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Random Recipes Mosaic

It’s “dare to bare” on Belleau Kitchen’s Random Recipes this month, where we fearlessly throw open the doors of our cupboards for all the world to see. Now, the truth is, I don’t have my own kitchen, but am graciously allowed to mess about in my mother’s pretty much at will. Still, I draw the line at displaying the contents of her cupboards. Not because they’re untidy (my mother is one of the neatest, most organised people in the world, and her kitchen reflects it); but, well, they’re not mine. Fortunately, I do have my own pantry.

You see, my mother leases out some of the kitchen real estate to me, so that I can corral my personal collection of kitchen tools and dishes in one spot. This has also become home to an assortment of the more unusual ingredients that I buy for my own use. Since starting this blog, my paraphernalia has swelled to such proportions that I now “own” all five shelves of the corner pantry cupboard.

However, I’ve only photographed three of them, because the two lower shelves don’t have any food ingredients stored on them—they are taken up by a toolbox full of culinary school implements and my stacks of dishes, which are arranged with frightfully boring precision and not worth looking at. (You’ve seen most of the dishes in my photographs anyway.)

Cupboard Photo ISo we’ll start on the middle shelf, which holds a horrifying number of plastic deli containers, a relic from my days at culinary school, where they served as mise en place containers. I rarely use them (I prefer glass to plastic), but I can’t get rid of them, because they’re full of memories from my time at George Brown Chef School. Then in the back, you can see my stash of cooking alcohol for sauce making and braising: bottles of red and white wine (Beaujolais and Pinot Grigio, in case you’re interested) and Weihenstephaner lager. In the front, the pastry chef takes over again, with gelatin, cornstarch, molasses, and golden syrup placed within easy reach. The golden syrup, especially, gets a lot of use. But my two favourite ingredients on this shelf are the jar of black raspberry jam (I love black raspberries, but they’re not so easy to find, even in a jam) and the tube of vanilla beans from Papau New Guinea, which were dreadfully expensive, but worth every penny.

Cupboard Photo IIThe second-highest shelf is cluttered with cake decorating tools and a tottering stack of chocolate molds. I try very hard to keep this shelf tidy, but how can anyone make a heap of piping bags look neat? I suspect it to be impossible. Powdered sugar, so essential to the cake decorator, holds court on this shelf, alongside a range of sophisticated flavouring agents: grand marnier, rum, rosewater, orange blossom water, and espresso powder. My mother does not use them. We keep the vanilla, lemon, orange, and almond extracts in her cupboard, but the others are sternly relegated to mine. I think they make up a beautiful collection of bottles, in addition to the obvious appeal of their contents.

Cupboard Photo IIIThe top shelf, besides a few more sweeteners—barley malt syrup for making bagels and date molasses for nothing in particular—is home to my most adored ingredient: boxes of Albert Uster’s 58% Trudelia couverture chocolate. L’Academie de Cuisine, my pastry school, shared its building with Albert Uster Imports headquarters, so it was only natural that we used their chocolate in our kitchens. I am now thoroughly spoiled and won’t use any other brand, not even Callebaut or Valrhona. Whenever I’m near Washington, D. C., I stop by and pick up another box or two. The boxes hold 11 pounds of chocolate each, so they do last a good while (although not so long as you might think!)