Friday, 20 April 2012

Larder larks no. 1

A combination of a foot fracture, a trip away for a dear departed friend's wake and a mountain of work - all in the past fortnight - have meant I've been surviving on a combination of dining out, ordering in takeaways and flinging together the quickest of quick meals in my tiny kitchen so as not to stand on my poor foot too long. Cooking's not very easy, anyway, when your dominant hand is more occupied with a walking stick...

However, I've not stopped thinking about food. Both the things I like to cook and eat and also the things I buy and store. The latter, particularly, have been on mind after I volunteered to take part in a food photography project.


I stumbled across @storecupboards some weeks ago on Twitter and was intrigued - this blog is a delicious combination of the owner's own culinary adventures and his nosiness. In short, he likes snooping in people's larders to see what they eat. I couldn't resist the challenge and promptly trotted off to photograph my own cupboards.

What's in my larder, then?

Lots, it would appear. Possibly too much. I must admit that listing almost everything I keep in my kitchen cupboards and fridge (but not the freezer) quite shocked me. It shocked others too - I had a lot of feedback on Twitter, mainly along the lines of "why do you have so much food? What are you going to do with it all?" In fairness, a lot of it is just ingredients - things you can cook with but not necessarily eat on their own. Plus, I'm a bit of an apocalypse hoarder - one of my parents grew up with wartime rationing and couldn't bear an empty pantry. That's clearly been passed on to me! Also, because I have a disability I have days when I'm simply too ill to cook, which is what the emergency soup tins are for. (And the fridge was over-crammed as I'd just done a shop.)

But it got me thinking and I resolved to use up much more of my larder contents. I've made a start on that already, finishing up two almost-empty jars of chutney and a packet or two of noodles.

I also decided I should write about some of the more exotic ingredients I've picked up on my travels. So here are a couple, in the first of an occasional series.

The pomegranate molasses came from a trip to Turkey a few years ago, when it was almost impossible to find outside London - I mainly use it to coat meat before roasting, but it also finds its way into dressings and dips occasionally. That's a half-litre bottle, by the way - a little goes a long way and I still have half a bottle left.

I found the citron confit on a shelf in a Parisian supermarket - oddly, because I'd never seen it during all the years I lived there. It's a thick paste made up of about 50% lemons and 25% ginger, the rest being oil, alcohol and salt, and it has a pleasingly sour and fiery taste. I use it to flavour chicken and fish or add to tagines. I love cooking with lemons - I get through several fresh ones a week, plus the north African preserved variety. When this jar (alas, almost empty now) is finished, I'm going to figure out how to make my own. Unless I can get back to Paris again soon, obviously.

The herb mix came from a shop in Bardolino, on the shore of Italy's Lake Garda. I forget all the ingredients as it came in a huge bag with a tag on it and had been made by a local producer. It contains parsley and chilli, and I think marjoram, and one other herb. I use it as intended - for stirring through pasta, with nothing else but olive oil to dress it.

Keen to discover more interesting things to eat, I signed up a couple of months ago to Larder Box, which for a modest fee posts a box of interesting British artisan foods to you every month. April's box (in the photo) contained a bottle of pontack, which I'd never heard of but is a deep, slightly spicy and quite sharp sort of vinegar made from elderberries. I've used it a fair bit already, mainly to marinate sticky ribs, and when it's gone I'll definitely be buying more. (The smoked cheese was consumed fairly quickly (!) with the chutney, the chipotle chillies are earning their keep and the parkin, incredibly, is almost untouched - stashed in a cake tin on top of the cupboards, for those days when only cake will do.) I'm now eagerly awaiting the next box, which promises to contain smoked sea salt and banana ketchup. See, I'm hooked already...