A_Wholefoods_Pantry

A wholefoods pantry

Our downtown café had us running in circles most days, and we found ourselves drawn towards high energy, nutrient dense foods. With small pockets of time in which to refuel, we had to be sure our meal choices were sustaining, enough so to see us through the lunchtime rush…the beginnings of a natural, wholefoods journey.

We have always been gastronomically curious. But the ins and outs of the restaurant scene very quickly taught us that the enjoyment of a dish depends on a myriad of things. Our curiosity extended to an ingredient’s source every bit as much as to its flavours and preparation. The health-giving properties of foods commanded our attention too and so we began to refine our ingredients list. We avoided processed sugar, energy-spiking grains and any fruit and vegetable of shady origin. We opted instead for local and natural wholefoods, those with high nutrient profiles and unaltered flavours. And of course, the first place we began was our pantry…

Oils:

Certain fats and oils are essential to our bodies, making sure they run like well-oiled machines. We like a good mix and always try to maintain a balance in our cooking. No matter the kind they are always minimally processed and cold pressed – simply from a fruit, nut or seed. Here are a few of our favourites:

Olive – we always use extra-virgin and do our best to look for small producers who farm ethically and locally here in the Cape.

Coconut – pure and richly fragrant, this is our queen of all the oils. It is the only unrefined fat that isn’t compromised at higher temperatures. In fact, it embodies all that we look for in an ingredient – an oil of pure luxury.

Sesame – the best is toasted with organic, filtered seeds. This oil is nutrient rich and has a distinct nuttiness we have come to crave.

Grains:

We think of grains as having personalities, each with their own particular quirks. Two of our favourites are in fact seeds, but grain-like in spirit they land here.

Amaranth – a nutritional darling, this seeds tiny size belies a hefty protein punch. Good for your heart and high in magnesium and iron, it is also the only seed to contain Vitamin C. We love its pop-in-the-mouth texture, especially in our biscuits and granola.

Quinoa – this seed stole our hearts with its encyclopedic profile of vitamins and minerals. It grows in an array of reds, browns and pinks but our staple is ivory. Rich in amino acids and a complete source of protein, quinoa kept Incan armies fuelled for battle. With a fluffed-up and creamy-yet-crunchy texture, we could go on and on…

Wild rice – with a colour spectrum as broad as its nutrient index, this slow cooking grain is a firm favourite. We can’t resist its earthy tones or hearty texture. After cooking, toss with a bit of clarified butter and toast in the oven until fragrant. A whole new dimension of flavour awaits!

Sweeteners:

We only use pure sweeteners – pure in the sense that they are free from any additives or preservatives. In remaining close to their source, they maintain a complexity of flavour that is worlds apart from the generic “sweet.” When baking, they can be used not only to sweeten but also to add density, moisture and even a crust. Infinite possibilities…

Black strap molasses – thick and black as tar, this is as full-bodied a sweetener as they come. It is prepared in a succession of boiling cycles that preserve all of its vitamins and minerals, with especially high doses of calcium and iron.

Honey – we love how honey’s nuanced flavours reflect the region in which it is produced. Deep and brooding or bright on the tongue, these caramel-hued syrups are the first things we look for at farmers’ markets. While we love sampling the different varieties, the darker honeys have higher anti oxidant levels and are usually our first choice. Be sure to select those that are raw and unfiltered.

Maple syrup – beware the imitations that are only maple-flavored! Artificially produced, they have little to no maple content. Yet in its pure form maple syrup is a master of minerals: calcium, zinc, manganese.

This is an excellent starting point – slow and steady.