Supper heroes I
N her new cookbook, The Art Of The Larder, Zimbabweborn, and now Bristol-based chef Claire Thomson shares her thoughts and ideas for building up a store cupboard of ingredients – so never again will you be able to look in your cupboards with dismay and say, ‘There’s nothing to eat’.
“It’s about understanding ingredients and having everything in your store cupboard, then you’re able to cook with greater ease and confidence,” the chef behind @5oclockapron explains.
“That doesn’t have to equate to expensive or esoteric ingredients, it just needs to be your everyday pulses, pasta, noodles, rice, jarred goods. Your larder needs to encompass all those things that mean, when you get back from work at half five, six o’clock in the evening, you can cook something from anything.
“Pasta and noodles are brilliant, they’re the quick thrifty food that can be made into a meal in minutes. My thing with pasta is often that I should be able to make the sauce in the time it takes for the pasta to cook.
“Pulses are a brilliant thing, really cheap – you can go salads, soups, stews... endless possibilities.
“With rice, lentils and flours, I’m all about diversity, buy little and often. You don’t have to buy these great big sacks of flour, just buy a flour, understand its properties and then move on.
“Lots and lots and lots of ingredients isn’t good cooking husbandry. “As a chef, you’re encouraged to cook and use stuff with zero waste and use ingredients well and wisely. If you have loads of stuff on your shelves, sell-by dates on packets do work; for instance, pasta should be used within three months of opening because it can become brittle and cook unevenly.
“Frozen spinach is a wonderful thing, it’s like frozen peas, it retains its nutrients. (With) frozen spinach you get quite a high yield for quite a small amount of money – chuck that in curries with coconut milk and you’ve got a really great supper.
“I don’t eat a lot of fish, but the fish I do eat tends to be sardines and mackerel, because they’re more sustainable.
Claire also includes some sweet stuff: “Molasses, maple syrup, golden syrup and honey! I’m OK with using a bit of sugar from time to time because when I do bake, it’s a treat.
“I don’t have a huge pretentious, Downton Abbeystyle larder,” Claire explains. “I have one shelf for grains, one for pasta and noodles etc, and I keep my ingredients in plastic boxes with lids and labels – all chefs love a sharpie and a roll of masking tape!”
Finally Claire says she couldn’t live without: “Olive oil, lentils, tinned tomatoes, lemons and garlic.”
Here are three of Claire’s simple recipes to try using stock from your newly arranged larder... heat until tender, about six to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. 4. Grill the chops on one side for four to six minutes, then turn over and grill on the other side for four to six minutes, until caramelised and cooked through. Remove from the grill and rest for five minutes. 5. To serve, sit the meat on a puddle of warm rhubarb, along with the meat resting juices, and scatter with hazelnuts. 50g butter 1 small onion, finely chopped 1/2 a radicchio, finely shredded 100g prosciutto, sliced into 5mm-1cm ribbons 75ml double cream Salt and freshly ground black pepper Nutmeg, freshly grated to taste, about 1/6tsp is ideal 300g pappardelle, fettuccine or tagliatelle 50-75g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. 2. Heat the butter in a large pan over a moderate heat and cook the onion until it is soft and translucent, about eight to 10 minutes. 3. Stir in the radicchio and the prosciutto and cook for one to two minutes, enough for the radicchio to wilt. 4. Add the cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. 5. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and drain. 6. Toss the cooked pasta in the cream sauce for a minute over the heat for the flavours to meld. Serve immediately, with the grated cheese.