Monday, November 20, 2006

Time to Take Stock

I'm hoping that keen cooks will already keep flour, raising agents, some herbs and spices, sugars, honey, mustard and stock cubes (to name but a few), in their cupboards. It might seem that by using what that I already have, this will be cheating. But once stocked up, I will then play two roles - the 'shopkeeper' and the 'customer', buying from myself every ingredient that is needed. This will give the true cost of each dish or meal and, at the end of the experiment, we can then find out what we need to know.

It is only fair to open my kitchen doors so that you know the type of foods I would like to keep in store. Note: I do not have all of them all the time so it is not as bad as it looks. Anyway, none are expensive until we get to the fresh produce. I'm hoping to include some foods listed to be used during the ten weeks as they can play a large part in the great scheme of things. Looking at the list it even I think it appears I am rich as Croesus affording so much, but it has all been assembled over many months through judicious shopping whilst still keeping a tight hold on my purse. Many items have a long shelf life, and when it comes to 'best before' dates, I know darn well most will be 'not-so-different' after.
Please understand that the reason I 'hoard' so much is because I like to try out new recipes, and there is nothing worse than finding out I haven't got one ingredient I need. I do remember, seeing Nigella Lawson (on TV) showing up her larder (almost a room), with so much in store I felt positively deprived.

These are my favourite storecupboard items.: baked beans, plum and chopped tomatoes, tomato puree/passata, corned beef, tuna, sardines, salmon, canned fruits, a selection of curry sauces, curry pastes, mayo, ketchup, brown sauce, a couple or so tins of condensed soups. Malt vinegar, white vinegar, pickling vinegars - all these play a major role in my cooking.

I do have things that can turn a boring, tasteless dish into something special and of course costed when used: Tabasco, soy, various chilli,Worcestershire and other sauces. Selection of 'tracklements' - mustards, mint and horseradish sauces. Pickles, redcurrant jelly, herbs and spices.
Not forgetting the basics: Custard powder (did you know that was the first convenience food?), cornflour, cocoa, tea bags, coffee. Jellies. Everything needed for cake-making. Also honey, golden syrup, treacle. Dark chocolate. Peanut butter, Bovril, Marmite. Home-made jams and marmalades.

On open shelves I have jars and containers of: red lentils, pearl barley, red beans, chickpeas, butterbeans, other beans. Stock cubes. Rice, pasta, cous-cous, burgul wheat. Dessicated coconut, flaked almonds, walnut pieces, sultanas/raisins/mixed fruits. Granulated sugar/caster/dark and light muscovados/demerara. Dried apricots, dates, porridge oats. By Xmas most of these will need reordering.

Also I will need a good supply of Plain flour, S.R. flour, white and brown bread flour and also bread mixes, semolina. I do have cornmeal (polenta), besan (chickpea flour) and rice flour, but they are not essential. Things like cans of marmalade mixes are a help. Trifle sponges are more a convenience as I could (and probably will have to) make my own.

In the fridge useful items will be: Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, thick cream, fruit yogurts, Red Leicester, mature Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese. Parmesan. Smoked streaky bacon. Chorizo sausage. Iceberg lettuce, cucumber, bell peppers of various colours, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, salad/baby potatoes. Other vegetables in season. Vacuum packed beetroot. Always celery. Seedless grapes. Milk, fruit juices. Goose fat. Butter.

On a kitchen unit I always keep a big basket full of assorted sized onions, shallots and garlic, tucked in a corner is butternut squash, white cabbage. Other baskets contain tomatoes, eggs, and when I can afford it avocados/lemons/limes/kiwi fruit. There is a small cloth sack containing large baking potatoes.
A bread bin will hold home-made loaves. A big container of porridge oats and next to it a big tin of home-assembled muesli should satisfy us for breakfast.
In the hall is always big bowl of fruit: bananas, apples, pears, bananas, oranges when at their best.

In the freezer (oh for more room) there are at the moment, boxes of red and black currants, blackberries, packs of pastry: short, puff and filo (I am no good at making pastry). Some white fish, sometimes smoked fish, tiger prawns, lamb shanks, minced beef and lamb, lamb's liver, mutton, stewing beef, diced chicken, chicken breasts, sausages, belly pork. Those free chicken winglets. Bags of peas, sweetcorn, home-cooked chickpeas, whole string beans. Ovenchips. Nuts (keep longer in the freezer), naan bread, pitta bread. Containers of home-made chicken stock.
Tip: Separate fresh sausages and open freeze before bagging up, then no need to defrost a complete pack when you only need one or two.
As long as I can keep within the £30 butchers allowance the contents would remain much the same.

Along a dark wall I keep my oils and vinegars: extra virgin, sunflower, a lighter virgin oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil. White wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic and cider vinegar.
Some will need re-ordering.
On the kitchen windowsill are pots of mint, basil and parsley, and - in the porch - I keep pots of sage, rosemary, chives and thyme. In the garden, near the back door, is a huge bush of Bay. This began in a small pot and was replanted many years ago, since then it has gone wild and needs regular pruning. None of it is thrown away, the butcher takes a load and friends and family take the surplus.
This is the time of year to sow some Lambs Lettuce and Wild Rocket which should be ready by the end of January through to March. These will also be grown on in the porch. I have already saved seeds from Butternut Squash, and tomatoes to grow on next year.