What’s in the fridge? – Mehrunnisa, London

You can read Part One (my fridge) of this series here, Part Two – my friend Emma in Tbilisi’s fridge – here and Part Three – my friend Juliet’s – here.

My friend Mehrunnisa and I met through work – as in the day jobs – and I can’t quite remember how we discovered a mutual love of food as a medium for stories and histories. Suffice to say we have discussed a range of topics related to our shared interest, although now that we work in completely different departments, snatching a quick five minutes to talk cookbooks, politics and culture is a little more challenging. Mehrunnisa is the author of the lyrical blog come•con•ella, which explores her heritage through food. You can also find her on Twitter and her Instagram account showcases her love of (and eye for) food, light and shadow, and urban architecture.

Who do you cook for?

my husband and i

Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?

i think of my cooking in terms of ease and practicality. it is only when i got married and had to cook several nights a week that i realised what mama meant about the drudgery and boredom of day to day to eating. this is especially true for those of us who are tasked with cooking. with that in mind, it has to be quick but have a mix of flavours and textures.

Where do you buy your groceries?img_0165

a combination of places. i do the bulk of my groceries on ocado. this means things like canned beans, grains and lentils. i buy fruit and vegetables at my local grocer and sometimes through farm drop or farm direct. meat and fish come from the latter as well. or from the local butcher depending on how organised i am.

Tell us a little bit about your kitchen (including fridge and cupboards). Is it minimal or cluttered?

my kitchen counters are home to a few gadgets, most of which were bought by my husband. so we have a kmix (which was a christmas present), a bread bin, a nespresso machine and a basic food processor that has an s-blade, a blender and grating attachments. other than that there are are jars for coffee, tea and sugar plus peanuts and assorted spice, oil and vinegar bottles. i have a small cupboard for tins and dried goods plus a small metal bin for grains. flours and nuts compete for space on a bar trolley that is also home to jars of home made jams and chutneys.

img_0155What’s in your fridge?

a block or two of hard cheeses, some condiments like sriracha, miso and mango chutney. milk. i always have yoghurt handy plus a tub or two of ricotta. the vegetable drawer usually holds onions, lemons, some soft herbs, ginger, garlic and chillies that make your eyes water.

What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen?

yoghurt, eggs and tinned pulses.

What three foods are always in your fridge?

img_0171yoghurt, sriracha and ricotta.

Is anything currently missing from your fridge?

something is always missing…

What ‘treats’ do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?

some manner of dark or super milk chocolate. on days that i bake, there will be cookies or biscuits in a recycled biscuit tin.

What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?

sourdough bread loafbread. some manner of baked goods as mama was a prolific baker. large bars of cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate. there was always a big dish of lentils and a meat based curry. whatever fruit was in season.

What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?

microplane grater, the s-blade attachment for the food processor and a mortar and pestle

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?

i would make a cumin spiced cous cous with chickpeas and caramelised onions. i would add plenty of chopped soft herbs and the flesh of preserved lemon. i would serve it with harissa yoghurt and some toasted almonds.

When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?

we order in from a local chinese delivery. we will have chicken corn soup (because it tastes so very much like the one we used to have in pakistan) followed by ma po tofu for me and some sweet and sour dish for my husband. he will of course eat a fair share of my ma po tofu as well.
Save

What’s in the fridge? – Juliet, London

You can read Part One (my fridge) of this series here and Part Two – my friend Emma in Tbilisi’s fridge – here.

13442503_10153550800491759_787005479245608244_oMy friend Juliet and I met – as you might predict – at university, where she rapidly gained a reputation as a pretty extraordinary baker. Back then the mighty cupcake loomed large in her repertoire, but she had conquered the macaron well before we donned the graduation cap. She is still an admirable baker – she kindly shared her recipe for matcha choux puffs – but her skills go well beyond the kitchen. Juliet has upholstered chairs, knitted cup warmers, handmade a skirt, built a picnic bench and passed the GDL. She’s a solicitor in London and while her days might be spent in the office her nights are definitely spent in pursuit of fabulous food and travel – as can be seen on her Instagram. Despite leading a very busy life, she has an admirably impeccable kitchen.

Who do you cook for?

Mostly myself, but I love having friends over and cooking for them too.

Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?

If I’m cooking for someone else, even if it’s just one other person, I like to really think about what I’m making. I want it to be special and something they’ll enjoy eating. If I’m on my own, I’ll happily cobble things together from what I have.

Where do you buy your groceries?

I’m a Sainsbury’s girl through and through! I grew up shopping at Sainsbury’s and even now that it’s not my nearest supermarket, I go out of my way just to shop there.

Tell us a little bit about your kitchen. Is it minimal or cluttered?

My entire life is minimalist. I find clutter too stressful, so I try and keep things organised. That’s not to say that my cupboards aren’t packed with crockery, utensils, Tupperware and dry goods, but everything has its place. Generally, I try to keep the worktops clear, save for a few appliances.

img_5610
“My entire life is minimalist.” She’s not joking…

What’s in your fridge?

I had a dinner party at the weekend, so I’m working my way through all the leftovers. In addition to my staples, I’ve still got some tomato sauce left. I managed to get through the chorizo, escabeche and chocolate cake the other day though…

What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen (and why)?

This is a really tough one! Flour, butter and eggs. I always have these on hand. They’re so versatile! If I have a craving to do some baking I can usually cobble something together with other ingredients I keep stashed away. Eggs are probably the hero ingredient though. Even if I’m not baking I can always do something with eggs, whether it’s frying, scrambling or poaching them, just to add a little extra protein to a meal.

img_5609

What three foods are always in your fridge?

Soy milk, jam and apples. It sounds like an eclectic mix.

Soy milk – I honestly prefer the taste of soy milk to regular milk. I buy the pasteurised stuff so that I can just keep two or three cartons in the fridge at a time.

Jam – I have lots of half empty jars of jam. I’m not sure why, but I just can’t seem to get through them.

Apples – I probably eat an apple a day, because y’know, it keeps the doctor away.

Is anything currently missing from your fridge?

Not really. Apart from a few staples, I try to buy food as I need it. My biggest fear is having to throw food away because it’s spoiled.

What treats do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?

I really try not to have treats in the fridge/cupboard at home. I like to eat healthily, so I try to remove the temptation to eat sugar laden treats.

What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?

My house growing up was the complete opposite. We had (and still do) an entire drawer full of cakes, biscuits and pastries. My mum is continuously panicking that supplies are running low.

What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?

I love my K-mix equipment! I have a kit that has a stick blender, soup blender, electric whisk and a blender. That’s really handy and will pretty much sort me out for anything I want to make. I also recently acquired a K-mix stand mixer, which has been brilliant. It’s the only way to safely make Italian meringue. The last tool I couldn’t live without is a sharp knife. Everyone should have at least one.

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make? So many options! I’ve got some gorgeous slow roasted tomato sauce leftover from the weekend. I could toss that together with some pasta. Alternatively, I have some salmon fillets and sweet potato fries in the freezer. I’m sure I could turn that into a delicious dinner.

When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?

Living in London, I’m spoilt for choice. Near me I have a choice of chain restaurants in Canary Wharf (Wahaca is a favourite of mine). If I’m craving something that feels home cooked though, I would go to The Eagle in Clerkenwell. It’s not really near me any more, but I still spend a lot of time in that neighbourhood. It’s a great place to grab a casual, inexpensive, freshly prepared dinner.

What’s in the fridge? – Emma, Tbilisi

My lovely friend Emma and I met at university when we stayed in the same hall of residence and rapidly bonded over a shared interest in food (combining Oreos, peanut butter and bananas; dyeing water green; and baking and eating Presidential cookies all featured) and TV (Veronica Mars especially). (There was more to it than that, but you get the idea). Emma is originally from the US but now lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, and writes the fabulously informative blog Cookies and the Caucasus, which is a must-read if you are planning a trip to Georgia (her post on how to have the iconic Georgian dinner out is an excellent start). She kindly agreed to open her fridge door for this series (first post here).

img_0605Who do you cook for?

I cook for myself, and about half the time my boyfriend eats with me. I like cooking for others, too, but I usually do that at friends’ houses, because my flat is small (the kitchen is good-sized, but it takes up half the flat).

Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?

I try to cook one big dish on the weekend that will keep throughout the week for lunches to bring to work and quick dinners, so that tends to be a stew/curry or a salad. I often wind up working around one ingredient, either something Georgian that I don’t know and want to explore, or something non-Georgian that I’m so excited to see that I snap it up first and figure out what to do with it later. I don’t like touching raw meat, so I don’t cook a lot of meat. Sometimes I’ll buy a rotisserie chicken, or raw meat pre-cut into the necessary shape so I can just throw it into the pan.

Where do you buy your groceries?

Mostly at the grocery store across the street from my house (it’s called Universami) and at the grocery store across the street from my friend’s house (Furshet). I also stop at the fruit and vegetable stand on my way home if I’ll be cooking, or if I have time to wash and cut something for the next few days. I make it to the Carrefour Hypermarket about once a month, where I can get more specialty ingredients.

img_0966Tell us a little bit about your kitchen. Is it minimal or cluttered?

I rented the place furnished, so I can’t take any credit for the kitchen. It’s recently renovated, so the cupboards are quite nice. Sadly, though, the oven doesn’t work, only 3/4 of the burners on the cooker turn on, and I was in the flat for 2 and a half months before I got a fridge…so you could say it’s minimal.

What’s in your fridge?

I just got back from my post-paycheck grocery shopping spree, so my fridge is quite full right now. I’ve got a lot of condiments–I like to keep both the Georgian and American basics around, and I also like to make curries and stir fries, so I have the basics for those, too. Summer produce season is in full swing–you can see mulberries, blueberries, lettuce, and ekala (it’s, like, a twig…the scientific name is Smilax excelsa) [Ed: sarsparilla is part of the same family]. I’ve also got herbs and a big head of broccoli in the veg drawer, in addition to the stuff not in the fridge.

img_0960

What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen (and why)?

img_0957Garlic, olive oil….I can’t think of a third that’s at the same level. I’ll eat pretty much anything with garlic and olive oil on it. I suppose salt is necessary for the garlic and olive oil to do their magic, so that’ll be number 3.

What three foods are always in your fridge?

Some sort of fermented dairy product (usually matsoni – Georgian yoghurt – but often kefir or ayran – Turkish thin buttermilk), eggs, hot sauce.

Is anything currently missing from your fridge?

Like I said before, it’s fuller than usual as I just got back from shopping. I realized when I got home that I had forgotten to put parmesan on my list, so that’s missing. Usually all those ingredients would be turned into dishes, and there would be stacks of containers in the fridge. That’s the plan for this evening.

What treats do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?

I don’t really keep treats around…I make myself walk to the store if I have a craving. I always have tea, which is comforting, so I guess it can fill the “treat” slot.

What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?
img_0958
Fruit, lots of varieties of cheese, tortillas

What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?

I only have three gadgets: an immersion blender, a WonderBag, and a julienne peeler. They’re all fairly new to me, and have really expanded my repertoire!

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?

I’m going to make some pkhali (Georgian vegetable puree) this evening, so I’ve got the ingredients for that. The obvious dinner is to cook up those ravioli, and I’m sure I’ve got pesto in the fridge somewhere. I’ve also got lovely tomatoes. But more in line with the spirit of the question, I’d make an herb omelette, as I have lots of herbs lingering in my vegetable drawer, and I always have eggs. The cheese I have, smoked sulguni, wouldn’t be my first choice for an omelette, but in a pinch I think it would be fine.

When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?

Khachapuri, preferably adjaruli, but whatever’s hot at the local bakery will suffice. If I’m too lazy to cook, I’m usually also too lazy to go anywhere, but I want to give a shout-out to our embattled Kiwi Cafe. Often when I go there to meet friends, I’ll get a dish or two takeaway to preempt running out of food in the fridge, because they cook the kind of things I like to cook, it just saves me some effort.

What’s in the fridge? A series

004.JPG

In the book Fight Club, the nameless narrator returns home from a business trip to discover that his condominium has been blown up. Numb and distraught, he walks around the debris of his possessions (a scene evocatively captured in the film version of the novel). The police tell him they suspect the compressor of the fridge provided the spark which caused the explosion.

Oh, not my refrigerator. I’d collected shelves full of different mustards, some stone-ground, some English pub style. There were fourteen different flavours of fat-free salad dressing, and seven kinds of capers.

I know, I know, a house full of condiments and no real food.

The refrigerator described by the narrator reflects the bleak message of Fight Club: his life has the trappings of fullness, but there is nothing to provide nourishment. The variety and diversity of the condiments he is able to purchase and consume (or collect) do nothing to disguise the spiritual poverty of his existence.

I’ve been obsessed with this sentiment ever since – and indeed, my boyfriend has started to worry about my habit of texting people to ask them about their fridge contents. The idea that contents of the fridge and kitchen cupboards can reflect who we are is obviously compelling, and there’s some truth in it. Surely the Puy lentils, goat’s cheese and sundried tomatoes of the 1990s said as much about the era as the chia seeds, frozen bananas (for smoothies) and mashed avocado says about the 2010s?

So for this little series, which I think will run fortnightly, I’ll be sharing the insides and insights of our fridges, starting but not limited to my own.

Show me your fridge, and I will tell you who you are…