How To Stock A Mediterranean Pantry
Mediterranean food is packed with flavour; it’s important to have the basic Mediterranean cooking staples in your kitchen, so that you can recreate all your favourite dishes from the Med when the craving hits! Add these ingredients to your shopping list so that you’ll always be ready to whip up a Mediterranean feast.
First up, pulses. The Mediterranean diet incorporates a lot of these in various dishes, especially chickpeas, lentils, cannellini and fava beans. They are a great source of fibre, B-vitamins and plant-based protein. Mediterranean dishes that use pulses are pretty much always cooked in a lot of extra virgin olive oil; and flavoured with lemon juice, spices, herbs and tomato sauce to make it undeniably delicious.
Tabouleh, a typical Mediterranean dish, is made from bulgur wheat and is widely used in Lebanese, Greek, Syrian, and Iraqi cuisine. In a Mediterranean pantry, it’s important to not just have bulgar but also faro, millet, orzo and semolina. This type of diet relies heavily on whole grains to balance all the healthy fats (olive oil), as well as dishes that have chicken, lamb or fish.
Try this recipe for Tabbouleh Salad
Tinned Tomatoes and Paste
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s important to have good quality tinned tomatoes in your pantry at all times. The same goes for tomato paste. There’s almost no end to the applications of tomatoes – they add flavour to pasta, stews, aubergines and even fish! The sweet-savoury acidity of tomatoes is the embodiment of what Mediterranean food is all about, making them a requirement in a Mediterranean pantry.
You can never go wrong with buying a good quality, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil; it’s the most natural and highest quality oil. Remember to always keep it stored in a cool spot, away from the sun, in order for it to keep its fresh flavour. We cannot stress enough how important olive oil is for a classic Mediterranean pantry, and South Africa has so many incredible and globally award-winning local extra virgin olive oils to choose from.
Want to know the difference between extra virgin olive oil and other olive oil? check out this article. If you’re even more curious, you can learn how to taste olive oil correctly.
This might sound like a strange one, but dried fruit is used a lot in Mediterranean cuisine. Whether it’s ground up and mixed into a base or mixed into salads and rice, dried fruit plays an important role in Mediterranean dishes. Fruits typically used include figs, dates, raisins and (sometimes) apricots. All of these dried fruits can enhance a ton of recipes, both sweet and savoury.
Where would we be without olives? So delicious, olives add the perfect amount of saltiness to any dish. If you’re not sure how to de-pit an olive, it’s best to use the pressure method. Place the olives under the wide part of a chef’s knife and apply pressure. The force will loosen the pit and voilà!
Herbs & Spices
Seasonings and herbs are important to have in any kitchen, they liven up even the blandest of dishes. Mediterranean cuisine is no different, it relies on spices like turmeric, sumac, za’atar, fenugreek, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, cardamom, and coriander to turn simple dishes in to tasty feasts. It’s important to have spices in your Mediterranean pantry; if you’re new to the spice game, check out this beginners guide for the ultimate spice rack.
Garlic & Onions
Garlic and onions are the base of most Mediterranean dishes. They both have a relatively long shelf-life, so having a couple of bulbs in your kitchen at all times is not only 100% doable but pretty much essential. Almost all Mediterranean recipes use some form of garlic, so if you can keep fresh bulbs, that’s first prize; if you are stuck, powdered garlic or refrigerated crushed garlic will do. There is also onion powder, but it’s more of an addition rather than a substitute for onion.
Whether it’s tzatziki or any Mediterranean dish, Greek yoghurt is incredibly versatile and is a cook’s secret weapon. It can be used as a sauce base, dips, marinade for chicken or lamb, you name it. It’s also incredibly good for you; Greek yoghurt contains probiotics, which help support a healthy gut and also has a high protein content. If you have time on your hands, try hanging it to make your own labneh. Having a tub in the fridge will last you for a while, even after the expiry date.
Try this recipe for Chilli Rocket Pesto Lamb Chops with Yoghurt
This sesame paste is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, and for good reason. The nutty flavour that tahini gives is the perfect ingredient for baba ganoush, halva and hummus. It’s also ideal for salad dressings, sauces; topped over grilled aubergines and brownies – the options are endless. Just keep a tub in your Mediterranean pantry and you’re good to go!
Harissa is a Tunisian hot chilli pepper paste, its main ingredients are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers or Baklouti peppers, cumin, coriander, and garlic. Harissa is traditionally served alongside stews, bread, and couscous dishes. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to chicken, lamb and fish. A very important component of a Mediterranean pantry.
Try this recipe for Harissa-marinated Lamb Loin Chops
Nuts & Seeds
Last but certainly not least, a Mediterranean pantry would not be complete without some nuts and seeds. Not only are they loaded with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats (the good kind), they also add a special element to dishes. Nuts typically used in this cuisine are pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts and sesame seeds.
Feeling inspired? Check out our roundup of delicious Mediterranean recipes.
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