Envy may be one of the seven deadly sins, but even the purest souls would struggle not to feel green-eyed over Nigella Lawson’s larder. On her latest TV series Cook, Eat, Repeatthe chef regularly steps into a magical room off her kitchen (or as she calls it, the “pleasure palace”) to fetch a jar of crispy chilli oil to scatter over her lamb shank, or some Korean fermented cabbage for an elaborate chicken sandwich.
Bigger than some people’s bathrooms, Lawson’s larder is a walk-in wardrobe of condiments, jars and spices bathed in the twinkle of fairy lights.
Viewers have salivated over the larder as much as they have over the molten chocolate pudding she whipped up. It’s so much better than any larder most people have ever seen. The larder I grew up with consisted of rice pudding and tins of tomatoes stacked precariously at the top of the basement stairs.
While larders were designed to keep food as chilled as possible when fridges hadn’t yet been invented, they’ve made a comeback in recent years. With a greater concern about food waste, the idea that you can rustle up a meal from a well-stocked larder is appealing.
Nigella’s ‘pleasure palace’
The important question is: what else besides crispy chili oil does Lawson (inset) keep re-stocking for her larder?
Some of her staples include “incredibly good” canned sardines, tahini, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, sea salt flakes, gherkins and smoked hot paprika.
The food writer Stephanie Brookes says that to create a varied and usable larder is “a bit like building a culinary wardrobe”. Pasta is essential, she feels, and she also believes in a decent selection of condiments such as mustards, pickles and mayonnaise. “The most important of all is a good hidden stash of chocolate for sugar emergencies.” She also keeps porridge, cereals and lots of rice as she is a “carb-o-holic”.
Consultant and food expert Lydia Gerratt, who for 16 years worked as a buyer for Waitrose, went through her larder to tell i what she keeps in there. As well as olive oil and honey, she also stores stock, capers in brine, kalamata olives, oyster sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil, dried porcini mushrooms, breadcrumbs, golden caster sugar and potato starch flour which she mixes with flour to dust fish for a crispy coating. What’s clear is you can have anything you like in your larder.
However, it only works properly if it is kept well ordered, and that you can actually see what you’ve got in there. After all, we’ve all rummaged around the back of our cupboards only to find a jar of chutney we bought on a trip in 1997.