I DO LIKE THEM THE PANTRY MAGPIE
Do you like green eggs and ham? Try them and you might change your mind.
Igrew up enduring endless tedious schoolyard jokes about whether I ate green eggs and ham. Sam did not eat green eggs and ham. Clearly I was a deeply laconic child with no time for doggerel.
The adult Sam has changed his tune. Adult Sam does eat green eggs and ham. Well, greens with eggs and prosciutto, but let’s not get too pedantic here. (And it’s more than perfectly clear from my prose that now I absolutely revel in doggerel.)
I’m terribly fond of baked eggs. They make an impressive and deceptively easy breakfast dish for large numbers of people. Double or triple the recipe below as you see fit. The key is to not overdo the yolks; you want them to run everywhere and act as a sauce, to be mopped up with a bit of good bread.
If you can get hold of some of that Clevedon Buffalo Curd, go for it. If I’m not careful I’ll demolish an entire jar in one sitting with absolutely no regrets whatsoever.
GREEN EGGS AND HAM
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 15-20 mins Serves: 4
Olive oil 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced 1 leek, trimmed, finely sliced and washed
1 red onion, finely sliced
Bunch of asparagus, ends removed and halved
Handful of broccolini, halved 1 lemon
Sea salt and black pepper 8 slices of prosciutto 8 free-range eggs 100g soft cheese (goat, buffalo) or feta Small handful of mint
In a large, deep pan or flameproof casserole over a medium heat, add a little olive oil, let it heat up and then add the garlic, leek and onion. Saute gently for 6-8 minutes until everything is soft, fragrant and translucent. Throw in the asparagus and broccolini and fold everything together. Zest in the lemon and add a squeeze of juice. Season everything well to taste. Scatter the prosciutto over the top and then crack the eggs over the top of everything. Give the pan a bit of a jiggle so that the egg settles out evenly, then pop a lid on and continue to cook at a low-ish heat for another 5-6 minutes, until the egg whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Season again, drizzle over a little olive oil, dot the soft cheese over the top and tear up the mint and scatter over. Serve while still lovely and hot, perhaps with some good bread on the side to mop up the goodness.
Periodically, I entertain the notion of stripping my pantry and starting again, with a blank canvas and restraint. We’re bombarded with messages these days about scaling back, decluttering, being “a minimalist”. When I have a new friend over, someone who maybe doesn’t know me so well, and I open those tall doors in front of them, I’m prone to a brief flush of shame. Shame for not conforming to the current ideal: new jars neatly lined up and carefully labelled (not like mine with their old labels clinging on for dear life); nothing on show in packets; room on the shelves for impromptu dry-goods, a teddy bear’s picnic, small appliances.
These fits of discontent eventually pass as I allow my mind to settle back into the knowledge that the pay-off for a minimalist pantry for me would mean a) a minimal cooking repertoire, b) endless trips to get last-minute supplies or c) takeaways or – worse yet – I’d be forced to rely on packet sauces, curry pastes and spice mixes.
So my pantry is full, but I still want it tidy, and therein lies another testing issue: the cataloguing of items. Harder than you might think. Vinegars, Asian sauce, other sauces, oils in rows. But when I have to split a row in half, or encounter a pesky bottle too tall to fit in its slot, my self-esteem wilts. I dilly-dally over whether to group breakfast-esque items in one area, even if it means the spread collection sitting a little out of the kids’ reach, necessitating the endless dragging of a chair across the floorboards. Where’s best to store the overflow of lentils (three kinds), quinoa, freekeh, genmaicha tea bought in bulk? There are no simple answers. Each solution begets a new dilemma.
But when I want to cook char kuey teow, I know my pantry will yield dark soy, light soy, kecap manis, oyster sauces. When a wintry day calls for chunky broth, I’ll find barley, split peas, red lentils. I won’t need to nip out to get dark muscavado, almond flour or psyllium husk when I’m on a baking roll, and chances are I’ll have the right kind of pasta to carry a particular sauce.
I’m aware that this sounds like that overused phrase, a “first world problem”, in light of the appalling state of food security that plagues the world – and this country. An overstocked pantry! If me scaling back would help anything more than scratched floorboards and buckling shelves, I’d throw myself into it. But it won’t. Now, for the fridge...