Our current IHCC chef, Donna Hay, is the self-confessed queen of the well-stocked pantry and, by her own admission, if there's a short-cut to be found for delivering maximum freshness and flavour to the plate with minimum effort, she's found it.
She's a woman after my own heart like that. As most of you will know by now (since I bang on about it often enough) I love to make most things from scratch, for many reasons ... I like to know what I'm eating, I reduce my environmental impact by consuming more homemade food and less packaged goods, and perhaps most importantly for the sheer joy of doing so.
Now, don't for one moment be misled into thinking that I spend hours every day slavishly toiling over one dish or another. I don't - a well-stocked pantry is an absolute God-send to me, and means that very rarely do I spend more than 30 minutes over preparing a meal. Even dishes which are more complicated might be broken down into two or three stages and prepped in advance.
How do I achieve that? When produce is in season, I spend a bit of time on the weekends creating many of those pantry staples such as pesto, harissa paste, pasta sauce, preserved lemons, hummus, jams, pickles and chutneys. These all get stashed in the freezer or pantry in meal-size quantities. I also occasionally cook up big batches of chickpeas and dried beans, rice and quinoa, and store by the cupful in the freezer - but to be honest, I don't always get around to that, and I don't have a very big freezer either, so I do often resort to canned chickpeas, canellini beans, borlotti beans, and so on. Canned or frozen chickpeas or beans are ideal for creating a quick and easy meal.
Other staples I always have on hand include: rice - basmati, brown, arborio (for risotto), sushi, and calasparra (for paella); oils - olive (both virgin and extra virgin), rice bran, sesame, avocado, coconut and walnut; vinegars - white (for adding to egg poaching liquid), balsamic, white balsamic, and my new favourite, apple cider; pasta - dried (usually De Cecco brand) in a variety of shapes, lengths and sizes (nearly always at least 6 packets on hand), and fresh homemade fettucine and ravioli (stored in individual portions in the freezer); spices - I keep a fairly extensive selection on hand - they're a great flavour booster - most commonly used in my house is probably smoky paprika; miscellaneous - pomegranate molasses, olives (green and black), mustard (grainy and Dijon) and cheeses - parmesan, pecorino, feta, mozzarella, cheddar; Asian influenced - soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, Chinese cooking wine, nori sheets, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, miso paste, assorted curry pastes, and noodles (soba, ramen, udon, rice). It doesn't take much more than a bit of fresh vegetables or protein to turn a few of these ingredients into a meal.
In case you haven't guessed where this is all headed, our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Pantry Magic - sharing something delicious inspired by the ingredients in our pantries.
This recipe for chorizo with chickpeas and tomatoes was one of the first that I bookmarked when I got my copy of Donna Hay's "Fast, Fresh, Simple". Right there in the "Fast" chapter, using just a few ingredients that I always have on hand, I knew it wouldn't be long before this dish found it's way onto my table. Chorizo is nearly always on hand in my house, and ditto the chickpeas. Fresh cherry tomatoes, I picked up at the vegetable market last week, and were a bit of a hothouse indulgence at this time of year, since we are still a couple of months away from tomato season, though I could just as easily have used here some of the slow roasted tomatoes I have stashed in my freezer. Fresh basil called for in the recipe is not really in season yet either, but I substituted by drizzling with some basil pesto from the freezer. This made a light and delicious lunch (two servings), which could easily be multiplied to feed more people. You could ring any number of changes to this - some kalamata olives and/or feta cheese would be great additions; a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and/or some finely sliced preserved lemon would be a great flavour booster; or serving over grilled sourdough toast with a poached egg on top would turn this into a sensational breakfast/brunch dish.
I'd love to know ... what are some of the things you always have on hand in your pantry?
Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
from Fast, Fresh, Simple
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
150g chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1x 400g (14 oz) can)
1/4 cup basil pesto
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Working over a small bowl, squeeze cherry tomatoes between your fingers - just enough to split the skins and start the juices running. Set aside.
Set a skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil to the pan. You won't need very much as there will be a certain amount of fat will come out of the chorizo - probably 1-1/2 teaspoons will be plenty. Once the oil is heated, add chorizo to the pan and saute until browned on both sides.
Add chickpeas and tomatoes, along with any of their accumulated juices, to the pan, and continue to cook until the chickpeas are warmed through, the tomatoes have softened a little, and the tomato juices have mingled with the oils in the pan and turned "syrupy". You'll end up with something rather like a warm dressing.
Remove from heat. Taste and season to your liking with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Finish with a generous drizzle of pesto.
Delicious served hot straight out of the pan, but just as good at room temperature the next day.
If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see what Pantry Magic everyone else has created, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...
... or check out Fast, Fresh, Simple and Donna's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Cook Your Books hosted by Joyce at Kitchen Flavours, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.