How wonderful it is to get away from the city on a summer weekend! However, I’ve found that if you want to enjoy good tasty food when you’re away from your home kitchen, you must plan ahead a little.
Far too often over the years of frantic packing up the car on a Friday evening, we have arrived at the cottage to discover that an essential part of a meal is missing: there may be meatballs in tomato sauce ready to go, but no pasta in the pantry. Our family cottage is across water. The trip to the nearest market is a major excursion. You can imagine the stress!
I find that my role as cottage cook is much simpler and a lot more fun if I take time to stock the cottage cupboard with a selection of essential non-perishables. My Cottage Cook’s Checklist is a life-saver. The list includes foods my family enjoys most often; basic ingredients to provide variety and a few useful time-saving short cuts to save the day when unexpected guests show up or when the cook has spent too long lazing with a book on the dock.
My list of non-perishable pantry supplies remains quite consistent. The perishable items that need to be picked up before we leave town (meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables, bakery items) change depending on the occasion.
Five essentials in the cottage pantry
Cold pressed quality vegetable oil: Mostly I use olive oil for cooking and salads, but more and more frequently I reach for a light vegetable oil for dishes where the flavour of the olive isn’t appropriate. It’s also necessary to have on hand when the mood strikes to bake banana bread or a batch of muffins.
Natural Rice Vinegar: This vinegar has a simple, mild acidity that adds sparkle to family-favourite Asian-style salads, stir frys and quick pickles.
Chicken Stock: The idea that I will always have homemade stock on hand at the cottage is just not reality! My go-to handy short cut for use in soups, stews and sauces is “Better than Bouillon”, a flavourful concentrated stock paste, available in chicken, beef and roast vegetable flavours.
Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: Smoked jalapeno peppers preserved in a fiery tomato sauce are available in small cans (220 ml). They add instant authentic Mexican flavour to chilis, pulled pork, taco fillings, marinades and sauces. Watch out: they’re really hot! Transfer any unused peppers into a small glass container and store in the refrigerator ready for times when a dash of smoky heat is needed.
Lentils: Split red lentils are a current favourite staple. They’re packed with protein, fibre and good nutrients and fabulous in soups and side dishes. Small French green lentils (Puy) are stronger in flavour and don’t fall apart during cooking. Try them in salads or tossed with sautéed greens like kale or Swiss chard.
Cottage Pantry Tip: Transfer lentils, grains, seeds, nuts and items in packages into (preferably glass) containers with well-fitting lids to keep out moisture and discourage critters large and small. I suggest that you cut out any cooking directions on the package and tuck them into the container. Different brands of the same food may require adjustment to methods of preparation.
What essentials are in your cottage pantry? We’d love to receive your cottage cooking ideas and tips.
Link to Jane’s Cottage Pantry Checklist.