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Most while setting up our kitchen have a fair idea of things needed for our pantry, right from basic masalas to sauces and more. But many go wrong in this term too. Culinary experts come to one’s aid on what needs to be a part of one’s pantry if you are a foodie and a good cook.

While shopping for your pantry, you are bound to miss certain things or go wrong. Chef Sushant, Executive Sous Chef, Hotel Sahara Star, Mumbai, puts the spotlight on good planning. “Most don’t plan before going to the store. We also need to identify stores and local markets where good quality grocery is available.”

We ask home chef Sakett Sawhney, Restaurateur & Chef, Big Bang Cuurry, Mumbai, a thing or two about pantry basics. His full-service delivery kitchen is into authentic Indian cuisine. He  recollects the most frequent thing that we most typically miss – spices. “In some dishes people neglect it or tweak it in their own way, not realising how even one ingredient missing from any dish can change the whole game.”

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It is time for Chef Vijesh Modi, Sr. Sous Chef, The Deltin, Daman, to speak. “There is certainly an argument made in favour of transferring your spices into a fancy or matching set of bottles. But it is time-consuming, and can get messy.

Sometimes it is just best to leave well enough alone. Canned foods are really space-efficient and easy to store, but is easy to lose track of how long they have been in your pantry. Just store your cans on a storage rack. Place new cans at the back, and take them out from the front so that you’re using the older cans first.

Kitchen knives stored in a drawer could be damaged by the other items in the drawer. Someone could easily cut themselves accidentally. Instead, store them on a knife block or magnetic knife bar.”

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We dig deep to know the most important things to keep in mind while shopping for one’s pantry. Sakett wants everyone to get into food controlling or getting the ingredients’ quantity right to avoid wastage. “Buy some ingredient which can be used for multiple purposes.

Also, keeping in mind the lifespan on the products, sometimes while procuring pulses, rice, etc, in bulk, they need to be checked carefully to avoid bad quality products. Quality check and quantity control are very essential.”

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Chef Sushant very rightly puts his bet on nutrition which he calls the most important part of one’s pantry. “Go for healthy, local and organic produce. Stick with your staple food habits which are followed by your region.”

Most want to know the important items for one’s pantry. Chef Vijesh mentions basics like salt, black peppercorns, extra virgin olive and vegetable oil and various vinegars. In baking, choose flours like all-purpose and whole wheat, baking soda and powder, cream of tartar, unsweetened cocoa powder, chocolate (chips or bar), condensed milk and pure vanilla extract.

“In sweeteners, you can keep grain sugar, castor sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup and honey. In rice and grains, keep long-grain white rice, brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa and couscous.”

While getting pasta, he suggests standard, whole grain, rice noodles or egg noodles. There is polenta and breadcrumbs (plain or panko). Speaking of snacks and cereals, keep crackers, tortillas, cookies or biscuits and popcorn kernels. You can buy canned goods like olives or capers, varied chillies, tomato paste, tuna and anchovy fillets or paste.

With dried herbs and spices, buy bay leaves, cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, chilli powder, crushed red pepper, curry powder, fennel or dill seed, granulated garlic, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground cumin, ground ginger, oregano, paprika powder, rosemary, thyme and nutmeg.

Apart from your usual dairy products, go for unsalted butter, cheddar or mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Then there are the usual freezer culprits like boneless or skinless chicken breasts, bacon and sausage, french fries, vegetables (peas, chopped spinach or corn), fruit like berries and vanilla ice cream.

He also wants everyone to create a kitchen layout where the essentials are at a hand’s distance to avoid pacing or unnecessary movement. Just store the non-essentials outside.

Sakett  suggests basic stuff to cover all cuisines like quarter plates, dining plates, rice knife, butter knives, meat knives, forks, serving spoons, tongs, cooking spoons, pans, etc. Chef Sushant suggests, “Always buy equipment which can be used for multiple purpose. For instance steamer can be use for idli, dim sums, etc.”

Brought your stuff? Now understand the method of taking care of it and keep the quality. Chef Sushant reveals, “Always check expiry dates before buying stuff. Keep stuff open in airtight containers and proper storage area.

Always buy good quality products with good brand. Check the packaging and seals of product. Avoid open gunny bags. Purchase stuff according to your monthly requirement. Buy organic products. Check the source of origin.”

Sakett has mentioned earlier about keeping regular check on all products that are brought to avoid wastage. “This is something I feel we all have inherited from our moms. If there’s extra milk and wouldn’t last  until tomorrow, she would just  make  any Indian sweet to avoid  wastage. Trust me, it’s a treat in itself.”

Chef Vijesh starts by suggesting the fridge temperature to be set between 1°C and 4°C. “Use separate refrigerators wherever possible for raw and high risk or ready-to-eat food to minimise cross-contamination. Put canned food in a separate container before you refrigerate it. Vacuum packing also works well for food preparation.

Many chefs vacuum pack specific ingredients and cook it at a precise temperature to produce unique results. Never refreeze defrosted food, as it gives bacteria an opportunity to grow between thawing.”

A good  pantry  changes the food quality. Chef Vijesh puts his bet on the freshness of ingredients for richer flavour and more nutrients. “Food quality also depends on your preparation and serving. The quicker the food gets to the table, the better it will taste.

Safety and quality assessments are essential to improve product quality in food manufacturing. You and your suppliers must have a clear understanding of food safety requirements.”

Sakett adds, “Good quality always changes the game of food. It just helps us serve top-notch quality food to our patrons. Being a perfectionist in terms of food, even at my own house we make sure we have a well maintained pantry.”

With these suggestions, your pantry is now ready to help you cook up some delicious delights.

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