Liz at Suburban Tomato did a post recently of Top 5 – Pantry items for the Kitchen Gardener. I was going to comment, but hard as I tried, I couldn’t get anywhere near down to five.
But it did inspire me to start thinking: what are the pantry staples that I’d really want to have on hand if someone called me into a challenge like Fiona’s recent one (that I followed avidly) on Inner Pickle?
- Salt: Number one would have to be salt. You can see why it was such a valued trade item. I don’t use a lot of salt, certainly nothing like the amounts that are in processed foods. But a bit is essential for healthy eating, and very essential for happy eating.
- Bakers Flour: Number two is bread making flour, for bread and crispbread and pasta. I buy Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour in 5 kg bags at the local supermarket. I guess I’m showing my culinary heritage there!
- Wholemeal plain flour: for mixing with the baker’s flour to make the heavy, grainy bread we like, but also for making pies and cakes and biscuits. I buy Kialla organic wholemeal flour in bulk from the local wholefoods shop. It comes from just outside my 100 mile zone.
- Oh, and baking powder to go with it to make self raising flour .
- Oats: If I had to choose just one form, it would be steel cut or groats, for porridge but also for biscuits and baking and bread and risotto. If I didn’t have to choose just one, I’d have rolled oats too. I have tried growing oats – bandicoot varieties so that processing wouldn’t be prohibitive, but I haven’t really cracked it yet. In bulk from the local wholefoods shop.
- Milk powder, ideally both skim and full cream. One day we might get back into having milking goats, or a shared cow. We don’t use a lot of milk, but with powdered milk I could make yoghurt and labne and cottage cheese, which opens up a big range.
- Olive oil: Good, extra virgin olive oil. Not an item to be a scrooge with. I buy Australian olive oil in 4 litre tins.
- Macadamia oil: If I have maca oil, I don’t need butter. Olive oil has its own, very distinctive fruity flavour. Macadamia oil has a milder, nutty sweetness that lets me use it instead of butter in every recipe I’ve found. I can buy local maca oil in bulk from my local wholefoods shop. Lucky me.
- Honey: I could do without sugar, but honey would be hard. And I’m not a sweet tooth. We can buy it in bulk from a local grower.
- Soy sauce or tamari: I guess if I had salt I could live without soy, but it wouldn’t be easy.
- Chocolate, or at least cocoa powder. Self explanatory! (It’s imported, but fair trade and worth the food miles).
- Spices: Black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, cardamom – most are tropical and imported, but they add so much it is easy to see why they have been traded for most of human history.
- Brown rice: I can buy locally grown dryland biodynamic brown rice, and its nearly the same price as the cheap and nasty supermarket brands. I can even buy it in bulk at the local wholefoods shop.
- Brown sugar: for baking, but also for preserving.
- Vinegar (Balsamic and cider please). I could brew it but I don’t.
- Fish sauce: I could live without it, but it does open up a whole range of Asian cooking that makes garden produce gourmet.
- Sesame seeds: ok, I do grow them, but never enough. For baking and for tahini.
- Sunflower seeds: I grow sunflowers, and we eat some like pistachios shelling them one by one, but the chooks get to eat most of them. I’ve never discovered a way of hulling them that is viable for quantities.
- Pearl barley, for bread and also for soups and stews, and just as a nice low GI high fibre carbohydrate.
- Polenta: If I get a good corn year I can grow and make it, but it falls into that second tier of gardening that I only do in quiet years (which seem to happen very rarely these days).
And I can think of another ten I usually have in my jars – quinoa, millet, rye flour, oat bran, dates, brown and red lentils, couscous, molasses, vanilla beans, sultanas.
Thirty items in my essential pantry (and to be fair I did cheat a bit by doubling up on varieties). But with this lot, mostly bought in bulk, I can stay out of a supermarket for months on end.
What have I missed?