I have had requests from readers about my pantry… I thought this was going to be an easy article, but as I started to write it I realised how complex my pantry is. It is set up for both gluten and gluten-free eating. I also like to preserve a few items and keep some foodstuffs in the refrigerator once they have been opened to keep fresh – and I don’t mean things that one would expect to find in the fridge. I have a herb garden on my veranda in pot plants and even grow lemons there. But let’s start at the beginning.
The word pantry comes from the French word “paneterie” meaning “pain” – the French word for bread. We don’t have a specific word for pantry in the Greek language. The closest I can come up with is αποθήκη τροφίμων (storeroom for food). I have one of those and I wish it were bigger. Foods were stored traditionally by preserving in the various ways I wrote about last time and kept in particular areas of the house or specially built store-rooms usually on the property outside the main house.
But, let’s go back to my pantry and see what I have stored away in my αποθήκη (storeroom). I try as much as possible to always have organic produce, it cannot always be but the will is there. As I like to bake as well as cook, my pantry always has wheat flour of every kind – plain, self-raising and wholemeal and σιμιγδάλι (semolina). For the gluten free part of my baking and cooking there is rice flour, cornflour, soya flour, chickpea flour, tapioca and occasionally potato flour and almond meal as well as polenta to replace σιμιγδάλι (semolina) and I use corn flake crumbs instead of bread crumbs.
Sugar comes in a variety of colours and thickness’ – icing sugar, caster sugar, granulated sugar and a good natural brown sugar. There is also honey, one to cook with and one to eat. The honey I like to eat is the Greek thyme honey, a unique honey that can only be found in Greece and is worth every extra dollar. It is not as sweet and it does not solidify. I have a wide collection of teas and coffee and sweeten my tea with honey.
A collection of όσπρια (legumes) are kept in my pantry, gluten free pasta and a little mainstream pasta, basmati rice and Aborio rice for soups and sweets, long-life soya milk (I just prefer soya milk and I only take milk in coffee), a carton of long-life cows milk just in case, Vita Wheat biscuits for a little gluten indulgence with a little cheese and short-bread biscuits with macadamia nuts for visitors. I have a small collection of tinned and jarred products: peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, capers, anchovies, tuna, tahini, fruit, chickpeas.
I use the tinned cooked chickpeas to make hummus or even use them as I would use chickpeas if I have forgotten to soak dry ones overnight. A collection of nuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds, pine nuts and walnuts. Also, sultanas and raisins and other dried fruit. All these are kept in the fridge as nuts go rancid with time. In the fridge they can keep indefinitely, except for walnuts. Try buying these as you need them as they are very bad keepers. My fridge is also packed with coffee: once coffee is out of its vacuum pack it will spoil. Keep coffee in an air tight container in the fridge and keep unground coffee beans in there too, along with any almond meal that you have not used.
All flours should be kept in airtight containers in your pantry. I keep them in plastic containers and have them labelled or leave the flour in its original package and put it as it is in the airtight container, that way you don’t have to label it. I also put sugar in these containers as this avoids spillage in the pantry. As it is a Greek kitchen there is an abundance of Cretan olive oil that I always buy in a four-litre container. I also have a two-litre container of canola oil that I use to fry and to make sweets that need oil instead of butter. This oil shelf has a small bottle of sesame oil, a spray oil for cake tins and a collection of vinegars (preferably Greek) from balsamic to a good white and red Greek vinegar.
Once again, please buy Greek olive oil – support Greece and also indulge in the best olive oil in the world. There are those little special items too, like ouzo, brandy and wine. I cook with these three items. Red wine for meat, white wine for fish, ouzo for vegetables and fish and sweets and brandy for sweets. And what sort of a cook would I be without spices? The musts are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, oregano, marjoram, dill seeds, fennel seeds, coriander powder, cardamom pods, chilli powder and chilli flakes (of all strengths), star anise, pimento and a few others as I need them.
I buy pepper white and black as seeds and prefer to ground them myself and always have course salt, but always have a small amount of ground pepper and fine salt for when ever they are needed, and always have masticha. Then there are those odd things like baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, guar gum for making gluten free bread, mahlepi for those tsoureki days and dried yeast.
My fridge always has eggs, cheese, butter, and the freezer has berries, pastry, peas and – when I don’t want to lose weight – ice cream. Oh and by the way, my six-year-old granddaughter, Antigone, caught me out when I didn’t have tomato sauce – she wanted it with her keftedes. I have since bought some for the first time in many years since my children were children.