There are some things in life which, once experienced, you never want to live without. And I know I’m not the only one to feel that way about pantries. Why these magnificent things fell out of fashion in the 60s is quite beyond me. I have even seen women of an older generation glaze over wistfully as they fondly speak of the pantry they used to have as a young woman, or perhaps their grandmother’s walk-in pantry which housed homemade jars of jam, pickles, bread and cheeses. For something so wondrous and essential to a fully functional kitchen to ever fall out of fashion is, quite frankly, close to design criminality. Of course architects would no doubt argue that the need for smaller, more affordable properties put paid to anything so luxurious and frivolous as a pantry, but I would argue that to dismiss these works of art can only mean none of these architects could actually cook!
We were lucky enough to have a larder custom made and installed at our previous home as part of a kitchen refurbishment. I was stunned at how quickly I not only filled it, but became reliant on it’s many shelves, spice racks and drawers. This pantry was a thing of beauty, which was simply magnified when the lights came on every time we opened the doors. The icing on the cake was the marble shelf, designed to keep food cool and lasting longer. The thought of leaving that behind and going back to crawling around on the floor trying to find a tin of chopped tomatoes at the back of cupboard was really not very pleasing.
So you can imagine my joy when the house we eventually went on to buy had its very own larder for me to fill with endless jars of beans, rices, flours and spices. It isn’t as glamorous or well made and didn’t have lights, until our genius electrician fitted some retrospectively. That in itself proved to be a massive lesson in the joy of pantry ownership; the sheer functionality of them and the ease they add to daily cooking, rather than them being for show or to tick a box on the keeping-up-with-the-Jones list, is what it’s all about.
Any good larder needs a little regular maintenance. The sheer size of these things mean that it’s very easy for boxes and bottles to get pushed to the back of a shelf where they remain unseen, unused and eventually go out of date. If you allow that to happen too often a larder can soon become inefficient and wasteful, which was pretty much where ours was heading. After an early start this morning, once the husband and daughter were dropped off at train stations and bus stops, I headed back home to do battle with the bottles and boxes. Having found lots of packets with a tablespoon of this and a cup full of that lurking around, I placed them all on the kitchen island and scratched my head as to how I could put them to use. There was now way they were going back in the now sparkly clean and immaculately presented larder. So I decided to be a little creative and some of the ingredients found their way into my latest culinary creation; Chestnut & Buckwheat Bread. It smells amazing. It tastes amazing. Clearly this wonderful blend of ingredients were just hanging out together waiting for their moment to take centre stage. And the fact that it is gluten free and paleo makes it even more appetising.
The best piece of advice I can offer when it comes to gluten free bread is to treat it as you would rye bread; slice it very thinly and store in an air tight container. It is best eaten within 24 hours of baking, so I tend to slice a few bits to pop in the fridge and then slice and freeze the rest, adding a pice of greaseproof paper between each slice to stop them sticking together.
And now I must dash off for another slice …
CHESTNUT & BUCKWHEAT BREAD
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 300ml lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp golden linseeds
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 2 cups chestnut flour
- 2 cups buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
- A generous pinch of sea salt
- Olive oil
Pour the golden linseeds onto a baking tray and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the husks start to pop. Meanwhile, place the chia seeds in a bowl before mixing the yeast and lukewarm water in a jug. Allow the yeast mixture to rest and for bubbles to appear. Pour over the chia seeds.
Pop the pumpkin and sunflower seeds into a blender and blitz until they are reduced to small pieces. Add this to a large mixing bowl along with all the remaining dry ingredients. Stir well. Make a well in the middle of the mix and slowly pour in the yeast, water, chia seed and linseed mix. Stir well to ensure all of the ingredients blend together to form a firm gooey dough.
Drape a towel over the bowl, place the bowl in a warm space and allow the dough rise 1-2 hours, or longer if you are able to.
Preheat your oven to 190°C. Line the bread tin with baking paper. Using a spatula, press the dough to release gases before shaping it and placing it into the bread tin. With the wooden spatula, press the dough evenly into the tin, especially into the corners. Using a knife, flatten the surface and shape the bread before pouring a small amount of oil over the top of the loaf and again, use the knife to spread this evenly.
Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Ovens vary massively, so you may need to increase or decrease this depending on the cooking speed and intensity of your own oven. Check the bake is complete by dipping a skewer in the bread; if it comes up wet, continue to bake a little while longer.
Remove the bread from the baking pan and let it cool on the wire rack. Now for the best bit – slice, smother in butter and devour!