One of the most useful things – and nobody thinks to share this with you if you’re a newbie – is a list of what you should have in your fridge and your cupboard, especially when you’re busy and do not have time. Everybody kind of assumes that you know how to miracle food on the table or that you have time to stand over a stew. Let’s face it. You don’t.
Never ask your dear mother. Especially a Greek mother. Over the years they know all the tricks and they’ll tell you to have a lot more stuff than you actually need for quick lunches and dinners. The result will be that you’ll be throwing out about half of your fridge contents.
So, I thought it might be useful to have a list of some necessities based on the years I’ve lived alone. I’ll start with the fridge and promise to update as time goes on with the freezer and the cupboard.
The list also applies for two people, both working and with limited time. Of course it all depends on what you like to cook but it will give you an idea. Please comment to add any other ideas, I’m sure people will find it useful (including me!)
Milk: I don’t think there is anything more useful than milk. For your coffee, cerals and it goes great with various recipes. A bit of fresh milk is a life saviour. If you don’t drink it at all there are small little boxes of evaporated milk in the super markets – you might want to consider having some for any friends visiting who take milk in their coffee or tea.
Eggs: Maximum six unless you eat a lot (you shouldn’t). Boil them, quarter them, pour over olive oil and lemon juice and it’s bliss with a bit of freshly ground pepper. Omelettes, scrambled eggs for breakfast, dressing some chicken pieces before frying them etc. Eggs just work.
Butter: I ‘d go for both spreadable and your normal slab can’t-cut-it-with-an-ax variety. The later is obviously one of your best friends for cooking and dough.
Marmalade or jam: On this category add some honey in your cupboard (stir it in a bit of yoghurt, throw some nuts in there and be amazed). Anyway, marmalade and jam are excellent for breakfast or a quick snack. Raspberry jam also works a treat with pork or creamy cheeses. Try to ONLY use a clean and dry spoon, otherwise the nasty little hairy blankets comes to share the jar.
Cheese: Always try to have a bit of cheese in your fridge. The type that just lives for ever is good quality Parmesan/ Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a matured cheese so don’t throw it away if it looks hard. Just grate a bit over your pasta. I always recommend having a bit of feta cheese too – but then again, I am Greek.
Yoghurt: Go for low fat but heavy, creamy varieties. And… you guessed it… I think Greek yoghurt is best. Try it as a dip with spicy meat or just French fries (I know it sounds weird. Try it). It’s also excellent for breakfast with honey and nuts, cereal or fruit. And it is the best ever main ingredient for a marinade.
Cold cuts: I am always amazed at super markets in London, most people seem to go for 3 slices of ham or something. This to a Greek is unbelievable. How long do 3 slices last, 10 minutes? Anyway, for this list I’d recommend cold cuts which will survive for a bit longer than ham. Try salami (German pepper salami for example) or some smoked cuts. They work great with past too.
Actually there’s a recipe with that: Check out my bachelor’s tortellini.
Fruit: Not a lot. You probably don’t have time to consume what I’ve written so far, let alone the fruit. But it’s good to have just a few, e.g. two nectarines and a few apricots or something. You can mix em up with yoghurt or milk and cereal. If you are prone to forgetting what is in the fridge and then ending up throwing it away avoid fruit which goes bad in like seconds, e.g. strawberries and other berries.
Tomatoes and cucumber: Green leaves go bad a lot more quickly. Tomatoes and cucumber live on. They are great for a quick salad. Just grill or toast some bread, crumble a bit of feta cheese in the bowl and hey presto you’ve got a meal.
Other vegetables: Just go for the ones that you would consume often. Everything else we just tend to throw out. In our home we tend to have peppers or carrots.
Open jars: This is the category that the average Greek mother (and most chefs) revile. Ready made stuff. Just pretend you never knew. If you could make every single thing from scratch you wouldn’t need this list. So in your jars you might like to consider pickles of all sorts, they lift most meat recipes which lack a good sauce and they go great in fresh salads.
Olives: This is not a weird Greek fascination. Olives are amazing. Add them to red pasta sauces for example, they really lift the whole thing. Try to buy good quality olives. Or chop them up over pitta bread with some good mozzarella, grill for a few minutes and serve like amazing pizza type snacks. To preserve them you can completely cover them with olive oil – they will NEVER die. Obviously this might be a bit expensive but it’s actually a good trick. You can use the olive oil after in your salads and it will have that added distinctive taste.
Stock cubes: Yeah, yeah, mum, talk to the hand. There is NO WAY you can have fresh stock if you’re super busy. Just have some stock cubes lying around, they work wonders.
Lemon juice: Yeah, I know fresh lemons are preferable but time is of the essence here. Just keep a little bottle of lemon juice in the fridge.
Beetroot: In any UK super market you will find ready boiled beetroot. It’s amazing for a quick salad. Chop em up in chunky pieces and stir with good quality yoghurt and some walnuts. Be amazed at the Barbie pink colour and lovely taste.
Chocolate: Dark and of good quality. As a garnish, as an emergency pick me up, for hot chocolate drinks – it just simply ROCKS. A good idea is to just melt some with a bit of milk and pour it over fresh fruit. Bliss.
Espresso coffee: I’m under the impression that the fragrance is maintained better in the fridge but this might be wrong. We love it as just a drink but it also does wonders for some cake recipes.
Alcohol: We don’t really drink a lot at our home but maybe it’s a good idea to have a few beers lying around. You never know. We also have some raki in the fridge – but this is home made in Crete so…
So that’s the list. I think these are the absolutely necessary bits and bobs, barring the food you’ll be cooking that week (assuming you do a weekly shop…)
Anyway, hope this was useful – please add any comments with additions and ideas.