Simple pleasures

Things I like in the kitchen (part one)

Just as we’ve recovered from our trip to Legoland, it’s time for the school summer fair. I found myself flipping burgers and sausages for four hours with Mike on a hot Saturday after volunteering to help. I’m sure there must have been some form of mind control involved, or perhaps he asked me when Maya was pulling my nose and Noah was falling off his scooter at speed. However it happened, he must have caught me at a weak moment.

But now the meat sweats have calmed down, and I no longer smell like a forest fire and can face eating again it’s been little but salads this week, or ham and egg on toast. Simple and quick things that don’t require much thought or time.

So in light of not a great deal going on in the kitchen for the past few days, here is a selection of things I find essential and interestingly useful from my bulging shelves.

La isla bonito:
dried and fermented smoked tuna is a surprisingly delicious addition to many seafood dishes and stocks. I particularly like to add it to the pasta when I’m making spaghetti alle vongole. And I occasionally just like smelling the jar for that strange almost fish food smell.

We bought a yuzu:
I’ll often use this in dressings instead of lemon juice to give a slightly different citrus tang or in sorbets and lemon tarts.

Yeast today, once more:
Usually I make the weekly bread using my sourdough starter, but when I want a quicker loaf, pitta breads, ciabbattas or the like, I’ll use this fresh yeast from Sweden (via Ocado or the internet). It’s tangy, I much prefer fresh than the dried powdery stuff and I like the packaging.

Tarragon with the wind:
Not many days pass in this house without a salad and our house vinaigrette. Cider vinegar that has had a small bunch of tarragon steeping in it is key to this. Aniseed and apple flavours make this vinaigrette stand out.

Fungi to be around:
Dried porcini mushrooms, ground to a powder (or for that matter, dried mushrooms of most kinds) make an excellent seasoning for steak, or beef. I also add it to my mushroom pasta and many other dishes where I want that deep umami hit.

Oil be seeing you, in all the old familiar places:
I have a standard olive oil to cook with and I have a few special ones to dress with. Food that is, I don’t need oil on hand when putting clothes on. Just spending a little more on a really good quality olive oil makes such a difference to finishing dishes or for making dressings or just to dip good bread in.

Sitting on the dock of the Old Bay:
First of all, I love the packaging. Second, no fish taco in this house is complete without Old Bay seasoning. Easy.

Pepper the conversation:
Japanese pepper is slightly fruity and lemony, so is great on seafood or with meringues and strawberries. I use it a lot when I want an extra kick without too much pepper flavour

Ail be seeing you, in all those old familiar faces:
A house without garlic is a sad house.

Cutting the mustard:
Maille is my preferred brand of Dijon mustard. I use it in vinagrettes and it’s a must(ard) with roast chicken.

Chilli in here:
I like chilli heat, we have a variety of hot chilli sauces on the shelves too. And one of my favourite uses for them is hot green chilli sliced onto scrambled eggs. Hot green chillies probably would improve most dishes in my opinion.

Herb Salt:
A mix of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley, this salt will turn your morning fried eggs into delicious morning fried eggs. And there are plenty more uses for it than that too. Seasoning chicken skin before the bird goes in the oven, sprinkling over flaky white fish or seasoning, even curing salmon, this salt is just a little bit more than the usual. All you need is a spice grinder and it keeps for a long, long while.

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