Pantry know-how (+ recipes)
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.
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. Get the recipe
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. Get the recipe
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. Get the recipe
For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new winter annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com.