Stocking your kitchen with ‘flavour families’ keeps the order

If you're lucky enough to be designing a new kitchen or renovating an old one, it's worth spending time thinking about the pantry.

Your needs will vary depending on your location and lifestyle. If you live in the central city with ready access to farmers' markets and food shops, you can stock small amounts often, so you might not need a lot of storage. If you entertain a lot you'll need a different pantry set-up to someone who eats out all the time. And with kids you are often baking.

For me, living by the lake about 12 minutes' drive from town, my pantry is like a little shop - I like having everything I might want close at hand so I can easily transform whatever seasonal vegetables are in the garden into a multitude of different flavourways. It makes it so easy to get creative.

I aim to arrange condiments by ethnic family - keeping all the Asian sauces, spices and herbs in one area, Mexican in another, Indian in another and Mediterranean in another. This makes it easy to cook in "flavour families" without having to shuffle through everything to find what I want.


In another drawer or on another shelf I'll have sweet baking spices, even though there will be crossovers with some versatile spices, such as cinnamon quills and cloves, which work in both sweet and savoury dishes.

I try to avoid storing anything in plastic. I transfer pulses, grains, rice and flours from their packets into big glass jars to keep them fresh, so I can see see if they need restocking, and also because they look good on the shelf. I use masking tape and a marker to label the jars, or tear off a little of the label and pop it in the jar. If I'm keeping jars and bottles in drawers, I label the tops instead, to make it easier to find what I'm looking for.

While I don't tend to use much canned food, flavour boosters like tuna, anchovies and tomatoes (paste, passata and whole) are always useful, as are cans of chickpeas, lentils and beans for when I don't have time to start from scratch, soaking and cooking.

All my bulk-stored garden harvests like whole pumpkins, potatoes, onions and garlic keep best in a cool, dark environment, and because they take up lots of room I keep them outside in the shed and bring them in as needed. Nuts keep well in the shell but because of their high fat content they go rancid quickly once cracked, so unshelled nuts are best kept in the fridge or freezer.

In the freezer I keep frozen peas and corn, as well as small portions of bacon and quick-to-thaw protein such as chicken, steak and salmon fillets ready to pull out for a speedy dinner. I keep bread in the freezer too, as it keeps it fresh and leftovers can be made into crostini, garlic bread or breadcrumbs when I have time. Pita breads and wraps are another freezer staple - handy to pop into the toaster or use as emergency pizza bases or for a quick quaesadilla. Stock is another must-have basic - I freeze home-made stocks in batches and have a few tetrapacks on hand in the pantry in case I run out.

With my kitchen stocked in this way, it's easy to pull together delicious meals in minutes. Here I share some of my favourite storecupboard recipes.

Spiced Chickpeas and Halloumi

Ready in 15 mins
Serves 2-3 as a meal or 4-6 as a side

Tbsp neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp fennel seeds (optional)
400g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
200g halloumi or firm paneer, cut into 1-2cm chunks
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
400g can cherry tomatoes in juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
5-6 handfuls (130-150g) baby spinach or roughly chopped spinach leaves
2 Tbsp Greek-style yoghurt

In a medium pot, heat oil and sizzle garlic, cumin, chilli and fennel seeds, if using, for a few seconds. Add chickpeas and halloumi or paneer and cook 2-3 minutes to infuse spice flavours. Stir in tomato paste, then add sugar and canned tomatoes in their juice.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes. Add spinach, cover with a lid and cook until spinach has wilted (about 2 minutes). Stir in yoghurt just before serving, or serve it on the side as a garnish.

Annabel says: This simple storecupboard recipe is great as a vegetarian dinner or as a side dish with grilled lamb, chicken or beef. You can add chorizo instead of or as well as the halloumi if you like.

Linguine with Tuna Puttanesca

Ready in 25 mins
Serves 4

400g dried linguine or other pasta
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5-6 canned anchovies, chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp capers, coarsely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped or cherry tomatoes in juice
½-1 tsp chilli flakes or cayenne pepper, or 1 small red chilli, to taste
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
400g can tuna in oil, drained and flaked
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves, to serve

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large, deep frying pan and gently fry anchovies and garlic, cooking until anchovies get pasty and garlic is just starting to colour (about 3 minutes). Add capers, tomatoes, chilli and olives. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tuna and mix lightly so it doesn't break up too much. Simmer 2-3 minutes to warm through and absorb flavours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain cooked pasta and toss through sauce to coat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Annabel says: Puttanesca is the ultimate store-cupboard meal - the Italian name translates as "whore's pasta", apparently because it could easily be whipped it up from the pantry between clients. If you don't have linguine, use spaghetti or fettuccine. Anchovies add a rich umami flavour. They literally melt away in the sauce, providing a meaty, rather than fishy, flavour, but if you don't like them, leave them out.

Saucy Chocolate Puddings

Ready in 30 mins
Serves 8

1¾ cups self-raising flour
1¾ cups soft brown sugar
½ cup good-quality cocoa powder, plus extra to dust
¾ cup milk
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup boiling water or boiling hot black coffee

Preheat oven to 180°C fanbake.

Thoroughly butter the insides of 8 heatproof cups and dust with cocoa. Combine flour, 1 cup of the sugar and ¼ cup of the cocoa in a mixing bowl. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla to combine. Divide between prepared cups.

Stir together the chocolate chips, remaining ¼ cup cocoa and remaining ¾ cup sugar and divide over the cake mixture (3 Tbsp per cup). Drizzle 2 Tbsp boiling water or coffee over the top of each without stirring. Bake until they are set through and the tops bounce back when pressed (about 15 minutes). Serve hot or warm with a drizzle of cream or a spoonful of icecream on top.

Annabel says: These self-saucing puddings are a snap to make using affordable ingredients that you're likely to have handy in your pantry, so they're perfect for when you need to whip up a dessert for impromptu guests. There's something almost miraculous about the way a rich, chocolatey sauce forms of its own accord in the base.