My herbs and spices have been around as long as my husband…

NOVEMBER 2016 | FOOD & DRINK

If you’d have told me a few years ago that my life would change in such a way that decluttering my spice cupboard would bring a leap of joy. Or that I would be heading out at night, not to neck a few cocktails but instead to go to mindfulness school (and before I did so I would put some bone broth on to simmer). Oh my. If you’d have suggested such a travesty I would have laughed until I cried (unlike these days when I’m more likely to laugh and wet myself, but hey, pelvic floor stuff can be saved for another post!)

So yep, life has transitioned in a way I didn’t quite expect. And that’s what this post is about; in a really vague, tenuous kind of way…how a kitchen cupboard clear-out can evolve into a world of culinary creations.

Cupboard decluttering

As some of you know, decluttering is an ongoing battle in the K-household. So when I stumbled across a book that promised to teach me how to create a more organised home, I felt compelled to read. (Yes, I admit, my quest to quell the clutter isn’t being helped by my addiction to buying all manner of ‘self-improvement’ books!)

Anyway, back to the book and its revelations like this one…no household can be truly free from chaos until you’ve started with the basics – your spice cupboard.

So true.

The sniff and shake test

My herbs and spices were in a sorry state of neglect. We all do it (don’t we?!); inspired by the latest foodie fads or a new series of Masterchef, off we go on an excitable herb and spice buying spree. They get used once and apart from the occasional sprinkle they often get overlooked in favour of the fresh kind or in my case general cooking laziness. That’s fine for a while. The general guidance is that ground spices are good for up to two years – they won’t make you ill after this time but they won’t pack the same flavour punch so in an ideal world you’d be having a sniff of your spices at least once a year and using them up with a bit more gusto if possible.

On review of my collection, some had embarrassingly been in my life almost as long as my husband has. He could stay (this time!) But they went.

Those that passed the sniff and shake test were then ordered alphabetically (the ‘shake test’ is optional but I’m of the view that cemented to the bottom of the pot probably doesn’t bode too well so I ditched those too). Yes, slightly geekish to A-Z them but since doing it I’ve saved myself minutes by being able to straight away find what I’m looking for. It’s much easier to see where I’ve got gaps or no back-up for those that are running low. It’s pathetically sad but it does fill me with a little bit of joy to go back to my organised cupboard.

And so a cooking frenzy began…

Well, not quite a frenzy; but my cupboard of flavoursome joy did inspire me to spend the next week cooking more than I usually would. And for those of you still reading, I shall now share with you where my food journey went next. Just in case you too should feel galvanized to spend an hour (or so) of your life clearing out your herbs and spices; a hour (or so) you won’t ever get back but you too could embark on curry, stock and soup exploits as I did!

So, should you be heavily loaded on the spices like I was, then cooking your curries from scratch is the way to go. In my brave new world of cooking I went for a Hemsley and Hemsley chicken curry which makes use of ground cumin/coriander/turmeric/garam masala/fennel seeds/chilli. I swapped things about a bit and used less stock as I had some coconut milk that I needed to use up and my fresh tomatoes had gone off (sigh) so I used some tinned chopped tomatoes. The curry was a hit with all the family – warm heat and full of flavour rather than eye-watering spicy (I did add a little extra kick at the end for me though).

If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll understandably want to give this chicken curry a miss.  Give their squash, red lentil and coconut curry a go instead (here’s the recipe which does include their signature chicken stock, duh, so you’ll need to swap that out for a veggie version).

Talking of stock

We just did above if you skipped that bit but I’ll continue on the theme. It will come as no surprise that I’ve never made a stock from scratch in my life. I always have good intentions, setting aside the bones n bits after roasting a chicken, only to have to throw them away at the end of the week because I didn’t get round to it. This week I was determined, especially as most of the Hemsley and Hemsley recipes call for a good quality veg stock or a homemade bone broth. So I set aside the roast remnants and committed to stock-making using their recipe (you can find it here). It was actually really simple. It takes at least 6hours but once it’s simmering there’s little you have to do – hence I could easily task the husband with giving it a stir while I went out. As well as being easy, I knew it contained no nasties. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge or you can freeze it.

If you’re a regular of Hemsley and Hemsley recipes then it won’t last long. I used some more of my stock stash to make their broccoli, ginger and bean soup.  If you’re not a fan of ginger, it’s probably not the soup for you unless you cut down on the quantities they suggest. I liked the ginger zing; it helps to heat you up from the inside on a chilly autumnal day. And it felt good for me to be eating proper food for my lunch instead of devouring a family sized packet of crisps. [Here’s the soup recipe if you want some ginger and cayenne heat in your life.]

So there you have it…

That’s the (ashamedly) true story of my wildly exciting life of cupboard clear-outs leading to curry, chicken stock, and broccoli soup. There was more to my week of cooking but I’ll leave you to ponder on this until our next culinary instalment…

*Disclaimer: please don’t be under any false illusions of my ‘home-maker’ skills or indeed any long-term aspirations; most days you can’t see my kitchen worktops for clutter and the home cooking, that just appeases some of the guilt for those weekly pub visits and Deliveroo orders! x

 

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