Posts Tagged ‘Beginner’s Guide To Home Ownership’

Miss Fashionista has moved into her new house now. She invited me over there for dinner (which was delish). I got to see her brand new bathroom, beautifully painted bedroom and lovely retro furniture finds and we also watched some Smash (much as I hate musicals, I do appear to like Smash).

I took along her very, very, very practical housewarming present:

Pragmatism, my new favourite "ism"

Pragmatism, my new favourite “ism”

This is more for Miss Fashionista’s reference, but in case you are struggling to think of a handy present for a first home owner, the “welcome to home ownership” care package consisted of:

  • A bunch of small and medium sized moccona jars (great for keeping sugar, spices and herbs etc in single lady household quantities)
  • Tins (having a couple of spares is always good):
    • Diced italian tomatoes (Good for soups, pastas, stews, curries etc)
    • Chickpeas (Good for making hummus, salads, soups, stews, curries etc)
  • Pearl Barley (Add to soups, warm salads: warm pearl barley salad or roasted root vegetables and pearl barley salad or make a pearl barley risotto)
  • Pasta (Apart from the obvious, make a cheesy pasta side to go with steak or lamb, add it to soup or make a pasta bake)
  • Medium Grain Rice (I use this instead of the proper arborio rice to make risottos, plus it makes the best rice when you are serving an asian dish like teriyaki chicken, stir fry or sticky pork)
  • Jasmine Rice (Serve on the side with curries or 80’s garlic prawns amongst other things, but also use in rice salads and soups)
  • Things it is a pain to run out of but you usually don’t realise you are about to until it is too late:
    • Rock salt (add to your pasta water or chuck in a grinder)
    • Black peppercorns (chuck in a grinder, or whole into stews or soups if you are hardcore…or have a cold)
    • Raw sugar

The present was all about flexibility (you can do multiple things with each of these ingredients) and practical usefulness (they are all things it is very handy to have in your pantry). I listed some other staples in Cupboard Love Couscous.


Jars may be empty now, but they get filled pretty quick

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There are some things that should be staples in every pantry…or at least in every pantry of anyone who can eat them. Things like a jar of semi sun dried tomatos in oil, vegetable stock, couscous, chickpeas (in a tin for quick dishes), evoo in a bottle and a spray can, a jar of pitted black spanish olives, tins of sweet corn (the smaller ones are fine), marinated mushrooms in a jar, sunflower seeds, roasted capsicum strips, eggs, rice noodles, somen noodles, pasta, a tin or 2 of tuna, basil pesto, tinned tomatoes, pearl barley, plain and self raising flower, frozen edamame, butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, a jar of whole egg mayonnaise and cheese (tasty/colby and parmesan).

These ingredients plus some basic herb + spice staples keep forever (metaphorically speaking) and are also great starting ingredients for any number of dishes. You can add in additional things from what you have fresh in your house or that are in seasons. In the list above, you have most if not all the ingredients you need to make:

And much much more. So much much much more…

There are also little things you can do that will add a certain je ne sais quoi to several recipes.

For example – when you have used all your sun dried or semi sun dried tomatoes in oil, don’t throw out the jar with the oil in it. It’s infused with a beautiful rich tomatoeyness plus herbs. It is not overpowering and will add a bulk and a richness to things like:

  • vinagrettes for green or garden salads
  • tomato or meat pasta sauces
  • pearl barley salads
  • coating a chicken you are about to roast

And more.

Today I want you to think about coucous. Hopefully you like it or are prepared to try it.

Coucous is one of the easiest and quickest side dishes you can make: boil 1 cup of water in saucepan, add one cup couscous and 1 knob butter, take off heat, stir with fork, cover with lid and let sit for 5-8 minutes. If you are going to serve hot (i.e. with a casserole or tagine), put back on low heat and stir to warm through. Not rocket science, is it?

The recipe I am going to give you can be served warm as a main dish or a side dish and it also works cold as a salad (think picnics, large dinners where you have to bring a plate or left overs for lunch the next day).

It’s a filling but light salad that uses a couple of fresh ingredients either from your garden or your veggie crisper as well as some of the staples I have suggested are good to own.


  • 1 cup couscous
  • Knob butter (1 tsp)
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock (vegeta) in saucepan
  • Slurp of reserved oil from semi sundried tomatoes
  • handful of semi sundried tomatoes chopped finely
  • handful of black olives chopped finely
  • handful of marinated mushrooms
  • handful of of fresh grape/cherry tomatos halved or quartered
  • 1/2 lebanese cucumber, quartered and then chopped finely
  • handful of fresh chives (could also use fresh parsley or fresh oregano, whatever tickles your fancy)

Bring stock to boil, take off the heat and add couscous and knob of butter. Stir with fork and pop lid on pot. Leave off heat for 5 minutes.

Throw all ingredients in a bowl excepting the slurp of reserved oil. Take lid off couscous pan and stir grains with fork to fluff up couscous and ensure all liquid and butter absorbed.

Add couscous to bowl, pour over slurp of reserved oil and then lightly stir to combine. Et voila:

We live…underneath the cupboard, we dance underneath the cupboard

Works well on its own, for lunch the next day or as a side to a red wine lamb roast. Enjoy.

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