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Mastering the basics of home cooking

Get your kitchen to work for you

· Home Kitchen

Have your store cupboards run out of stores?

There is nothing worse than having to make an unnecessary trip to the supermarket just because you have run out of dried oregano or stock cubes. And as you all know, any unplanned shopping trips are more than likely to result in buying additional products that you do not need! If you are sticking to a tight food budget - you can't afford NOT to read on...

Your store cupboards may look bountiful but have you had a good rummage lately to see if any of the products are useful? All but the super organised among us are self-confessed store cupboard hoarders. An opened pack of black sesame seeds here, a jar of paste dating back to the turn of the century there...well that is a huge exaggeration but you get my drift. Most of us are guilty as charged and when it actually comes to making a basic soup or a quick mid-week supper; we find that the left over agar-agar and Nigella seeds are no substitute for the basic ingredients that should be gracing our shelves and in easy reach.

When writing for this piece I have to confess that when I had a good rummage in my cupboards, a number of products were either out of date or hadn't been sealed properly. It also occurred to me (better late than never) that my dried herbs, spices and products that I use to add flavour to my dishes are in a cupboard next to my cooker hob but too high up for me to reach comfortably. And I don't mind telling you that I am not tall. Just over five foot actually. It is effort for me to grab a chair when I'm cooking in a hurry and when I do, the smattering of milled pepper and miscellaneous chopped foliage that greets me is rather soul destroying. So it is no wonder that low-use products get forgotten and pushed to the back of my cupboards and no wonder that when a replacement is bought (because I am unable to grab it easily) I can't understand why I have a sudden glut of dried marjoram...So I resolved to have a bit of a sort out and considered how best to get my home kitchen working for me.

In Feng Shui, the kitchen is an important space associated with the promotion of health, well being, wealth and prosperity. The basic principles of the art encourage uncluttered, clean and well organised work environments that create a logical fluidity around activity. Of course not all of us have the luxury of such a pristine kitchen space like the one featured in the picture below but thinking about what storage we have and applying these principles to your store cupboards should be no exception.

If you consider where your main activity pool is - usually the hob and associated work surfaces - your high use ingredients should be within easy reach. If like me you have difficulty reaching a high wall mounted cupboard, you could try sorting your products into baskets according to high and low use and place them on the shelves at eye level. This will help you identify what basket to pull out quickly and help to minimise the risk of doubling up. Another tip for freeing up easy-reach cupboard space is to use the top shelves of wall mounted cupboards for low use kitchenware. I store items on the top shelves that rarely get used and are not 'everyday' kitchenware such as ramekins, nibble bowls and serving dishes. Designating cupboards close to the hob for cook's essential ingredients such as herbs, spices, pastes, wines and vinegars as well as high use tinned foods and dried goods is also useful when you need to keep a close eye on that sauce!

"Well stocked store cupboards will pay dividends...especially if you are on a budget"

So now you've sorted out space in your store cupboards, what are you going to put in them? Listed in the link below are some essential ambient items I keep to hand so that I can rustle up a quick easy meal when I am up against the clock or just can't face a trip to the supermarket. Many of the products are personal preferences and I'm sure you will adapt your list accordingly. Whilst you may find the initial outlay expensive, having well stocked store cupboards will pay dividends in the long run, especially if you are on a budget. A basic soup made from scratch for example has to be the cheapest and easiest meal for the time poor cook. You can bulk it out with noodles or pasta so it goes further too! If you are feeling in need of a bit of comfort food, a homemade pie using tinned meat is just as delicious as a shop bought one and you get more for your money. Having a varied array of world food spices and pastes to hand also enables you to use up all of your left over vegetables and cooked meat before it is wasted - remember, it's your kitchen, your rules. So what if your last minute 'chuck it all in' supper is somewhat unorthodox. It is far better to use it than waste it, so go for it!

Later on in the series, I will give you some 'scratch' recipes that can be adapted and varied to utilize some of my store cupboard essentials but for now, let's just focus on getting those cupboards filled!

Doesn't it feel good to have everything to hand?

Hannah x

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