Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pantry purge

I’ve no time for complicated handshakes, elaborate flower arrangements, or any other non essential knick knackery. I’ve teenagers, full time job and very high maintenance hairstyle, so I’m for anything that makes life easier.
A couple of years ago we had great good fortune to install new kitchen. Was Dream come true as Old kitchen  v. Bad. Just had no idea that before ascending to glories of new kitchen status, one must first endure purgatory of “between kitchen”.
6 Long ghastly weeks –no  running water, no oven and no storage. Gaah!
I cook a lot, no I mean A LOT and subsequentl hunting for equipment and ingredients I knew positively were SOMEWHERE nearly drove me to brink of madness. (bad words may have been uttered but can’t confirm that).
Eventually cabinet maker condescended to install kitchen (turned out he had brain injury and wasn't a well man- hence long difficult delays). Imagine the bliss, I had lovely time turfing out things that were dated, damaged or just plain useless. (gourmet gift hampers – who eats that stuff?).
Having biffed out all old stuff and re arranged remainder on pristine new shelves, was a moment of epiphany. Since am not only one to loathe foraging in the pantry and rummaging for things; instituting annual pantry purge would make everyones life easier.
To put it bluntly if it’s been in pantry for more than a year and you didn’t eat it, you are never going to eat it. Either you don’t know how to use it or just don’t fancy it, so chuck it out and move on. Alcohol is exception here!
Throw out any spices more than a year old – make a note to replace only if you plan to use- spices are best purchased in small quantities and replaced regularly or they go stale. Whole spices stay fresh much longer than ground. A spice mill or mortar and pestle is a useful investment for grinding cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, allspice and nutmeg, star anise and dried chillies...

Oils and foods with higher oil content such as nuts and brown rice will go rancid in the presence of oxygen. Heat and light accelerate this process.

Do they smell fresh? If not throw them out, not only do they taste bad, they may be bad for you. Good quality oils should be sold in dark bottles to protect them from light. If you buy oil in bulk go for a can and decant into dark bottles for everyday use.

Store nuts in the freezer to protect them from infestations of pantry moth and to keep them fresh – no need to defrost, just use straight from the freezer.

White rice, white flour and most dried beans can be safely stored for up to a year. Legumes will keep longer but will require longer cooking time the older they are. Store in airtight containers to prevent infestations.

Most pantry invaders are not harmful if consumed, but are very off putting. Prevention is better than cure.

Canned foods will last for years, check for rust and discard if dented but why have you still got it after years?

Take a long hard look at the old stuff, why hasn’t it been used yet? Did you buy it for a particular recipe then never get around to it? Do you know how to use it?

Did your husband buy it!

There is a general similarity operating around old ingredients – the things that routinely end up in the too hard basket. The following can be found languishing in the back of many of our pantries, forlorn and neglected, begging to be used.

Couscous and mixed bean salad

I love recipes that can be adapted to whatever ingredients are to hand. This couscous salad is a real store cupboard standby, add other ingredients such as red capsicum, olives or tuna if you have them otherwise enjoy it as is.

1 cup instant couscous
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp instant stock powder
1 can mixed bean salad
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 glove garlic crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 handful fresh coriander finely chopped (parsley is an acceptable alternative)
A squeeze of lime juice

Place the couscous into a bowl, add the stock powder and cumin to the boiling water, pour the liquid over the couscous and cover with a tea towel. Set aside for a few minutes to absorb the liquid.

While the couscous is soaking finely chop the celery, coriander and garlic and drain the beans (do not rinse). When the couscous has absorbed all the liquid fluff it with a fork and mix in all the other ingredients. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve.


  1. My pantry resembles Old Mother Hubbard's & I am stuck in a rut where I know I need to feed my family but I have lost my cooking/baking mojo so I don't even shop. We get fresh fruit & Veg delivered weekly & my husband will pop out for milk, bread & chocolate but it is getting to the point where I may have to find something deep within me & do a shop. I am sure I have cousous & beans so that will be on the menu tonight, with some corn on the cob & something out of the freezer.

  2. Hi Sophie > I have wild red rice in my pantry that my husband bought! An dI don't think I'll ever use it. so I may just have throw it out. Also thought I'd let you know that I am going to be helping you in the kitchen on Tuesday Night in Christchurch. I am really looking for to it. I hope you'll be bring some copies of your first cook book as I gave my copy away to someone and I haven't replaced it :( and I really need to as it has some of my favs. Looking forward to meeting you again
    from Cassandra