I’ve noticed that a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables last longer for me in Singapore than they used to in Australia. I always keep tomatoes, bananas, apples and lemons out of the fridge and sometimes onions, garlic and potatoes as well. It seems that even in a kitchen that can get as hot as 36°C and never gets cooler than 26°C, they still last well on the bench for at least a week, often longer. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps the produce is fresher here as it’s come from a closer place or has not been stored for as long.
I’ve spoken before about what I consider my pantry essentials and today, I’ll take you through the things I consider the essential perishables or fridge staples.
The Wooden Spoons’ Perishable Essentials
We use these mainly fresh in salads as we eat a basic salad with dinner often. Sometimes I use them in cooking too. I actually rarely buy whole tomatoes as I think the quality of cherry tomatoes (both here and in Aus) is actually better. It’s really only in the depths of Winter in Canberra that I remember struggling to find any nice red and sweet cherry tomatoes. For me, often there is nothing better than a simple side salad with a lettuce mix, halved and lightly salted cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion and balsamic dressing. I always keep my tomatoes out of the fridge. We eat a punnet in a few days anyway, so they rarely go off but if you must keep them in the fridge, please take them out before you use them. Trust me when I say that they taste SO much better at room temperature.
Mixed salad leaves or whole lettuce
This takes on various forms but as I love salads and our dinner often consists of a protein, a salad and one type of steamed or baked vegetable, some kind of salad leaf is essential. Often I buy mixed lettuce leaf packs, other times it will be baby spinach, rocket or a whole lettuce like cos or iceberg. Luckily all of these are readily available in Singapore. I try and buy small amounts though as salad leaves really don’t last long. I rant about tomatoes being kept out of the fridge, but in comparison, I like lettuce kept in the fridge until the last moment as it retains its delicious crunchy texture.
I bake with them and Key eats them like they are going out of fashion. When I go and get groceries I’m always amazed at the frequency that I need to buy another dozen eggs. Eggs…what would we do without them?
Again this can take on various forms for me, but I always have to have either red or brown onions. I cook with them heaps and I’m also a raw onion lover so they often go into our salads. I also use a lot of spring onions and eschalots and I’m big on Asian chives or garlic chives at the moment too.
I use this in so much cooking and it lasts so well. Garlic is definitely one of those essentials that I make sure I never run out of.
This is a funny one because I used to use fresh flat leaf parsley so much in Aus and I’d repurchase it often. It is definitely available here but not always available depending on which supermarket I go to, so I tend to use it less at the moment. I’m still including this one though as I nearly always have some fresh herbs in the fridge. Parsley, thyme and dill are my favourites and I think that just a simple addition of the right herb in a dish makes a big difference.
For my absolutely necessary morning coffee. Enough said.
I use lemon juice a lot whether it be in sweet or savoury cooking or just a simple salad dressing. Lemons are also something else that I think keep quite well. If I buy 2 or 3 at once, they easily get used up before they go to waste.
I always have a block of unsalted butter in the fridge. Mainly for baking but also sometimes for cooking in a meal. I don’t use it for toast though, for that we use olive oil spread (like a margarine) and both of these are always in my fridge.
You can see that a few of these ingredients are ‘essentials’ only because we eat so much salad. I made this baby spinach salad with roasted garlic dressing to have with the slow cooked pork ribs that I posted last week. A slightly tart salad is great at cutting through the richness in dishes like this so this went so well with the rich and fatty ribs.
For me a salad needs texture. Something crunchy like nuts or fried noodles, something sweet like tomatoes or raisins and a great dressing.
I made this while slow cooking the ribs, so I roasted the garlic for 40 minutes in a 150°C oven. If you are cooking at a higher temperature this will still work fine, just reduce the cooking time.
You’ll need one of those large tubs of spinach for this salad.
Whisk with a fork to emulsify the dressing and mash the soft roasted garlic into the dressing at the same time.
Leave the dressing and the addition of the nuts until the last minute.
Baby Spinach and Raisin Salad with Roast Garlic Dressing
Ingredients – serves 4 as a side salad
- 2 big cloves of garlic
- dash of olive oil to roast the garlic
- 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- pinch of sea salt flakes
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 140g baby spinach leaves, washed
- ½ cup of whole golden raisins or sultanas
- 1/3 cup of chopped Asian chives or the same amount of chopped spring onions
- 1 eshcalot, peeled and finely sliced
- ½ cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
- Place the unpeeled, whole garlic cloves into a small oven proof ramekin and splash a little olive oil over them. Cover with foil and roast till they are soft enough that you can insert a knife into the bulbs and squeeze the garlic out of the skin. I made this while slow cooking ribs, so I roasted the garlic for 40 minutes in a 150°C oven. If you are cooking at a higher temperature this will still work fine, just reduce the cooking time.
- Once the garlic is cooked, let it cool slightly, then squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins into a small mixing bowl.
- To make the dressing, add the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and pinch of salt and pepper to the garlic. Whisk with a fork to emulsify the dressing and mash the soft roasted garlic into the dressing at the same time.
- To assemble the salad, toss together the spinach, raisins, chives, eschalot and add the nuts at the last minute to ensure their crunch is retained.
- Dress with the roasted garlic dressing just before serving.
- This salad kept well overnight in the fridge even after being dressed. I happily ate the leftovers the next day.