It’s easy to whip up some terrific meals and snacks when you have a pantry stocked with simple, affordable, wholesome & natural food. This list reflects my food choices – all gluten and grain free. It’s not the most comprehensive list by any means and I am sure as you continue on your own food journey you will find wonderful things to add.
I have included a chapter titled Notes from the Cook in my cookbook and more about how to cook stuff like legumes, important information to know about cocoa, hints and tips on how to use things like apple cider vinegar as a simple nutritious dressing, and lot of other good tips.
Apple Cider Vinegar (organic)
I use apple cider vinegar in my bread baking, on salads, as a warm drink with raw honey it is a fantastic food & I love it. I find a little each day in water really supports my health and wellbeing. Rich in enzymes & potassium it goes a long way in supporting a healthy immune system. I find if I am a little sluggish it promotes digestion and seems to help remove waste from my body.
Look for apple cider vinegar that is cloudy and unrefined.
Wonderful on their own ripe and raw, bananas are equally wonderful in cakes, to add flavor or sliced and married up with fresh cream and yoghurt on a chickpea flat bread for breakfast. Bananas can even substitute for eggs in baked recipes. ½ a mashed banana usually equals one egg.
Beans (this is a short list of my preferences).
I find most beans are interchangeable and just go with what I have. All these beans are available dried or tinned. Look for tins that do not contain extra salt or additives. Once removed from the can, place in a strainer and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear.
To Cook dried beans- Bring to a boil and then simmer 90 minutes. Great in soups, stews, and sauces.
Black Beans – a small, oval, black bean. They have an earthy flavour with a soft texture. An excellent source of folate and a good source of fibre and iron.
Cannellini Beans – are one of my favorites’. They are a white oval bean with a thin skin and mild flavor and pretty terrific when making baked beans, dips, or a quick salad. They are also known as white kidney bean.
Borlotti Beans – also known as cranberry beans are off-white beans with red markings when fresh. They have a nutty flavour and a nice creamy texture. They turn a light brown colour when cooked.
These beans make an excellent cold bean salad tossed with olive oil lemon juice, some fresh herbs and rocket.
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – see Notes from the Cook for more information on cooking.
I love these! Good quality tinned chickpeas are a must for any pantry. They go a long way and when you are running short on time, tinned chickpeas are a terrific stand in at meal time.
I choose organic where I can – they are easy to pick up from your local supermarket as a general rule.
Simply rinse them after opening the tin to remove unnecessary additions like salt. Beans need to only be heated briefly for hot recipes while they can be used as is for salads or prepared quickly for dishes like hummus.
Dried chickpeas are generally available in health food stores & supermarkets. Whether purchasing chickpeas in bulk or pre packed, be sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked.
Is made from toasted ground chickpeas. It is also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo flour, gram flour or besan. Besan is terrific when used in bread mixes, flatbreads, biscuit recipes and to thicken tagines.
Besan contains a high proportion of carbohydrates but no gluten. Despite this, in comparison to other flours, it has a relatively high proportion of protein.
Bicarb soda (baking soda)
Sodium bicarbonate is primarily used in baking where it reacts with other components to release carbon dioxide that helps mixes rise. The acidic compounds that induce this reaction include, cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, raw organic cacoa (cocoa) and vinegar.
Butter is produced by churning cream until the fats separate from the liquid (buttermilk) and the butter is in a semi-solid state. Butter comes in two forms, salted and unsalted (sweet).
I have included a simple recipe on how to make your own butter in this book. It is a wonderful skill to learn and one that will reward you time and again.
The chia plant is a herb that stands approximately 1-1.2 meters tall. Although it belongs to the mint family, it produces lavender-like flowers that develop pods holding white, purple, grey and black tiny seeds.
Chia is an annual herb and the chia seeds are indeed a super food. They have twice the amount of protein of any grains, loads of antioxidants, calcium, potassium and iron.
Chia seeds are also loaded with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and have trace amounts of boron, which is an essential mineral to help transfer calcium to the bones.
I love them for a quick breakfast and find the combination of soaked seeds (which makes a wonderful gooey jelly), fresh banana and some yoghurt or whole cream fantastic.
Cocoa Powder/Cacao Powder – See Notes from the Cook for more information.
In my cooking I only use natural/raw organic unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder. Sweetened cocoa drink mixes are not suitable for any of the recipes in this book. These contain high amounts of sugar as well as grains including wheat and corn. For baking there are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed. If you don’t like the bitterness of raw cocoa – go for dutch processed.
Coconut – Desiccated
I chose certified organic, unsweetened and preservative free desiccated coconut for all baking. Desiccated coconut is graded in extra fine, fine, course, shredded & chips. Recipes in this book use fine graded coconut.
Check the label before purchasing desiccated coconut, because both sweet and unsweetened versions are available.
It should state clearly if it is sweetened and if it contains any preservatives. I don’t use sweetened coconut. It can result in a recipe that is far sweeter than desired and why fiddle with nature’s best raw food? What do they use to sweeten it?
Good quality organic desiccated coconut will enhance your baking and general wellbeing. Coconut is a rich source of lauric acid (anti-fungal, anti-microbial) and is full of dietary fibre.
Is a low-carbohydrate, high-fibre, gluten-free alternative to wheat flour for baking and cooking. I only use certified organic flour. This flour is made from fresh organic coconut meat. The meat is dried and defatted and then finely ground into a powder very similar in consistency to wheat flour.
Coconut flour contains a wonderful amount of dietary fibre which is important to a healthy diet. Coconut flour has the highest fibre content of any flour and the lowest amount of digestible carbohydrates, fewer even than most vegetables.
Coconut Palm Nectar (sugar)
Sourced from the crystallized nectar of the tropical coconut palm tree blossom it is harvested by traditional Indonesian farmers, evaporated and crushed into a unique, unbleached, unrefined, not-too-sweet sugar alternative. Coconut palm sugar is a great tasting, mineral rich, low GI (35) food.
This is my preference when cooking. I don’t use any refined cane sugar in my recipes. I do use Rapidura sugar (sugar cane) if coconut palm nectar is not available. If you chose to use honey – it is much sweeter so cut it down by half.
I love coconut oil in cooking, raw on a spoon, in a smoothie, on my skin, in my hair – just about everything and everywhere really.
The benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing.
Do your own research on the health benefits of coconut oil and make up your own mind. I look to the source – communities that have been living with coconut as a major food source for a long time opposed to communities that have been swallowing no fat, low fat, plastic food.
I always keep a few tins on hand. It is perfect for so many dishes, used cold in a banana smoothie, the last thing I add to a good curry. I just love it.
Read labels when purchasing coconut milk. Lots of the tinned varieties contain thickeners, often from corn starch. It might not have any flavor but it adds something you don’t want to be consuming if you are grain free. Corn.
Spend a little more and get a good quality one. Sometimes when you buy pure coconut milk (without the additives) the coconut milk and coconut cream separates. You will get a a thick paste-like consistency at the top of the tin.
This is perfect. It is not a sign of spoilage – it is a great sign in fact – one that tells you the milk has no thickeners added to prevent the milk from separating in the tin. Just give the can a good shake before using. Yummy
In its most basic form it is a powerhouse of nutrients. If you can get your hands on whole cream – go for it. Simply enjoy it on anything you like.
Our nanas used to make butter from fresh cream – you can too. Check out my recipe for an easy way to create your own butter at home.
I always look for cream that has a slight yellowish-white colour to it. These cows are happy cows eating grass and natural pasture. Cows fed on grain will give you white cream. I never find this cream satisfying – it always seems to be runny and lifeless.
Remember to check the label if you do chose to use thickened cream – you may just be eating gluten/grain.
Crème of tartar
It is a byproduct of winemaking. It is a potassium acid salt of tartaric acid.
Crème of tartar crystallises in wine casks during the fermentation of grape juice. It is one of the ingredients I use to make baking powder – 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda (baking soda) + 2 teaspoons of crème of tartar. Simple.
Dried whole dates/pitted
I love dates. They are a wonderful food for travelling – a handful or two along with some soaked and dried nuts and seeds and you have the perfect travel partner.
My preferred option is sundried dates. Partially dried pitted dates may be glazed with glucose syrup for preserving. This can come from corn. In other cases they can be coated in a grain based product to stop them from sticking together if they have been diced.
Check labels for additives and if you are buying them from a bulk bin – ask the attendant for a copy of the product specifications, these tell you a lot about the product including additives.
I eat and enjoy the flavour, health benefits and versatility of eggs. For a long time eggs have been perceived as somewhat unhealthy. Thankfully, common sense has overcome the fear around eggs and we know (as we have since time began) that eggs have a large number of nutritional benefits.
I don’t use egg substitutes from a packet – they include thickeners and emulsifiers from unexplained sources. This could mean grain sources.
Happy chickens make happy eggs. I just do the best I can and chose free range where ever possible.
I only use organic golden flax seeds or golden flax meal in my cooking. Brown flax can be eaten but is generally grown for the commercial Linseed Oil. Golden flax meal has a wonderful nutty buttery flavour and is terrific in breads and cakes.
If you have a coffee grinder whole seeds are the best way to purchase. You can simply grind the amount needed for a recipe and keep your whole seeds, stored dry and at room temperature for up to a year.
I keep ground flax meal in an airtight container in the freezer and find it keeps its wonderful flavour and nutritional value for about 1 month.
The variety of lentils is quite extensive and includes a range of colours, sizes and uses. Most common are brown or red which are sold either split or whole, and the green puy lentil which is a french variety.
Like other legumes, lentils are high in protein and fibre. Lentils have the added advantage of cooking quickly.
Red lentils are small, with a brown skin and a bright sunset orange inside. Split red lentils can look vastly different to their whole counterpart and therefore a little confusing. But just scratching at the skin of a whole red lentil a little will have the bright colour cheerfully smiling through.
My all time favourite is the puy lentil. It has an amazing texture and holds its shape when cooked.
Like all legumes, lentils can have side effects when consumed. Flatulence (there… I said it), can be painful for some people.
Soaking lentils before cooking can go a long way in relieving their side effects.
As a general guide, soak lentils for as long as you can – I soak mine overnight, then one cup of lentils to 3 cups water, cooked with a lid on for 20 minutes, or until soft should do the trick.
Almonds are a versatile tree nut. They are rich in healthy fats, high in vitamin E, high in protein and contain calcium, iron and zinc.
I generally soak them over night where I can.
Almond meal, almond flour or ground almond is made from ground sweet almonds. Almond flour is usually made with blanched almonds (no skin), whereas almond meal can be made both with whole or blanched almonds.
I prefer to use homemade almond meal (leaving the skin intact) – it is whole food and can often cost less than purchasing almond meal from the shops.
I soak my almonds whenever I can but really look at how much I will be eating to really decide. If it will only be a small amount – I know my body has the ability to manage it. Too much and my bum reminds me!
If activating them, you will need to soak overnight, rinse and then dry them in your oven or dehydrator before using as a “dry” ingredient.
Homemade almond meal is so easy to make. In no time at all you can have fresh almond meal for any cooking venture.
Be sure to refrigerate (or wrap, label and freeze) any unused almond meal because it can become rancid after being ground and exposed to oxygen and light.
There are two ways I make almond meal:
Using a Food Processor
- Place 1 or 2 cups of whole almonds into the blender bowl and blend down until they reach the consistency you need.
- You can keep pulsing the mix until it gets quite fine but remember to keep an eye on the almond meal as you continue grinding – it can quickly turn to almond butter.
- Making almond meal this way is quick but you won’t get the fine meal you buy in the supermarket or what you get when you put it through a coffee grinder.
Coffee Bean Grinder
- Place ½ cup whole, unblanched almonds in a clean electric coffee bean grinder.
- Put the lid on the coffee bean grinder and pulse several times until a medium-fine textured meal forms. Don’t over-grind or you will make almond butter!
- Put ground almond meal in a clean flour sifter or hand sifter and sift the meal. Place any large particles of almonds back in coffee bean grinder and pulse again. Sift remaining almond meal.
Macadamia’s delicate flavour, versatility and crunchy texture make them a delight to consume. Macadamias contain no cholesterol as they are a natural plant food. Macadamias are rich in manganese, thiamine and iron.
Pecans are high in unsaturated fat – the kind that is good for you. Also, being high in fibre, they make a great snack, control hunger and contribute towards weight loss.
Pecans include over 19 vitamins and minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine, potassium, manganese, iron, minerals and vitamins E, A and B.
Using the almond meal steps above, you can make any nut into a fresh delicious nut meal. It is quick, simple and very cost effective.
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Comes from quality olives that have been picked straight off the tree and extracted as soon as possible without the use of chemicals or heat to ensure that its remarkable health benefits, flavour and freshness are maximised.
I stick as local as possible and never use imported olive oil. It might be cheaper but it is not friendlier.
I buy small amounts often, usually in dark green or brown glass bottles. Pretty much every meal in my house includes olive oil. On chickpea flatbread, in my flatbread recipe, in chocolate cakes, on poached eggs, tossed with a good salad.
Extra virgin olive oil is best consumed young when it’s fresh aromas and flavours are at their peak. As a good friend and olive grower says, unlike wine, olive oil does not mature with age, so the closer to their release date that you purchase and use it, the better.
However, the higher levels of natural antioxidants and the higher proportion of monounsaturated fats generally found in extra virgin olive oil mean that it remains fresher longer. Provided they are stored properly in a cool, dark place, the majority of extra virgin olive oils will retain good flavour aroma and freshness for at least 12 months.
Pumpkin seeds are often confused with pepitas, which is just the unprotected kernel of a regular pumpkin seed. True pumpkin seeds are whole just as they come out of the pumpkin and naturally protected from rancidity due to its coating still being intact.
Pumpkin seeds are packed full of nutrients, including protein, essential amino acids which are very nourishing, energising and easy for your tummy to digest.
They contain iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A & E and a stack of B – all good things in my book.
Another great snack food, or soaked overnight for an easier to digest food for breakfast. Pumpkin seeds are an all time favourite.
If pumpkin seeds are not readily available by all means use pepitas. Buy smaller amounts and store them out of direct light in an airtight container.
Organic Rapidura is an unrefined sugar, popular for its unique caramel flavour, fine texture and golden colour. It is produced by simply evaporating the water from the organic sugar cane juice.
It has high nutritional value as it retains most of the natural vitamins and minerals, because, unlike other sugar it is not separated from the nutrient dense molasses part of the sugar cane during the pressing and drying process.
I do use Rapidura if I don’t have coconut palm nectar and simple substitute 1:1 in my cooking.
I love soaking these and enjoying them as part of my breakfast. They have a mild nutty taste and a wealth of nutrition in one tiny morsel. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium as well as selenium, a trace mineral that is fundamental to human health. I love them and you will too.
Cinnamon, pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, and ginger – the list is endless and what you have in your pantry depends entirely on what types of spices you like.
I would encourage you to get to know more about spices and their wonderful health benefits. A little bit of good quality spice goes a long way and can turn any meal into something aromatic and awesome.
Spices are earthy and outrageously good. My favourite is good quality cinnamon. A sprinkle of cinnamon on some freshly roasted beetroot is sex on a forkJ
Nothing comes close to the taste and aroma of vanilla. It is the seed pod of a tropical climbing orchid and takes 8-9 months after flowering to ripen and is harvested by hand. It can be found in supermarkets and specialty food shops. It is available as beans, extract, essence and paste.
I only use the bean or if absolutely necessary extract. Essence and paste contain too many ingredients for my liking and are highly refined versions of the real thing.
The whole bean should be shiny dark brown or black in colour, pliable and moist to touch. Extract is made by combining the beans with alcohol and water. Most of the water is then distilled off, leaving a thick extract.
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, which causes the transformation of the milk’s sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This process gives yogurt its refreshingly tart flavour and unique texture.
I prefer tub set Greek Style Natural Yoghurt because it is higher in fat than many types of yoghurt and suits a wide range of recipes. This is the only yoghurt I use to make my cheese. Because it is less likely to separate when heated, I use it in all cooking.