Spicesolation – Food cupboard staples & spice
At this difficult and insanely surreal time, many of you will be under Government lock-down or in self isolation. I have been in self isolation for 15 days now and its hard.
Day 1 is novel, a little exciting, especially for the kids. It felt like a wet Sunday, lazing around in your PJ’s. By day 4 or 5 you will begin to get a bit stir crazy. Longing for a long walk or run around the local shops, or parks, even if you didn’t really do much of it before.
You will have stocked up on all the key essentials, that you believe you need. You will then crave the one ingredient or food that you didn’t get, not because you forgot, but because you thought it wasn’t an essential item. Mine was wholenut chocolate.
There’s no need to “panic buy” you hear on the radio, TV, news, on Facebook, on Instagram and on twitter. I can’t reiterate that enough.
Chances are your cupboards are full of weird and wonderful foods that you didn’t even know was there. I hate food waste and at a time like this, we really ought to be more diligent about what we buy and how we use them.
So, here’s what I did, tackle a cupboard one at a time.
- Take everything out of the cupboard and place on a table
- Categorise each item into “out of date” and “in date”
- Now place all the food stuff that’s “in date” in order of date, with the most recent at the front and the oldest (or furthest away) at the back
- Give the cupboard or shelf a good clean and ensure it is dry before you place things back.
Out of date stock
Sift through the out of date stock.
A lot of food simply discolours over time, it’s not harmful, but it’s not so pleasing to the eye. This can still be used.
Use the sense check: view it, smell it and taste it!
If you can visibly see mould, cloudiness, rust around the rim, then bin it.
Smell it and if it doesn’t smell quite right, bin it.
Does it look O.K.? smells O.K.? then taste it and if it doesn’t taste O.K., bin it.
- Tinned/ Dry/ vacuum packed – These are generally still O.K. to consume even if passed their best before end date (BBE), as long as the item remains intact.
- Food containing meat/fish/diary disregard if past its BBE
- Nuts contain a lot of natural oils. these oils can start to smell bitter over time and the nuts themselves can go stale. One way to revive them is to roast them in the oven on a low heat for 10-15 mins (turning occasionally). It’s perfectly fine to use the nuts in a recipe that requires them to be cooked, rather than sprinkled over the top.
- Spices tend to lose their flavour, colour and smell over time, but they are, in the main, not harmful.
- Sauces and pastes that have never been opened should be smelt and tasted, before throwing away.
- Flour also be used after the BBE date for about 4- 6 months. Please examine the flour carefully. Take a close look, has it discoloured? Are there insects in the flour? If so, discard immediately. This occurs when moisture has entered the flour and attracted insects to it.
- Dried pasta, again this seems to fair well past its BBE date, even if it contains egg.
- Cous-cous, grains and pulses should follow the same rules as flour.
Once you have deciphered what you are throwing away, you will be left with the delights you never knew you had!
To make it even easier, group the products together e.g. flour, pasta, pastes, tins etc and then place them in date order. This will encourage you to use the nearest to you first and keep those with a long shelf date further back.
Now comes the exciting bit, learn to use these ingredients in a variety of ways and don’t be afraid to make it up as you go. Ready steady cook!