The Perfect Pantry for exploring the world’s foods

Since everyone these days seems to be socially isolating in their homes getting out and going food shopping is the challenge of our times so to speak. Many of us are pretty clueless when it comes to the pantry and what we should be stocking up on.

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If like most of us you are experimenting with a variety of foods and recipes from around the world you need to have the perfect stocked pantry. But if you are exploring the world’s food cultures where do you begin? What will last and what wont’? How do you shop to make the most out of the ingredients you have and what are the pantry essentials?

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First I suggest you make a pantry list of everything you have. Include in the list the herbs and spices you have that are still usable. I don’t know about you but I usually have a few in my spice cupboard that are past the sell-by date so I get rid of them. Even the smallest kitchen can have the perfect pantry.

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Pantry supplies should include the absolute basics as well as ingredients that will last a long time. This includes items like vinegars and oils, unsealed jars of jams and condiments. Try to pickle or preserve your fruits and veggies that might go bad before you can eat them.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian most of these grocery staples will work for you as well. A vegan pantry may not be in need of eggs, honey, milk and milk products like cheese but having a great supply of herbs and spices can add great depth of flavour. After all remember tofu is just another ingredient that needs to be flavoured to be enjoyed.

Make sure you check out your storage space as well, you don’t want to buy stuff to have it hanging around on the counter or having to cook it quickly because you can’t fit it in the fridge.

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Perfect pantry basics for cooking world cuisine

This handy pantry food list is available as a download in PDF form so you can print it out

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an old cellar used as the perfect pantry
Old Cellar

Creating the perfect pantry

Once you created your checklist (or downloaded this one) you can then start creating your basic pantry shopping list. You may find you spend a little (or a lot more) on this shop but you can rest assured it will never go to waste and you will always have ingredients to make something healthy.

A well-stocked pantry will give you all your grocery essentials for creating dishes from India, Mexico, Africa, and countries around the world.

If you are looking for a great way to bring spice into your life why not try the monthly spice box from Piquant Post. You can take out a subscription and they send you a fabulous box of spices and herbs from different regions around the world with recipes. Cost is from $12 US a month free shipping in the US, plus shipping of around $10 to Canada.

Fruits and vegetables

This one is a tricky category as a lot of fruits and veg have a very short shelf life so make sure whatever gets on your list can be used soon if that is the case.

This is why you should always have some frozen veg in the house and it’s a great idea to have some frozen fruit as well.

What about bread and grains? Bake your own bread – comes pre-formed and ready to bake with a good shelf life. If you have flour and other pantry basics you can make yeast free bread with a few simply ingredients. Stock up on flatbreads which are easy to freeze and don’t take up to much room in the freezer. Things like corn and flour tortillas, naan bread, chapattis, lavash, pitas.

Dairy – cheese, milk, eggs

Eggs have a shelf life of around a month and milk can be bought in some places as UHT long life so keep a few cartons in the pantry if you can.

For vegetarians and vegans, tofu can be pre-cooked and frozen or simply drain the fresh tofu of water and wrap up to freeze. Tempeh can usually be kept in the fridge for up to 10 days or frozen for 10 months.

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For cheese lovers a good hard cheese will last a long time in the fridge, some of the oldest food in the world found by archaeologists was cheese and butter. If mould does start to form it is perfectly safe to cut it off and use the rest of the cheese. You can also freeze cheese from cream cheese to cheddar it all freezes. Freezing will change the texture somewhat but it’s perfect for use as a recipe ingredient. If you have lots of little cheese ends lying around freeze them all in a bag to make a fabulous cheese soup.

Going beyond the best before date

This always trips up most of us a best before date does not refer to the safety of a product it refers to quality. So that brown banana may look bad but it is sweeter than ever and you can still freeze it for banana bread and fruit shakes.

Dairy products such as yougurt, milk and eggs can often be used beyond the self by date and they are perfectly fine to consume just give it a smell before you add it to a recipes.   

Freezing, Pickling and preserving the easy way

Virtually any vegetable can be pickled or preserved in some way. Lemons and limes can be preserved in salt to use in Middle Eastern recipes. Peppers can be roasted and stored in Olive oil. Fruit can be made into jams and jelly. Keep and clean the jars you have used and sterilize before using they are perfect for using for your pickles and preserves.

Pickled vegetables in mason jars ready for winter for the perfect pantry

 Meat, chicken and seafood

The best way to preserve meat is to double wrap it or place in a freezer proof container and store it in the freezer. Most meats will freeze extremely well and keep for several months. Good advice is to always have hamburger or mince in the freezer, buy in bulk and split into smaller amounts.

Fish, shrimp (prawns), smoked salmon, shellfish all freeze well. Freeze the pastry you make yourself or buy in packages. You can freeze bread, butter, cheese and even milk as long as it has headspace to expand.

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what are you buying at the grocery store right now? What is your perfect pantry?

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