The perfect pantry

Bart Beek | VOLUME 24, ISSUE 2

It’s often been said that cooks are only as good as what’s in their pantry. With a well-organised pantry, you could be just one step away from greatness.

In this issue, I have produced recipes that use some of the staples that we all should have in our basic pantry.

The idea is to start with a high protein food and then build from there. So choose perhaps some fresh chicken fillets or lamb loins and add a choice of carbohydrates, like rice, pasta, polenta or dried noodles. Then, for a quick burst of flavour, add some chilli or soy and a few fresh herbs, and you’re well on your way to a fabulous meal.

Cans of tomatoes should steer us in the direction of robust pasta sauces and tins of fish in oil will produce salads, casseroles, pastas, crumble bakes and more. Canned coconut milk and curry pastes in jars will put us on track for some wonderful Asian curries, stir fries and fragrant rice dishes.

Chorizo sausage from the fridge can be used as the base for a delicious risotto, flavoured with dried spices and sauced with a can of diced tomato. Sauces deliver the flavour hits in food so use items such as canned soups, vinegars, canned tomatoes, bottled pasta sauces and chutneys.

Chimichurri Penne with chicken and mushrooms

Chimichurri is a classic fresh herb sauce from Argentina with notes of chilli, garlic and red wine vinegar. Here we sauté the chicken and sliced mushrooms with it and serve with steaming pasta.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

For the Chimichurri (makes 1 cup)

¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped

2 cups parsley leaves and stems, finely chopped

1 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped

4 cloves organic garlic, crushed

½ tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp smoked paprika

100ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

50ml red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all the above ingredients well in a bowl. Blend well, but do not use a blender.

400g penne pasta

1 medium brown onion, sliced

2 medium chicken breast fillets, sliced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

30ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

6 tblsps Chimichurri paste

½ cup white wine

½ cup cream

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, halved

½ cup shaved Parmesan

Cook the penne in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until just cooked, strain and set aside.

Heat a heavy-based frypan and add the olive oil and sliced onions and cook for two minutes on high. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for three minutes. Remove and place into a bowl, then add the chicken slices and sauté until just done.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the chicken and add the 6 tblsps of Chimichurri. Pour in the white wine and boil until half is reduced. Now add the cream and boil until slightly thickish. Combine in the pasta and sun-dried tomatoes.

Present with the shaved Parmesan and a bowl of the Chimichurri.

Dry pantry basics

The dry pantry should contain these basic items as a starting point (build up slowly, buy smart and store correctly):

Quality chocolate, mustards, rices, pastas, canned fish (anchovies, tuna, etc) and beans, quality olive oil, vegetable oils, vinegars, salt flakes, whole pepper, stocks, dried herbs, dried mushrooms, olives, nuts and seeds, spices, dried fruits, flours, polenta, lentils, sugars, bread crumbs, crackers, vanilla extract and honey.

Thai yellow curry fried rice

A very fragrant fried rice recipe using the mellow flavoured Thai yellow curry paste and Jasmine scented rice, this dish is ideal when presented with a green leaf salad and chilled carrot curls. Boiling the rice a day ahead will give fantastic results.

Preparation time: 8 minutes

Cooking time: 18

minutes Serves: 4

4 tblsps Valcom yellow curry paste

2 tblsps Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

500g Jasmine rice, cooked and cooled

400g chicken fillets, sliced thin

2 tblsps fish sauce

1 tblsp palm sugar

1 medium brown onion, sliced

1 cup spring onions

1 cup coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Place a wok on a flame and add the olive oil. Spoon in the yellow curry paste and fry for 30 seconds until quite fragrant.

Toss in the sliced chicken and stir-fry until almost done. Then add the fish sauce and sugar, stirring well and toss in the sliced onions.

Add in the cooked rice and toss until all the grains are one even colour. Finish by folding through the spring onions and chopped coriander.

Fast chilli pasta with prawns and basil

This is a great olive oil-based pasta sauce that is quick, delicious and will please the whole family. Most other pastas will work just fine, but fricelli really holds the sauce and looks fabulous.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Serves: 4

500gfricelli(4cmhalf-round pieces of pasta rolled up)

80ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

1 small red chilli, halved, seeded and sliced

2 cloves fresh organic garlic, crushed

16 green prawns, peeled and de-veined

1 can Italian diced tomatoes

1 cup torn sweet basil

Boil a large saucepan of water and add the pasta, gently stir and allow to cook for several minutes. When almost cooked (al dente – slightly firm to the teeth), strain and hold until required.

Place a large heavy-based saucepan onto the heat and, when warm, add the olive oil. Combine in the chilli, garlic and green prawns and toss together for several minutes or until the prawns are just cooked.

Fold in the hot pasta, tomatoes and seasoning. Toss well together, fold through the torn basil leaves and serve immediately.

Thai fried rice noodles (Pad Thai)

Pad Thai is one of the classics from Thailand, combining all the essential flavour senses of hot, salty, sour and sweet.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 6

minutes Serves: 6

200g rice stick noodles

3 or 4 tblsps fish sauce

3 tblsps water

Juice of 1 lime

1 tblsp palm sugar

1 tblsp tomato sauce

3 tblsps Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 small bird’s-eye chillis, seeded and chopped

3 tblsps dry roasted peanuts, chopped

4 green onions, cleaned and cut into 3cm pieces

2 cups bean sprouts

1 cup coriander, roughly chopped

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Soak the noodles in boiling water until just soft – about 5 to 10 minutes. Place noodles in a colander and run cold water through them, then leave to drain.

Combine the fish sauce, water, lime juice, palm sugar and tomato sauce, then set aside.

Heat your wok on a moderate heat. Add two tblsps of olive oil to the wok. When hot, add the beaten egg and remove and set aside when just cooked.

Bring the wok back to moderate heat, adding 1 tblsp of olive oil, stir fry the garlic and chilli for 10 seconds. Add the noodles, sauce mix and cooked egg. Stir until heated through.

Finally, mix in the bean sprouts, green onions, coriander and half the peanuts.

Serve in bowls topped with the remainder of the peanuts, some coriander sprigs and squeeze over the juice from the lime wedges

Macadamia and pineapple semi-freddo

Semi-freddo translates to “semi-frozen”, which means it shouldn’t be served frozen solid, but rather after having been refrigerated for 20 minutes. The delicious flavours of Amaretti biscuits, roasted macadamia nuts and Kahlua blend with the tropical sweet pineapple to form an incredible semi-frozen ice cream. The dish is then enhanced even further by the medley of berries and a cloud of exotic pistachio fairy floss.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: zero

Serves: 8

350ml thickened cream

4 eggs, yolks and whites

90g pure icing sugar

4 egg whites

50ml Kahlua

55g chopped toasted macadamia nuts

10 Amaretti biscuits, crushed

100g sweetened dried pineapple pieces, sliced thin

1 punnet blackberries

25g Pashmak pistachio fairy floss

8 tblsps fresh berry glaze

8 portions of watermelon cut into 7cm x 7cm x 2cm slabs, then remove a 5cm square from the centre of each. This makes a perfect frame for the berries.

Whisk the fresh cream until just firm then chill and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks and icing sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale.

Fold in the Kahlua, macadamia nuts, pineapple and the crushed Amaretti biscuits.

Gently fold in the whipped cream and the lightly-beaten egg whites. Pour into a plastic film-lined flat baking tray to a depth of 25mm and freeze overnight.

Remove the semi-freddo from the tray and cut into 7cm squares. Place a square onto a chilled plate and frame with four lines of the berry glaze. Top with the watermelon cube, 9 blackberries and a cloud of the pistachio fairy floss.

Fresh berry glaze

In a blender, combine 120g fresh raspberries, 120g strawberries, 2 tblsps icing sugar and 2 tblsps fresh orange juice. Place into a fine strainer and gently tap through. Chill until required.