Top 5 – Pantry items for the Kitchen Gardener

When I first thought of doing these Top 5’s this was pencilled in as one to do.  Then The
New Goodlife did a similar one so I put mine back a few weeks.

I am making a concerted effort this year to get the absolute most I can from my garden produce.  Although I have always used a lot of my harvest in my evening meals, last year I ate out at lunch-time a lot and as a result probably under-utilised what I had in the garden.  This year a change in my routine has meant that I am home at lunchtime most days of the week so I have been making sure I make something from the garden each day.  These are the ingredients I have in the pantry at all times to make sure I can make both lunch and dinner easily and using as much from the garden as possible.  Without these ingredients I would struggle to put together something edible from my produce, but with them I can make something appetising out of almost everything I grow.

 1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I love good olive oil.  I usually try and buy Mount Zero’s Extra Virgin Oil which they sell at Melbourne’s farmers markets.  It’s a lovely full flavoured oil and works perfectly with vegetables.  Incidentally Mount Zero also sell lovely lentils grown in the Grampians and are definitely worth seeking out at the Collingwood Children’s Farm market.  I use Olive oil pretty liberally (as my bank balance will attest) and find it indispensable when making everything from salad dressings, through sauces to finishing stews.  With a bit of olive oil and salt, tomatoes and basil become lunch, a puree becomes a dip, and a soup turns from mundane to delicious.

2. Nuts – Nuts are a great friend of the kitchen gardener.  Nuts can turn a salad into a meal.  They can add crunch to a pasta dish and make fabulous sauces.  One of my favourite ways of using my produce when I just have a bit of this and a bit of that is to make gado – gado.  Gado-gado is essentially a salad (warm or cold) of either cooked or raw vegetables smothered in a peanut (satay) sauce.  But the favourite sauce of the kitchen gardener must be pesto.  Basil pesto made with basil and pine nuts.  Parlsey pesto made with walnuts.  Capsicum pesto featuring almonds.  The possibilities are really only limited by what you have in the garden and your imagination.

3. Anchovies – I am a big fan of anchovies.  Not only do they add depth of flavour.  Not only do they give a dish a lovely salty kick.  Not only do they taste great on pizza (a great kitchen garden meal).  But they are an excellent source of calcium (due to the fact that you eat the bones).  My two absolute favourite things to do with anchovies are to put them in a puttanesca sauce and to use them in a salsa verde sauce/dressing.

4. Spices – Too broad a heading? Well if I have to narrow it down I will.  As much as I adore; coriander, cinnamon, fennel seeds, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mustard seeds, and cardamon, my favourite has to be cumin.  I use a lot of cumin.  Its indispensable in curries, but I also use it in a range of other dishes; scattered on roasted veggies, as a warm spicy note in soups, and along with mustard seeds, chillies and curry leaves as a tempered flavouring for most vegetables.

5. Salt- My friend Julie came over for lunch today and took a few photos for this post.  The anchovies, olive oil and this picture (which, as you can tell, my son helped with….) of my last, and to me probably most indispensable, pantry item for the kitchen gardener were taken by her.  Salt gets a bad press.  Sure its not particularly good for you, but it does have a remarkable ability to transform the taste of food.  Salt and vegetables are made for each other.  Salt preserves them, it helps them retain colour and it makes them taste delicious.  My personal (and very non-medical) view is that it is better to use a bit (and you don’t need that much) of salt on vegetables to ensure they are eaten rather than be looking at a heap of uneaten food.

Looking for more – The New Goodlife will hopefully have another Top 5 to sate your appetite.

This entry was posted in Top 5. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Top 5 – Pantry items for the Kitchen Gardener

  1. leduesorelle says:

    Pretty much what’s in my pantry also, now I know why I adore your cooking! Unless someone has a food allergy or is on a special diet, I usually don’t mention the anchovies unless they wonder why it tastes so good and ask…

  2. Great list Liz, sorry you had to put this one off for a little while. I think I would agree with everything on your list. The olive oil that you mentioned is made just near where I grew up. That part of Victoria produces all sorts of interesting things these days, worth looking out for at farmers markets and gourmet food shops. I think they have a food and wine festival in the Grampians too. My personal favourite for salads at the moment is walnut oil, not as versatile as olive oil, but great flavour for salads fresh from the garden.

    Nuts really can make a meal can’t they and anchovies were on my list too. I love cumin too, that smell when you toast it just makes my mouth water, but I think my pick would be paprika, especially on my home grown potatoes. And salt is a must (pepper too for me). I use it more now than ever before, probably because I have a better understanding of food and cooking. My theory is that it’s better to put it in the dish while I’m cooking or serving than on the table and letting the family (read Mr Good) have free reign. I also feel fine about using the amount of salt I do knowing that my kids almost never get take away or pre-packaged foods packed with salt. We eath healthy meals full of vegies and other good things, a little salt isn’t going to do too much harm. I feel the same about butter and sugar.

    • Liz says:

      Where do you get your walnut oil? I keep seeing recipes including it but haven’t bought any yet. I don’t let me kids anywhere near the salt shaker either – now that woudl be asking for trouble.

  3. Daphne says:

    Cumin is one of my favorite spices too. I keep trying to grow it. I haven’t succeeded yet. I keep trying though.

  4. Michelle says:

    Another thought provoking Top 5! What do I reach for most often to make best use of my garden produce? It’s really difficult to narrow it down to only 5, so I came up with 2 lists, pantry shelf and perishable. Shelf items: olive oil, definitely, I have one for cooking and at least one other for salads, drizzling, etc. Nuts almost made my top 5, but I think I’m going to go with the jarred olive oil packed tuna (sustainable of course) which I always have on hand and start to panic when the stash starts to get low since the brand that I like is hard to find. I dearly love salt packed anchovies but I find that I reach for the fish sauce more often, (fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chiles, and mint is one of my favorite combos for seasoning so many things). Cumin is the spice that I reach for most often, but it doesn’t make my top 5 because I reach for one of my many vinegars more often. I think that vinegar is highly under appreciated in the kitchen, it can brighten the flavor of so many dishes and is indespensible in my nearly daily salad (green, composed, chopped, etc.). You are so right about salt and I have more varieties of salt on my shelf than I dare to count but I’m going to pass them by for the top 5 in favor of salt packed capers. I have a love affair with capers. I grow and preserve my own and I have been able to harvest enough in the last couple of years to use them (almost) with abandon.

    That’s it for the shelf items, but I also can’t imagine using the veggies from my garden without home made poultry stock (I put up 8 quarts in the freezer yesterday), eggs from my girls, alliums (I’m cheating a bit since I have to include both onions and garlic on the list), cheese (ok, the ONE cheese I’m never without is parmigiano, but we eat all sorts of cheese with abandon), and last but certainly not least, I have an entire shelf in my freezer stocked with a now dwindling supply of tomato puree and sauce.

    Whew, that was tough. And fun! I can’t wait to see you next Top 5…

    • Liz says:

      I’ll do my perishables in a different post. I did consider vinegar and I do use a fair bit of it but I tend to make my day to day salad dressings with lemon juice (mum has a very productive tree.) I almost included salted capers (I don’t really like the vinegary ones but salt ones are great) as I do use them a fair bit – in fact probably as much as I use anchovies but I went with the anchovies on the flip of a coin. I’m still looking for a caper plant to grow – apparently there are a few grown in Australia commercially but not many at all. The tuna is a good thought and I do eat a fair amount of that too.

  5. I’d go along with most of those except the anchovies

  6. Mark Willis says:

    I agree with Sue; being a non fish-eater, I can’t stand Anchovies. I’ll swap them for some good Red Wine Vinegar, please.

    • Liz says:

      Its interesting I don’t tend to use anchovies for a fishy taste, they bring body and depth of flavour rather than fishiness per se – In much the same way fish sauce does in Thai cooking for instance.

  7. Frogdancer says:

    When I was doing my thermomix training we were told that we should all be using salt that retains its natural colour. Any white salt has had the minerals stripped away along with the colour. So we eat the white salt, but our bodies still crave the minerals that salt is meant to give us. (I’m still using up all the white salt I have in the cupboard… waste not want not!… but I’ve also bought some pink salt in a grinder.

    • Liz says:

      Isn’t that interesting – I’m wondering if its true. I’m sure I’ve seen salt flats where the salt is actually white – not processed to be that colour but maybe I’m mistaken.

  8. Andrea says:

    Your top 5 pantry items are a must……………..salt is an interesting one , there’s just some things you gotta have lots on!!
    A store of chutneys and jams can make a quick meal too, I often have ginger marmalade with chesse and mixed greens in a sandwich or wrap.

  9. Louise says:

    Hmm, yum, secret anchovies is what I do too! Use them with love, keep the secret to yourself, giggle to yourself when people enjoy…

  10. Pingback: My Essential Pantry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *