co-kitchen

The Pantry

After the student years, when I had a little more money and started regularly cooking, I got a little overexcited (understatement) with all the food possibilities… Especially since going vegan, which may sound like a contradiction since one might think it reduces the choice of what to eat. But I felt the opposite, a new world of grains and pulses and weird vegetables opened up to me and I embraced it fully. My pantry literally overflowed with tens of different kinds of flour, new and exotic grains like quinoa, amaranth and teff, superfoods like spirulina and chia. Since then a lot of these items have become much more widely known and accessible, but my enthusiasm for them has somewhat subdued. My interest these days is in reducing my consumption to some sustainable basics which form a solid nutritional base for my cooking and then occasionally supplementing with new treats and treasures. There are several factors I considered while curating this collection from my experience over the years: origin (regional and local meaning Switzerland and Europe as much as possible), sustainably produced (organic, fair), nutritional profile, price, and of course, deliciousness. This is not to say that my pantry is set in stone; like most other aspects of life, it is a constantly evolving project open to new knowledge and experience.

Note, however, that although some of these products grow perfectly well in Switzerland or Europe, the common brands in Coop and Migros sometimes originate somewhere else entirely, like sunflower seeds from China or lentils from Canada. This just goes to show how complicated it is these days to actually eat “local”.

SEEDS & NUTS

Seeds

  • pumpkin
  • sunflower
  • flax
    • I buy whole seeds, then grind small batches in my cofffee grinder and keep in the fridge for morning Müsli. This is because once ground, the oils are exposed to air and can go rancid quickly.
  • hemp
    • It is possible to get both hulled and whole (without and with the tougher outer coating). Nutritionally they are similar, so it’s a matter of texture preference. I usually the hulled ones for Müsli, smoothies, etc and the whole ones for crunchy salad / soup toppings.
  • sesame
  • poppy
  • Speciality use: psyllium husk (Flohsamenschalen in German) for fibre and binding in gluten-free baking or other cooking
  • A sprouting seed mix for sprouts

Nuts

  • walnuts
  • hazelnuts
  • Occasionally: almonds, cashews or Brazil nuts as a treat — order in bulk from Gebana

Nut/seed Butters*

  • tahini from whole sesame
  • natural peanut butter (no sugar, salt, palm fat, etc added)
    • The Alnatura brand is good and available in Migros.

Storage and use

  • I store nuts and seeds in sealed containers such as glass jars, no refrigeration necessary.
  • Soak your nuts

LEGUMES

Lentils

Keep two to three sorts on rotation.

Firm-cooking, for salads
  • French green lentils
  • black beluga lentils
  • Berg Linsen
    • The Alnatura brand ones come from Europe
Soft-cooking, for soups and stews
  • red / yellow lentils
  • brown lentils
  • yellow and green split peas

Beans

Keep two sorts on rotation.

  • white navy beans
  • Borlotti beans
  • kidney beans
  • Occasionally: mung beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, any fancier/rare variety

Chickpeas

I keep both dried and canned chickpeas on-hand.

Storage and use

  • Store in sealed containers such as glass jars, no refrigeration necessary.
  • Soak beans and chickpeas overnight in cold water with some salt. When ready to cook beans, drain and very gently simmer in water with a little salt, oil, and other flavourings such as vegetable trimmings, bay leaf, pepper, etc. Chickpeas generally cook much faster than beans once soaked so just simmer in plain water with a pinch of baking soda (speeds the process along even more).

CEREALS AND GRAINS

I keep wholegrain pasta and around four of the following on rotation

  • brown rice
    • ideally from Italy
  • millet
    • Swiss millet is available in bio stores
  • buckwheat
  • wholegrain cous-cous/bulgur
  • one of wholegrain spelt/rye/barley (slower cooking, soaking required).
  • Occasionally: pearled barley
  • Polenta
    • the coarse-grain one from Tessin

Müsli

  • Rolled oats
  • Rolled grain mix (e.g. 5-grain-mix from Migros)
  • Occasionally: ready müsli mix without added sugar and too many weird ingredients

Flour

  • light & whole spelt/wheat
  • wholegrain rye
  • chickpea (gluten-free)
  • one or two gluten-free options like buckwheat and millet.
  • Occasionally: some fancier gluten-free options like corn and oat flour
  • Cornstarch/Potato starch for baking and cooking

Storage and use

  • Sealed containers such as glass jars, no refrigeration necessary. I store flours in a dark, cool place.
  • Ideally soak grains before cooking, especially with wholegrain spelt/rye/barley.
  • Buckwheat that has been soaked overnight can be consumed raw (e.g. blended with fruit in a smoothie or a raw breakfast bowl).
  • Buckwheat grains can also be toasted (in a pan or spread out on a baking sheet in the oven) until they become crunchy and then used like toasted seeds and nuts for topping soups/salads/smoothies.
  • Millet tastes better when toasted slightly before boiling.
  • Rolled oats/grains are best soaked before use — soak them overnight for your morning müsli or porridge.

DRIED/PRESERVED/PICKLED

Dry fruit

Two to three of the following on rotation:

  • apricots
  • figs
  • prunes
  • raisins
  • coconut flakes

Pickled / preserved / fermented

Two to three of the following on rotation:

  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • olives
  • capers
  • pickles
  • artichokes
  • roasted peppers

Storage and use

  • Sealed containers such as glass jars, no refrigeration necessary.
  • Chop up dried fruit in müslis/porridge and use them to sweeten smoothies instead of adding sugar.
  • Use sun-dried tomatoes, olives or other pickled veggies for a flavour spike on salads, in pastas, on pizza…
  • And a can of tomatoes is always great for times when all you can muster is pasta and tomato sauce.

SWEET

  • fair-trade raw cane sugar
  • pear syrup (Birnel)
  • black molasses
  • Occasionally: barley malt syrup, date syrup
  • fair-trade plain dark chocolate (70-80%) for dessert/baking
  • jam/compote *
    • I don’t often consume it but keep one on hand for occasional breakfast treats or baking. I usually choose Swiss fruit with higher fruit than sugar ratio

Storage and use

  • Original packaging or sealed containers such as glass jars. No refrigeration necessary except open jams/compote.
  • Pear syrup (Birnendicksaft) is a great local alternative to maple syrup on pancakes, bread, and in baking.
  • I use fair-trade raw cane sugar in all applications where sugar is required (never stock white sugar). You can pulse some in a blender whenever you need powdered sugar.
  • I also often have blackstrap molasses (the real, thick, dark stuff, not the weak-ass, caramel-coloured Tafelmelasse) because it is one of the most nutritious sweeteners, and has a depth and character which I appreciate.
  • Barley malt syrup is less sweet, and, as the name implies, has a wonderful malty flavour

SPICES & BAKING

I am a spice fiend and tend to have a lot of the suggestions below on stock at a time, but you can pick just a few from each category to start with, and curate your collection as time goes on. Whole spices such as cumin and coriander seeds, quickly toasted and then ground, are much more flavourful than their pulverized counterparts but naturally require a little more preparation.

Salt and stock

  • Swiss rock salt / sea salt for everyday
  • Kala Namak for eggy-ness
  • Himalaya salt/unrefined grey sea salt/Fleur de Sel for fancier applications
  • Vegetable stock*

Herbs

I use fresh herbs when in season and stock them dried otherwise.

  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Estragon
  • Dill
  • Sage

Spices

  • Black pepper
    • always whole pepper corns in a grinder, never use the powdered stuff
    • I have a few different varieties that I play around with
  • sweet/smoked paprika
  • cumin
    • ground and whole
  • caraway
  • coriander
    • ground and whole
  • chili powder
  • turmeric
  • cinnamon
    • ground and sticks
  • ginger
  • cardamom
    • ground and whole
  • cloves
  • star anise
  • nutmeg
    • whole, grind fresh
  • fennel seeds
  • juniper berries
  • mustard seeds
  • curry mix

Baking

  • baking powder
  • baking soda
    • super useful overall in the household for cleaning and homemade cosmetics
  • dried instant yeast
  • vanilla powder/pods

CONDIMENTS

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Mustard
  • Chilli sauce of choice (e.g. Tabasco, sambal olek, harissa*)
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Bread spread/pesto*
    • A couple of favourite brands of bread spreads that don’t have too much fat: Zwergenwiese Lupi Love, Allos Hof Gemüse

FAT AND SOUR

  • Good, cold-pressed olive/canola (raps) oil
    • for raw stuff and salad
  • Regular olive/canola (raps) oil
    • for frying, roasting, baking, etc
  • Coconut oil
    • unrefined for sweets, baking and Asian dishes
    • refined when I don’t want the coconut flavour
    • Good for applications that require solid fat and high temperature processing (frying at high heat)
  • Margarine
    • for sandwiches, baking, cooking
    • the Kokos Margarine from Migros is good because it’s bio and doesn’t contain any palm oil
  • Occasionally: sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil
    • store in the fridge
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Lemon juice
    • the Alnatura brand is 100% bio lemon juice, which is practical
  • Occasionally: red/white wine vinegar

FRIDGE AND FREEZER

Plant milk

  • soy or oat
    • for drinking/baking
    • fortified with Calcium
  • Coconut milk
    • for cooking/baking
  • Occasionally: rice, hazelnut, buckwheat to mix things up.
    • Favourite treat: Soyana Swiss Cereal Drink Dinkel Haselnuss — super delicious on its own or with coffee.

Plant yoghurt

  • soy
  • coconut
    • Coyo from the Karma Coop brand!

Tofu & co

  • firm tofu plain or smoked
    • from Swiss/EU soy
    • Futur is my go-to brand
    • Engel is super good but expensive — a nice occasional treat
  • Occasionally: silken tofu, flavoured firm tofu, tempeh, seitan, lupin-based stuff other meat-like products

Freezer

My freezer is usually pretty empty except for ice cubes, frozen bananas for smoothies/raw ice-cream, frozen vegetable trimmings for making stock*, freezable left-overs (cooked beans can be frozen in their cooking liquid/cooked grains), ice-cream in the summer and the occasional packet of green peas/edamame.

Storage and use

  • Plant-based milks only need to be refrigerated once opened.
  • When coconut milk cans are cooled, the coconut cream separates from the water and you can scoop that creamy goodness from the top of the can and whisk it with some powder sugar for a delicious topping to desserts, pies and cakes.

* HOME-MADE

The following are relatively easy to make at home and often turn out cheaper and tastier than bought counterparts, so when I have time I whip a batch to restock the *-marked items above. I hope to post my own recipes and instructions for these as time goes on, for the moment I’m just linking to some other sources which I have used or seem reasonable.

  • Baked granola for a sweet breakfast treat
  • Fruit compote as a less-sugary alternative to jams for pancakes, yoghurt, etc. Use whatever fruit is in season and adjust the amount of sugar accordingly — ripe, sweet berries might be fine with just a splash of orange juice but rhubarb is going to want a little more sweet lovin’.
  • Savoury spreads such as hummus, pesto, other bean-based pastes…
  • Condiments like harissa
  • Vegetable stock/broth
  • Plant milks like home-made rice milk with brown rice tend to be cheaper and healthier than store-bought alternatives, and there’s possibility for flavour customization (mixes like rice-hemp, spices like vanilla/cinnamon/cardamom…)
  • Nut butters are cheaper than store-bought alternatives and don’t have any unnecessary additions such as oils, sugars, and salt, and there’s possibility for flavour customization (chocolate, cinnamon, coconut…)

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