Shelf denial

New year, new you. As soon as your resolutions are made,they are just as soon undone.
This year I decided it was finally time to book myself into larder re-hab or Pantrification as I have named it. Before I could say broom I was swept up in a domestic version of supermarket sweep. Chuck it out if its past its sell by and destroy evidence of any impulse culinary purchases that you are embarrassed never to have opened.
"and when she got there the cupboard was bare" - inconceivable. I have never seen an empty larder. Neither have I ever been one of those householders who takes pride in an empty fridge or spartan pantry. My shelves are so stocked,that in the unlikely event of an earthquake or a replay of the tsunami that hit the Algarve in 1755 my friends and neighbours would be able to survive for another generation. My hoarding obsession is not a bad thing, it´s just completely unnecessary. I shop for fresh food on a daily basis, but I would not want to get caught short in a freak cous cous crisis.As soon as I notice a product gap on the larder shelf its on my replacement list. I couldn´t admit defeat if there were no fresh beans to be seen. If it must be beans I have jars and tins. No one can force me to eat pasta when my heart is set on beans. Of course this never happens. In the absence of beans I just flip to lentils and the tin of beans continues to rest firmly on the shelf alongside the past its sell by tin of condensed milk, the rapeseed oil and jar of heart of palm. The store cupboard, bare or otherwise, is very revealing of character ( more so than the fridge, which is an of-the-moment appliance).That cupboard is full of hope,dreams delusions and denial. Every six months I throw out a packet of tortilla wraps. I am never going to make enchiladas. We don´t eat Mexican food in our house. But there is an experimental me, the one that really wants to break loose from the potato peeler, who continues to find freedom in a packet of tortillas and a tin of re-fried beans. In a rather more rustic and patient delusion I find myself buying dried legumes, not just cannelini beans but pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils every which way and broad beans under the pretext that I will soak them overnight ready for tomorrow´s meal. Having hurriedly opened a barrage of ready to go tins of beans, peas and lentils a guilt over their dried neglected cousins sets in.Thats when I decide put my conscience to right, blind bake some pastry and freeze it.In my dreams. To recover from a lifetime of denial is why I decided self styled pantry rehab was the only answer. Eat the cupboard bare. Then start from scratch. Use every jar of pickle, pesto, pate and curry paste.My first advice to any one trying this therapeutic scarifying is that it should not be  undertaken without enlisting a culinary support group. They must be prepared to eat some of their favourite meals as a Heston Blumenthal scientific experiment. Depantrifying is full of life lessons and is therefore time well spent.Here are some of my preliminary findings.

Rolling your own canneloni from sheets of lasagne is far more sensible than trying to stuff puréed pumpkin with  the end of a wooden spoon up the back end of the pre-manufactured variety.

If you open 2 types of mustards at once you are only transferring the problem to the fridge.

The addition of pureed palm heart to every dip is not destined to be an unqualified success

Anchovies and capers will not always improve a sauce already overwhelmed by an abundance of other mediterranean ingredients

All those wacky products purchased from the supermarket posh ingredients aisle are usually horrendous so be cautious with an over use of the likes of Mirin

Potato and rice flour will not always make your batter any more interesting

Dont be tempted by that jar of past its peak store purchased pesto

About once a month a tin of sardines on toast makes a hilariously nostalgic lunch

Not everything benefits from being rolled in polenta,but can give a bit of crunch texture and presentation to an otherwise bland looking canape or snack

A tube of wanton wasabi waiting to be wokked is only worth its weight in Japanese recipes

Never succumb to tamarind temptation.

Most of the above need never be replaced and are not store cupboard essentials
I can see clearly now the jars have gone!!!!


  1. A beautiful piece! Love your pantrification (something I may need to indulge in sooner rather than late . . . although I might just have to have a small sherry first just to gain the nerve!)

  2. It certainly requires a degree of courage and discipline.There is no going back.I will be posting recipes over the next few weeks to prove I have come out of larder rehab a better pantry manager.

  3. I'm glad it's not just me...what is it with those pesky tortilla wraps ??
    I too love the "nostalgic"sardines on toast...and I just don't get palm hearts much to my spanish husband's chagrin . do weevils get into sealed packets of food ????
    I have to decant flour,pulses,pasta etc,. into glass jars and STILL they appear..?? do you have this problem ?? is it living in a hot country do you think ??

  4. Sure do have weevil problems in sealed packets of food.I just don´t know the answer, but only last week I had to decant two sealed packets of basmati rice,must of been in there since it left its source of packaging?I don´t think the hot weather has anything to do with it but it might be humidity?I have found the same problem with dried ground spices,particularly coriander.

  5. It was nice to receive many useful facts in this post.


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