What’s in (your) store?

It was the modern master of homesteading, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who turned our approach to cooking upside down so many years ago with such a simple concept. If you keep a store-cupboard stocked with staples which transform fresh food into delicious meals, you can create tasty home cooking no matter what fresh veg, meat or fruit you have to hand. It was this idea that gave us the key to seasonal eating – keep the basics stocked (which include salty, acidic, spicy and oily things) and adapt their use to whatever the season throws at you. Eventually, you toss out the recipes altogether or at least, never have to baulk at one because of the list of ingredients you need are always on hand. The weekly veg box full of surprises (from Riverford in the UK, who also write a fine blog) no longer daunted us as rolling with the seasonal punches became loads easier.


Yotam Ottolenghi has recently reaffirmed this approach, and published a list of his store-cupboard staples (which are, as you can imagine, slightly more difficult to source in southern Tasmania!). We’ve condensed both lists, edited them for practicality (sorry, Yotam) and published our version here: Our Staples

The next natural step for us was to consider, given only one square metre of space (say, a city balcony or one garden bed) – what fresh staples would we add to this list? Narrowing it down was actually pretty easy – the fresh ingredients that we find the most versatile, frequently used and irreplaceable in our kitchen are lemons, parsley, an allium (maybe spring onion or egyptian walking onion for speed and ease of growing), thyme or savory, and for us (but maybe not others), coriander. The other high value but easy to grow plants (and quicker to degrade if store-bought) would be perpetual spinach (actually a leaf beet), rocket and lettuce. Happily, these ingredients would also make a lovely little guild of complementary plants to grow underneath a lemon tree…

Nasu Dengaku

This Japanese dish is centred around a wonderfully rich, sweet glaze which can be applied to any grilled vegetable, although nothing beats the combination with charred and creamy eggplant…..serves 4.


  • About 2 medium sized eggplants (or equivalent)
  • A glug of oil
  • sprinkling of salt

For the miso glaze

  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp sugar

To serve

  • sesame seeds
  • spring onion

Step 1: Roughly cut the eggplants into large chunks, toss in oil and a sprinkle of salt. You can grill the eggplant to get that charred flavour or roast in an oven at 200ºC for about 20 minutes until the eggplant is slightly browned.

Step 2: Mix together the miso glaze ingredients and pour over the eggplant, tossing to coat well. Continue to roast for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the miso sauce starts to caramelise

Step 3: Serve eggplant scattered with spring onion and toasted sesame seeds