She collects the spices and aromas that the Assyrian gathers, and the rich Arab; those that are harvested by the Pygmy peoples and by India, and that grow in the soft bosom of the Sabaen land. She collects cinnamon, the perfume of the far wafting amomum, balsams mixed with tejpat leaves; there is also a slip of gentle cassia and gum arabic, and the rich teardrops of frankincense. She adds the tender spikes of downy nard and the power of Panchaea’s myrrh~ Anonymous Latin Poem
A Turkish Pantry is not that hard to assemble once you have the basic ingredients from spices, dried herbs and beans, syrups, oils, and grains. Once assembled, the colors and textures evoke a sense of exoticism and a greater appreciation on how collecting spices once was considered a dangerous thing to do.
People have traveled across continents and waged wars over spices over the many millenias. The spice trading industry was one of the first markets that began to connect the world together. Sugar and Cinnamon were one of the most traded spices and fought over. Today, we take those simple ingredients for granted because they populate our shelves in abundance.
Expanding your pantry out of your comofrt zone can be a bit intimidating because:
- You don’t really know how to use the spices to justify the price.
- You are not familiar with how the new spices and ingredients can complement what you already have in your pantry.
If I was to make a list, it would be a combination of grain, spices, and legumes. Having a selection of these on hand, makes for quick improvisational meals on a very low budget.
Bulgar: Bulgar comes in a variety of grain sizes; the higher higher the number on the bag denotes the bigger grain. For example, a number 1 grain is four tabbouleh and just needs to soak in warm water to fluff up. A number 7 grain has more texture since it is the closest to the hulled wheat grain. Bulgar is parboiled which is why it has a more chewy dense texture. Because it is not refined like regular white rice, it has a lower sugar index and more fiber.
Israeli CousCous: This couscous looks like little white pearls. If you throw a handful of these beauties into rice or bulgar, you will have a nice combination of flavor textures. Just cooked up on their own, they become a nice earthy base for a simple grain based salad.
Red Lentils: Ren lentils are the perfect dried lentil to cook with because it does not need any presoaking and cooks down very easily into rice dishes, or mixed into slow cooking vegetables. High in protein, they can be cooked with #1 grain bulgar and made into lentil balls.
Chickpeas: canned, dried, or fresh..just have some on hand! If you can find fresh chickpeas at a Mexican market, get them! They look like big pea pods that only average 2 chickpeas per pod. Understand going in that it will take FOREVER to shell them, but they are worth it in the end. My father just eats them like candy, raw from the pod, but I like to boil them up for a bit and make a salad out of them. Did I tell you they are GREEN?
Spices:[how much space do you have in your pantry? Just kidding…]
All the red pepper stuff: Aleppo pepper, roasted/smoked paprika, roasted peppers for salad, pepper paste..bring on all the pepper products!
Cumin: Buying cumin in bulk at a Middle Eastern market will not only give you better quality cumin, but a better price.
Cardamom: having both the green pods as well as ground cardamom will enable you to control the amount of flavor in what you are baking or cooking. Most baking asks for ground whereas cooking will ask for pods.
Allspice: Believe it or not allspice is not just for baking, it is widely used in many vegetable dishes over in turkey adding a warmth to the underlying spices.
Dill: buy it once at the Middle eastern market and you will probably never have to buy it again for years. With fresh dill being so expensive at times, having dried dill on hand definitely helps with the budget. Dill is sprinkled on just about everything from salads to yogurts to baked into savory breads.
Dried Mint: ditto above statement! also it can be used as tea! How cool it that!
Dried Lemon: they sell bags of whole dried lemons. When slow cooking a dish or even a broth, pop one of those in the dish for a light lemony flavor.
As far as other things that don’t fall into these groups, I always have a big jar of tahini in the cupboard (apparently that is the one item I randomly stock up on and once found FOUR open containers of tahini in the closet), a jar of pekmez or molasses, and pomegranate molasses.
Olives, must not forget olives! Dried Cured black olives, not canned pitted olives..ew! Never! I shiver at the thought!
Olive oil..yes, I am an olive oil snob..I only get lebanese, turkish, greek or spanish olive oil. Call me old fashioned, but I need olive oil from the old country..I have given california olive oil a try and it’s a no go for me! Just doesn’t have the same essence because the trees are so young!
SO! There you go! That’s my go to list of how to create a Turkish pantry! As I start to post different recipes, having a stock closet will make recipe impementation super zippy and fast!