A well stocked pantry is a lifesaver for me. It enables me to whip up a meal or two, even if I don't have any fresh ingredients on hand, without compromising on health or taste for my family! Here's a sneak peek in my pantry!
Spices, or commonly known as Masala, form the foundation of Indian cooking. There are some spice blends that I put together myself, like Garam Masala. While freshly ground spices enhance the taste of any dish, it does take some time and effort to make them yourself. So, as long as you’re buying quality spice blends and storing them in a cool and dry place, the pre-packaged ones work just as well. This is one of those short-cuts that you won’t have to feel guilty about.
Thanks to the popularity of Indian cuisine, you can find these Indian spices in Indian grocery stores, ethnic food aisle of your local supermarket (Safeway, Target, Whole Foods), or order them online from Amazon.com. My pantry is always stocked up with 7 key ground spices:
- Garam Masala Powder (a cocktail of warm spices- ground and whole)
- Ground Cumin
- Coriander Powder
- Turmeric Powder
- Red Chili Powder or Cayenne
- Amchur (Dry Mango Powder)
- Chaat Masala, a spice blend that adds a zing to absolutely anything
I also keep in hand some whole spices like:
- Black Cardamom Pods
- Green Cardamom Pods
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Cumin Seeds
- Black Mustard Seeds
- Panch Phoran or Panchpuran, (a blend of Fennel, Onion, Mustard, Fenugreek and Cumin Seeds)
- Dried Bay leaves
- Kasoori Methi (Dried Fenugreek Leaves).
Cans, Dried Beans, Lentils & Grains
I stock up on cans of beans- Garbanzo, Kidney, Pinto, Northern White Beans and tomato- diced, crushed and paste. I always have a jar of Tamarind paste from the Indian or Thai food aisle. It gives a nice tang to some curries and comes in handy for making “Meethi-Imly Saunth”(Sweet Tamarind dip), a popular accompaniment with savory snacks. Fried onions are another ingredient that I keep handy- that’s one of my secrets to getting the “slow-cooked for hours” flavor in under 30 minutes!
My pantry would be incomplete without a variety of dried beans and lentils, Flattened Rice (Poha), Besan (Chickpea flour), Basmati Rice- White and Brown, and Quinoa.
Stock- Chicken and Vegetable
I alway have a carton of chicken and vegetable stock handy in my pantry. Stocks and broths are a very quick and easy way of adding a slow cooked flavor to a lot of soups, stews and curries. They make 'last-minute' meals a breeze. For example, I throw in together a carton of vegetable broth, a can of northern beans, frozen celery and carrots, tomato paste and some seasoning, and within 20 minutes, I have a pot of minestrone soup ready!