Making things from scratch may seem a tedious and time-consuming process, especially when it is so convenient to pick up readymade pastes, mixes and curries from the store. However, with a bit of planning and a few basic ingredients, one can stock up the kitchen cupboard or refrigerator with everything that you need to whip up a tasty meal in a matter of minutes. Here are my top 10 made-from-scratch basics.
- Yogurt. Ever since I discovered how easy it was to make yogurt at home, I’ve not looked back. I make yogurt everyday(yes, that’s right!) and it hardly takes five minutes. If there is one thing that you want to do to start eating healthy, this will be it. Homemade, fresh yogurt is not just healthier but also tastier.
- Ginger and Garlic Pastes. Quick and simple. I peel and chop up the ginger and the garlic while watching Monk or Desperate Housewives, toss it into the food processor and have lovely fresh ginger-garlic paste ready to be bottled in minutes.
- Cottage Cheese. Cottage cheese like homemade yogurt is a breeze to make and is a great snack besides being a fantastic main course as well. Simply boil the milk, add a teaspoon of vinegar or lime juice. The milk will curdle instantly. Press it through a sieve or a cottage cheese maker and voila, instant, yummy and soft cottage cheese.
- Caster Sugar or Powdered Sugar for Cakes and Cookies. Since I love baking, I used to spend quite a bit on store-bought caster sugar till I discovered that simply powdering regular white sugar in the mixer-grinder gives me the same results.
- Vanilla Sugar. Again, a delight to use and a breeze to make. I buy vanilla pods from the organic food section and toss them into a jar of my homemade caster sugar. Lovely, vanilla-scented sugar in an instant.
- Cake and Cookie Mix. Spurred on by a love for baking and a shortage of time, I was really happy to find that making my own cake and cookie mixes and storing them in the refrigerator really cut down on baking prep time without affecting the taste of the finished product. I got this idea for homemade dry mixes from JennT, a mom and writer on Untrained Housewife, a great website that I write for as the Parenting Columnist.
- Pancake Mix. This is inspired by Nigella Lawson and her book, Nigella Express. I am a diehard Nigella fan and own all of her books. Needless to say, they’re a HUGE delight. Anyway, the recipe in question is one that will make breakfasts super fast and simple. I just make the mix and store in a jar, ready to be pulled out a moment’s notice. Here it is, courtesy of Food Network.
- Breadcrumbs, Spiced and Plain. Easy-peasy. I have both dry and fresh breadcrumbs bottled and stored in the refrigerator at all time. For fresh breadcrumbs, I simply use the left over sides of the slices that I use for sandwiches. My husband has TMJ and can’t chew the crusts so instead of wasting them, I either just grind them for fresh breadcrumbs or dry roast them on a baking sheet in the oven at 180 deg C for 10-15 minutes and then, whiz them in the processor with the metal blade. To spice them up, simply add a blend of your favorite herbs and spices. Mine includes oregano, a dash of salt and chili flakes. Perfect for coating fillets of fish and chicken.
- Golden Syrup. Getting golden syrup where I live is not difficult, but it is very expensive since it’s imported from the U.S. And spending that much on something that I can easily make at home, doesn’t make sense to me. So, I did a bit of research, tried out a few recipes and finally, decided that this one by Sinner’s Waitakere Redneck Kitchen is the best. It does take some time, but it is totally worth it.
- Flavored Butters. I love flavored butters with my bread. Garlic, lemon, spiced, mmm… they make an ordinary soup and bread dinner taste heavenly. Here’s what I do. Depending upon how many types of flavored butters I want to make, I leave the regular salted butter in individual bowls, out on the counter to soften. Then, I mince or mix my “spices”. For about 6-8 tbsps of butter, you can use about a tbsp of lemon juice or 6-8 cloves of garlic and a tsp of lemon juice or 1-2 tsps dried mixed herbs, a sprinkling of cheddar and 1-2 tsps of Dijon mustard. Three different flavored butters in next to no time. I use salted butter and so skip the additional salt but if you’re using unsalted butter, you may want to add a pinch of salt as well.
Making these store-cupboard basics doesn’t take a whole lot of time and in fact, you can do them all together and spend only 2 hours or less but have the kitchen stocked for the entire week or month, as you like it. I tend to spend a couple of hours, every alternate weekend, to make and stock these and a few other items such as chicken stock, vegetable stock, tomato puree and ground almonds. It makes cooking easier, faster, healthier and tastier.
What are the store-cupboard essentials that you love to make and keep? What makes cooking from scratch easier and quicker for you? Do share!!
Photo Credit: frizzzzle