The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on how you can improve your cooking skills and liven up your food in 2021. It’s also great time to treat yourself to a new cookbook (hopefully mine), or rediscover one you already have and experiment a few ingredients you’ve never used before. The first basic step to great food is to stock your kitchen with a variety of foods so that you can throw something together quickly for healthy, fast meals in a hurry. Living out of a freezer might seem convenient, but if you’ve shopped wisely in the first place, you can easily prepare tasty, fresh meals that also do a body good in no time.
All you need to do is stock your cupboard with a few essential ingredients that every discerning cook should have to hand and you will always have enough food to make a decent dinner for yourself, your family or unexpected guests in less than 30 minutes. So which foodstuffs constitute essential ingredients for your kitchen store cupboard and where do you begin?
Firstly, start with totally clearing the shelves of your existing kitchen cupboard; Take every single item out of the cupboard and throw away any out-of-date items or packets of herbs and spices that have been open for years or sauces and dressing that have long since seen better day’s. You should now have plenty of space to freshen things up in your basic store cupboard.
Start your shopping with the basics; a couple of good quality pastas such as Linguine, fettuccini, Garganelli, etc and a couple of different types of rice; Basmati, jasmine and a risotto rice such as carnaroli, are all good staples. Other grains such as couscous, bulgur, pearl barley and Quinoa are also great to have kicking around, as are lentils, chickpeas, white beans and polenta. A couple of cans of peeled tomatoes, good quality tomato puree and sun-dried tomatoes are also must, along with soy sauce, chilli sauce and a good selection of herbs, spices and spice blends such as ras el hanout and curry powder. Good quality salt such as “flor de sal” or Maldon is also essential along with the best olive oil you can afford. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of speciality oils such as sesame, walnut and grape seed
Try something new; if you’ve never tried cooking with Sumac, a decorative bush that grows wild throughout the Middle East and parts of Italy, you should seek it out and give it a try. Make your own preserved lemons and get inspired to cook a tagine!
SIMPLE LAMB TAGINE WITH APRICOTS AND CORIANDER
This recipe is from cookbook – Modern Mediterranean: Sun-drenched recipes from Mallorca and beyond.
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 4 hours marinating
1kg lamb shoulder, diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
100ml olive oil 2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp saffron threads
750ml chicken stock (bouillon)
600g canned chopped tomatoes
120g dried apricots, sliced
1 tsp chopped preserved lemon
bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, mix the lamb with the cinnamon, cumin, sweet paprika and cayenne pepper, cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight is ideal.
Warm the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over a medium heat, add the marinated lamb and brown on all sides. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook gently for 1–2 minutes, then add the saffron threads, stock (bouillon), tomatoes and apricots. Bring slowly to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 & ½ hours.
Add the chopped preserved lemon and coriander (cilantro), check the seasoning and serve immediately.
Marc Fosh – Michelin Star Chef