Sunshine fills the living room of a deluxe apartment in sunny Santa Monica, California, as I sit here enjoying the remaining 4 days of my vacation. Watching ‘Mystic Pizza’ with Julia Roberts (Circa 1988), with occasional mysterious clicking sounds coming from what I presume to be the sink area. I’m hungry. I begin to think what I could whip-up using the few ingredients available in the home of a young, high-protein eating, married couple who tend to eat out a majority of the time….Not much to work with, I can tell you.
Having been granted free reign over the kitchen by my generous hosts, I am allowed to do as I wish in their exquisite kitchen. Needless to say within 10 minutes of my arrival, I already knew where everything was kept in the kitchen. But knowledge isn’t always power as there isn’t much that can be done with what they have.
Let’s start with the fridge. With a forceful yank you open the door to a brightly lit Mecca where beverages come to hang out. Italian wines, Italian water & Italian beer fill the shelves in neat-freak evident lines. Its contents illustrate the epitome of life-in-the-fast-lane or ‘Kitchen Uber-Chic’, only slightly betrayed by the fact that in its bottom draw you will find what every good Iranian refrigerator should always have….A giant bag of ‘Tavazo’ pistachio nuts that probably don’t get eaten for months and months, but suddenly in one evening they are inhaled by you and your companions. Know what I mean?…
We don’t always fill our fridges with great, healthy, delicious food that’s good-to-go in less than 10 seconds. We just don’t. We don’t always have the time. Planning a meal is a fine art. Man or woman, doesn’t matter who is doing it. But perhaps if you stock up your pantry or store cupboard with useful packets, jars and cans… you might be closer to a satisfyingly simple meal than you think! But you aren’t going to be getting any recipes from me here, not on this occasion. I just want to share with you what I normally keep in my kitchen cabinets that have helped me on rainy days when I’m too lazy to walk to the grocery store or days when people show up unexpectedly and you aren’t prepared. Some of my preferred essentials are;
Pasta – Cous Cous – Basmati Rice – Soya Sauce – Risotto Rice – Pulses – Canned Tomatoes – Chicken & Vegetable Bouillon Cubes – Marinades & Rubs for Meat & Fish – Canned Tomato puree – Sugo or Passata.
Sugo or Passata (meaning ‘passed’) are plain tomato sauces that you can find in jars as well as fresh. It is a tomato base which can be used for Pizzas, Pastas & Sauces for meat and chicken. NOT (by any means) a ‘Ragu’-style affair, so please don’t even think about going there! I also have different spices and exotic ingredients from around the world but it’s perfectly ok to keep your selection simple and so I would recommend you start with;
Sea Salt (preferably ‘Maldon’ brand) – Pepper – Olive Oil – Selection of Dried Herbs – Garlic Powder – Dried Chilli Flakes and of course Saffron. A little hit of our heritage.
Some little extras I like to keep are things like truffle oil, pestos, tapenades, dried porcini mushrooms, cans of white crab meat and things like polenta and Italian ‘Casteluccio’ lentils. But again, I stress, this is just MY personal selection of ingredients that I like to cook with, and that enable me to prepare quick meals, as well as the more labour-intensive types of cookery too. From just some of the above list of ingredients, I could suggest many different dishes such as soups, stews, pastas & risottos but throw in some fresh meat or fish and perhaps some garlic and a few fresh vegetables and then we are talking!
So I’m sure some of you might be sitting reading this thinking, well that’s just great for her because she can cook… And well yes, I’m pretty capable in the kitchen but I actually have about 5 meals that I make most often, either when I’m alone or when I have guests, that are convenient, tasty and simple to make. Would you believe me if I told you ‘Crab Linguine with chilli, saffron and garlic’ was a regular feature? Its’ so easy I couldn’t begin to tell you and it always impresses people because it looks very appealing but it’s simple and just so damn good! If you want the recipe email me.
So, now I feel satisfied… I had a sudden flash of brilliance and decided to share the contents of my store cupboard with you. In hindsight, perhaps the idea was better in my head, than in actuality. Either way, the sunlight no longer shines in this Santa Monica apartment. In fact, despite the fact I hadn’t even noticed, it has very much grown dark around me and I’m sitting in dark with the light from this huge Apple Mac guiding my every move and enabling me to see what I’m typing. Permission to make the odd typo, of course.
I always feel that at the end of every piece I write, I should end in some ‘Jerry Springer’ style ending… a ‘Final Thought’ if you will. But instead I will cheerily summarise by telling you a little about my vacation in Los Angeles. This trip was no ordinary vacation. It was a mission to eat, drink, party and generally have fun. Mission accomplished. Gatherings of Persians… with food. Gatherings of Non-Persians… with food. Get the picture? It was great. I had a blast! I can’t tell you how much BBQ food I have eaten and yes, I confess to having more cupcakes than is humanly necessary. God bless ‘Sprinkles’ of Los Angeles and ‘Kara’s Cupcakes’ in San Francisco for introducing such sinful cakes into my life. The biggest surprise of all? I don’t actually think I have gained any weight during my entire 3 _ week stay in L.A. I think I may have even lost a few pounds. Although no excitement please as 10 minutes in London helps ensure that I’m back eating hearty Euro-Comfort food once more.
Ahhhh… How I miss the grey shores of my beloved United Kingdom. With its less-than-exemplary style of customer service, its miserable weather and as most Americans say “A nation of people with funky teeth”…. Despite these things… I can always find good ingredients and good food at home. Food like no other, ingredients like no other. I can’t wait to get back into my bijoux little kitchen and fill the cupboards with all the weird and wonderful food items I bought on my travels. I’m coming home baby, Mamma’s coming home.