People who seem to cook out of thin air always surprise us, but the undisclosed reason for their success is a well-stocked pantry.

Here in China food shopping can be stressful, especially at the beginning when you don’t know where to shop and what is available. Metro, Carrefour, Ikea and local markets are all great options. Japanese store Jiu Guang has an amazing meat section, where meats are cut to suit all tastes, whether it’s thinly sliced, cubed or ground.

Apart from my weekly shopping for vegetables, fruits and meats these are ingredients I always have at hand.

  • In my freezer I have frozen salmon from Ikea, peas, shrimp, corn and homemade ice cream and granita.
  • In my fridge; butter, eggs, parmesan, capers, miso, pickled ginger, kimchi, Sichuan peppers, oyster sauce, dried shrimp and Chinese style sausages for fried rice.
  • In my larder you will find rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, sesame oil, rice vinegar, curry pastes, extra virgin olive oil (check the dates), tomato sauces, canned tuna, canned coconut milk (great for curries and smoothies), green dried lentils from Carrefour, canned cannellini beans, chocolate, coffee, flour, sugar and condensed milk (which you can boil to make caramel sauce for banoffee pie).
  • For spices I stick to Chinese; star anise, cumin, Sichuan pepper and cassia bark. Spices can be a bit tricky to find and I would not recommend buying those big bottles of spices from Metro (especially the ground ones). Those bottles are for restaurants with a high turnover. Sadly they will go off quickly and taste like sawdust.
  • For some interesting treats I have Petit Ecolier chocolate cookies, fig jam for cheese and elderflower cordial from Ikea to make great gin and tonics, gelatins and drinks.

This granita is really a “cupboards bare” dessert. You can also make it with different fruits.

Espresso Granita

Espresso Granita

  • 2 cups espresso
  • 4 tbsp sugar, or more to taste
  • ½ cup of sweet whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp grated chocolate

Place the espresso and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Taste, and if it seems too bitter, add a little more sugar. Cool to room temperature.

Pour mixture into shallow nonstick metal baking pan. Freeze until icy around the edges (about 25 minutes). Using a fork, stir the ice crystals into middle of pan.
Freeze, stirring edges into center every 30 minutes, for about 2 hours. Put granita into small bowls and top with whipped cream and grated chocolate.