LIQUID ESSENTIALS FOR THE LARDER
Some liquid essentials for my larder are the following – a light soy sauce, mirin, (a sweet cooking rice wine), rice wine vinegar, ketchap manis (a dark brown, syrupy, Indonesian soy sauce which has a sweeter flavour than normal soy sauce, and lastly but most importantly, Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce). The best brand is ‘Squid’, used by most chefs. However, be warned! It isn’t called ‘Devil juice’ by my daughter Lorna for nothing. It has a vile smell and must be used sparingly – usually a teaspoon or so. It brings unbelievable flavour enhancement to any dish – and it’s natural. I referred in an earlier post about not being afraid to cross-pollinate cuisines, and here is a fine example – I use nam pla in Italian foods – and why not???
Of course there are the obvious essentials like herbs and spices that we all have in stock – I probably don’t need to mention them here. Things like coriander and cumin seeds are important for grinding in your mortar and pestle – crushed coriander seeds are a wonderful addition to shredded cabbage: Finely shred some cabbage (chiffonade) and add to a pan with a little water, some butter, salt and white pepper, along with some freshly ground coriander seeds. Cook on a medium heat until liquid evaporates – divine.
Other must-haves are a Moroccan rub called ras el hanout, which can be used in any meat cooking to give a bit of a north African vibe, and Aesofoetida. What?? I hear you say! Well it is a little-known pungent, bitter spice, which mellows into something special when cooked, imparting a lemony, oniony flavour. A quarter/half tsp sprinkled over onions as you fry them enhances the flavour – again, all natural.