health benefits. ‘‘Coconut oil has an impressive fatty acid profile and can help modulate good and bad cholesterol ratios,’’ says food specialist Catie Gett. The oil has a high smoking temperature, which means it can be heated to high temperatures before it oxidises, making it a great option for cooking.
There are many types of dried seaweed and they’re a great go-to for adding texture and umami. The recommendation is to reconstitute your favourite, tear it and add it to salads, or enhance a seafood pasta sauce with powdered kombu.
Food critic Terry Durack loves the convenience of Chinese lap cheong sausage. ‘‘I always keep a pack in the fridge; I love the sweet porkiness it brings, not just to Chinese dishes and stir-fries, but just steamed, sliced and sizzled for 10 seconds in a hot pan then tossed over fish and rice for a quirky surf-andturf effect. Dinner is done.’’
The pseudo-cereal grain is from the same family as sorrel and rhubarb and good for those following a gluten-free diet. You can buy it as a ready-to-use flour, or buy the groats and grind it yourself for a fresher flavour. Buckwheat groats can be sprouted and roasted, then cooked in a light broth to make traditional buckwheat porridge. Good too for blinis and Normandy-style crepes.
BEYOND BALSAMIC VINEGARS
Expanding your repertoire of vinegars can unlock many new culinary tricks and recipes. Fairfax food writers are fans of naturally fermented Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, as it is both health-promoting and a starter for all sorts of fermenting. Also recommended; soaking a couple of tablespoons of currants in red wine vinegar for an hour or so before dinner. Drain and use the vinegar with olive oil to dress a leaf salad, and scatter with the currants – little bliss bombs of sweetness and acidity.’’
Middle Eastern flavours are still popular and pomegranate molasses is enduringly versatile for both savoury and sweet dishes – meatloaf to coffee cake. Karen Martini says ‘‘it has a concentration of flavour, as well as an amazing sweet and sour balance. Recently I made a meatloaf with haloumi, pistachios and oregano, and glazed the top with some pomegranate molasses, which gave it a deliciously sweet and sharp accent. I do an exotic version of Eton mess with Persian fairy floss and cubes of pomegranate molasses and cranberry jelly. I also make a Dan Lepardinspired spiced coffee and date loaf, which I skewer holes in and drench with pomegranate molasses while it cools, which makes it extramoist.’’
While this Egyptian dry mix is not unusual now, its spicy, sesame-seedy goodness is used in new ways – scattered over fried eggs, shakshouka, leafy green salads, soups, roast veges, and swirled into yoghurt and smashed feta to serve next to grilled fish, chicken, lamb, or as a crust for oven-baked fish.
With our growing interest in creating culinary things on the home front, perhaps the most vital ingredient we should be stockpiling is time – time to experiment, time to explore markets and unusual suppliers, time to hone new skills and get creative.
Green pop-up: All hail kale.