Our grannies knew about building their kitchen store cupboards – gluts of summer fruit diligently preserved as jams and fruit syrups, meat and fish salted to use for the coming months and various pickled things lining the shelves and inevitably popping up to accompany anything from meat pies and terrines to seasonal salads.
They knew how to make the best of each season and to have plenty of good quality essentials; stone milled flour, a range of cooking oils, vinegars, nuts and seeds and dried pulses, on hand to ‘oil the wheels’ of kitchen preparation.
Of course, our grannies probably didn’t spend their lives in an office and they certainly didn’t have the luxury of late night supermarkets to rely on. Their careful planning and frugality were born out of necessity, but the skills required needn’t be a lost art. With just a little bit of thought and only a few moments in the kitchen, you can have the makings of easy weekday suppers and weekend treats waiting patiently for you in your fridge, freezer and store cupboard.
Most importantly, you can ditch the post work supermarket dash and take a leisurely stroll home knowing there are treasures in store. Here are some of our favourites:
Oven Dried Tomatoes
Store in the fridge and pull out for easy mid-week suppers. We like to stir through pasta, or to top a simple risotto, and it’s a great base to create something entirely new – try cooking it down with dried chill and a little honey to make a sticky relish for grilled chicken or pork.
Preheat the oven to110°C/225°F/gas mark 1⁄4.Wash and halve a punnet or two of cherry tomatoes and lay them on a baking parchment-lined baking sheet, cut-side up. Season each with sea salt and one or two leaves of thyme and drizzle with light olive oil. Cook for about 2 hours, depending on size. Low and slow is key here to dry out the tomatoes without scorching them. Try one to check if they are done: they should have shrunk to half the size and taste intensely tomatoey. Place into sterilised jars and cover with more oil. They will last for a month if kept in the fridge.
An ideal freezer standby – slice from frozen to add an instant hit of flavour. For each variety, beat the butter in an electric mixer until soft. Add the herbs and season with a good twist of freshly ground black pepper. Form into logs, wrap in cling film and freeze.
Serve with simply boiled potatoes, use to cook an omelette or enrich a sauce.
125 g salted butter, softened
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 tbsp finely chopped chervil leaves
Sage and Garlic
Serve with roast chicken, push under the skin of a turkey (pre-roast), or melt over pumpkin ravioli.
125 g salted butter, softened
2 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Something for the weekend – indulge yourself with this simple, satisfying treat. We spread it on our breakfast toast – London Bloomer is our favourite – or use it to top toasted brioche with crushed hazelnuts and sliced banana. When feeling a little decadent its excellent warmed and poured over vanilla ice cream too.
Blitz 50 g of blanched, toasted hazelnuts in a food processor. Add 20 g of icing sugar and 100 g of melted dark chocolate and blitz again. Add 40 ml of hazelnut or light groundnut oil with 1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract. Blitz until smooth. Pot into a sterilised 200 ml jar and store in a cool, dry place – we tend not to store it in the fridge as it goes a bit hard.
Mid-week breakfast – virtuous, delicious and on standby to throw together with milk, fruit juice or yogurt all week.
The night before, mix 75 g of jumbo rolled oats, 75 g of dried fruit and 75 g of toasted nuts and seeds together in a bowl. Grate an apple into the mixture and pour over 250 ml of milk or apple juice. Mix, cover with cling film and place in the fridge. The muesli will be ready to serve the next morning. You can add more milk or juice if required and fresh berries or other fruit. Makes 2 generous servings.
Sunday lunch pud – ready and waiting to scatter over apples, pears, stone fruit or berries. Just throw in the oven when you sit down to eat your roast.
Preheat the oven to180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Pulse in a food processor: 150 g of chilled unsalted butter, 200 g of plain flour, 100 g of caster sugar and 125 g of jumbo oats to make a crumb. Stir in 2 tbsp of runny honey, a handful of chopped almonds and a pinch of salt. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, to bake over fruit compotes (be careful, as it has been par-baked so can scorch), or as a cold topping for ice creams or curd tarts. Or freeze it for up to six months. Makes enough for a family-sized crumble.
Good Food for Your Table: A Grocer’s Guide by Melrose and Morgan, £25, is available from Amazon and at all good book shops.