Dolmio. I stock up whenever these jarred sauces are on offer. They come in handy for all sorts. Even if it is just to heat them up and dump them onto some boiled pasta when you are in a rush. We don't always have the time to do things from scratch and a good pasta sauce comes in really handy then!
4. A variety of cooking oils and olive oil. I stock a good quality extra virgin for using in salads and dipping, a milder variety for cooking with, a good quality sunflower oil and peanut and sesame oils for frying and stir fries. Oil is also something which hardly ever goes off. Do be warned however that nut oils will go off, so if you buy something like walnut oil, refrigerate it.
5. Good quality sea salt and pepper corns. Whole, flaked and ground. It's salt and pepper, but if you pay a bit more you get unadulterated salt and pepper from wholesome sources.
6. Tinned tomatoes and tomato products. These have to be one of the most versatile of kitchen store cupboard ingredients. Keep the best tinned tomatoes your money can buy. Chopped plum in juice, whole plum, sieved (Passata) and best quality tomato puree (Tomato paste). I also like to keep a good quality mi-cuit tomato (moister, juicier and richer in flavour than sun dried.) I always have tons of tinned tomatoes in my larder and have been known to sit down to just a bowl of chilled tomatoes, garnished simply with some flaked sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper along with a piece of buttered bread for my tea. Delicious!
7. Tinned Tuna and Salmon. I am a snob here as well. I always opt for top quality. I remember an old Italian woman stopping me in the grocery store one time and telling me not to ever buy anything but albacore tuna. She said the rest was garbage. She was right. I know it costs more, but it's worth every penny. I always have several tins of good quality albacore tuna packed in olive oil for those times when you are longing for a simple supper of a salad or a some of it spread onto sourdough toast. Same with Salmon. Great for using in casseroles and fish cakes as well.
8. Vinegar. I keep a variety of good quality vinegars on hand at all times. A good red wine and white wine. A best quality Balsamico di Modeno, for dipping and special things. A medium quality Balsamic for everything else. Raspberry and Tarragon Vinegars, a good quality Apple Cider vinegar and a good quality Sherry Vinegar. I also keep a bottle of Rice Wine Vinegar for my occasional foray's into Chinese cuisine.
9. Soy Sauce. I have several kinds. A sweet thick asian one called Kejap Manis. A quality fermented one (Kikkoman) which I keep in the fridge once it's opened, and which I use for sprinkling and in salads . . . along with both a dark and a light one for cooking with and marinating.
10. Tomato ketchup. Yes, I am a ketchup snob also. I like Heinz. To me there are no other kinds. I know the difference. I like the Heinz best and I always have a bottle of it in the cupboard. I use it in soups and stews and gravies and casseroles . . . and I love it on my chips. It's another must.
So what are your storecupboard favourites? What are the top ten things you just couldn't live without? T make choosing them a bit more fun and to be in for the chance to win the nation's top 10 ultimate store cupboard products when the results are in, pop on over to Tombola and fill out the survey. One person who fills in the survey will be winning a hamper containing the nation's top 10 for themselves.
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1. The "Prize Draw" is open to people aged 18 and over who provide their email address after completing the survey.
2. Entrants into the Prize Draw shall be deemed to have accepted these Terms and Conditions.
3. To enter the Prize Draw you must complete the Ultimate Store Cupboard.