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.