This week we came home to find our pantry in disarray. Jars were smashed, sugar and barley and pasta and other hard-to-clean-up things were strewn across the floor, appliances were knocked over and a shelf that had been holding my cookbooks was no longer on the wall.
I had overloaded that shelf with far too many books, and it crumbled under the weight. It was not the shelf’s fault. It had done a valiant job of holding the books up for almost three months, but it could take the strain no more, and politely waited until we were safely out of the house to collapse, sending all the books tumbling to the ground.
The pantry has been tidied, but the books need a new home. While I was stacking them in a temporary corner, I picked out my favourites to sit at the top, and thought I’d share them with you. I’ve created a page with my go-to cookbooks listed. If you like the recipes I post on Simple Provisions, then you may be interested to see my favourite books, as they are what influence my cooking.
There are some classics like Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion, which nearly every Australian household has, and Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi, which everyone who likes food bought in 2012. But a relatively new book has rocketed to the top of my pile in the last few weeks.
I received Community, Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen by Hetty McKinnon as a birthday present. I have not stopped cooking out of it. With 60 main-course salad recipes, all packed with flavour, I’ve found it the perfect book to open at 3pm when my mind goes blank about what to cook for dinner. All the recipes are vegetable based and have helped me use up what’s in my crisper drawer, garden and the pulses that survived the pantry calamity. I make a big salad, serve it for dinner (maybe with a piece of chicken or steak if I’m feeling meaty, but the salads generally stand alone), and then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Hetty has a way with flavour. She uses herbs, spices and nuts in interesting ways to make sure the salad is packed with flavour. One trick is to infuse olive oil with herbs and garlic to drizzle over a salad. This inspired me to make a batch of parsley oil to keep in the fridge, ready to add flavour to whatever needed brightening during the week.
So far I’ve used the parsley oil on:
- boiled and baked potatoes
- scrambled eggs
- grilled chicken
- a simple green salad
- avocado on toast
It’s added a burst of green, garlicky goodness to all of those meals, lifting them from quickie dinners to flavour-packed dishes. You can use any soft herb, like basil, coriander or mint, and it’s great for using up the end of a bunch that you bought for another recipe. This isn’t the sort of flavoured oil that you can store for months. The water in the fresh garlic and herbs is a nice place for bacteria to lurk, so store it in the fridge and use it within a week. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself reaching for it whenever something basic needs a bit more flavour, and you’ll use it up quite quickly.
- 1 clove garlic
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the garlic, salt and pepper in a mortar and pound it with the pestle to make a paste. Add the parsley and continue to pound until you have a thick green paste. Slowly stir through the olive oil. Alternatively, you can do all of this in a blender if you’re not into pounding.
This oil can be stored in a clean jar for up to a week in the fridge. It will slightly solidify in the fridge, so take it out 10 minutes before you want to use it, to loosen everything up again.