by Karimah bint Dawoud, Muslim chaplain and Well Being Writer.
MY STORE CUPBOARD
People often ask me what’s in my cupboard or what sort of thing they should always have at home if they want to try my recipes so here’s a little insight to my store cupboard.
Fresh onions, I try to buy big bags from my Asian area supermarkets, they work out more economical and as most of our food has onions in, we tend to use a lot.
The same for garlic and ginger , I buy big bags in from the stalls in east London, Bengaland I affectionately call it.
Fresh coriander, parsley, mint, chilies all from East London markets, it would be the same in any Asian area, the produce is cheaper. I think some of us have issues; Muslims and non Muslim and we do not want to go to markets as they are not part of our carefully crafted wanna be “middle class” life style. We especially do not want to go to market where there are loads of “other” people but me…I love it, it makes me feel at home. I love the hustle and bustle. Come to think of it, I love all markets, I don’t care what nationality, I supposed being mixed heritage gives me an inroad to all cultures.
“Awright mate” I chirp to the stall holders in East Ham, ” You awright love ?” they ask me.
” As salaam alaikum ” to the marketers in Southall or Bradford.
Fresh eggs, from the supermarket or farmers market.
Butter, soya milk and yoghurt from the supermarket ,however I need to start making my own yoghurt.
Honey from the farmer’s market, I am a firm believer that where ever you are in the world the local honey is best.
Dates, I always remember this Islamic saying ,
“The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, stressed the importance of dates as a major food item, saying,
“People in a house without dates are in a state of hunger.” (Muslim).”
I normally buy my dates from Arabs, dates come from their land and the turnover of dates in their shops is quick. I occasionally treat myself to dates from planet organic, big fat organic madjul dates or sometimes I take a trek to High Street Kensington and buy sticky wet yellow ones from the Persian shops. When I’m there I get big bottles of pomegranate molasess, essential for Koresh Fesenjum recipe in the book but also good for salad dressings.
Tahini paste , even though you can get it from supermarket, I still buy from Arab shops, you know it’s not been sitting on the shelf for ages.
Tin chick peas, tin tomatoes, tomato puree, sunflower oil all from ASDA , I think of all the supermarkets in the UK ASDA have the right idea, they take into consideration the local ethnicity and ASDA/WALMART accommodate that in the store, they also have a independent franchise halal butchers, that I see many non Muslim buying from, mashallah.
Olive oil from Moroccans of course. I try to buy it direct from a man I know who brings it from Morocco, otherwise I go to any Arab area and buy it. Moroccan olive oil is strong in taste and sometimes the more delicate urbanized palate doesn’t like it ; it’s full of wonderful North African sunshine and goodness that you can always dilute down with sunflower oil.
Rice…is nice and I buy it from wherever, I buy it from my local cash and carry organic brown basmati, that’s a mouth full.
Whole meal , plain flour, and gram flour from the local supermarket and Asian cash and carry
Polenta 5kilo bags from the Asian supermarket, best value or ASDA
Baking powder from the supermarket.
Sea salt has got to be from Morocco, Himilayas or the supermarket, I only use cheap salt for dying clothes or cleaning meat.
Red lentils from the Asians of course.
My store cupboard is a fusion of Arab, Asian and European foods, there a jar of palm oil in there from Ghana and some dried shrimp somewhere near the back.
Just watching my favourite TV “Come Dine With Me” and prompted by a comment-
” Every good kitchen has vanilla pods.” Usually on a bit of a health tip I tend to forget about the sweet sticky swag in my store cupboard, but I have swag . Praise Allah I do have vanilla pods, and lots demerera sugar, I have custard powder and essences; vanilla, almond and lemon. I have those fancy 100’s and 1000’s sprinkles for fairy cakes and cup cakes and a varied section of baking paper liners. I also have arrowroot powder and cream of tartar and need to make some coconut ice soon. Supermarkets tend to be the best place for these bakery things at reasonable prices.
And then there’s the fridge, I always have Thai curry paste, block coconut cream for rice ‘n’ peas and some where there is always a big jar of pickled ginger and wasabi sauce. I promised myself last year I would learn how to make sushi because I love it , I bought the special rice and seaweed but still my sushi is from outside….a work in progress.
I have a whole cupboard dedicated to spice, over 40 spice jars and Tupperware containers packed with herbs and spices , praise the Creator.There are dried ground spices; cumin, coriander, red chili, cinnamon, ginger, tumeric, paprika, saffron, black pepper,mango powder, star anise and herbs like fennel, tarragon, rosemary, peppermint, dill, basil and oregano ; I buy all my dry herbs and spices from the Asian cash and carry, the turnover is fast ,the shop owner often have knowledge of Unani medicine, they are freshly ground or I buy the whole seeds and roasted and grind them myself and last but not least they are the best value. I have in my store cupboard too many herbs and spice to mention and sometime have to do a stock check of them to see what running out and what I have access of, if I see there’s any access if bag up and give away to my daughter in law, family and friends. I buy new and usual herbs and spice on my travels , I have rose petals and green tea balls that open into flowers from Istanbul . I have vervain and ras hanut from Morocco and sumac from Syria. I have seaweed from Japan but for the purpose of this blog and my recipe book, “Heavenly Bites, The Best Of Muslim Home Cooking”, I have kept it to the basics.
Maintaining a good home kitchen is a big piece of work in itself, cleaning and organizing, especially when space is limited and products are abundant,its something mostly women do behind closed doors and and something that is not done by the fairies.
I have noticed that each culture has few basic herbs and spices that they use. When you step out of these cultural restraints, your herb and spice portfolio also grows .These herbs and spices also have medicinal properties that we would be well advised to learn about they are not simply there for taste.
Inshallah I hope this gives you a little insight to my world, my creativity and my approach to food.
alhmdulilah still number 1 halal cook book mashallah!