Anyone whose guilty pleasure is watching any of the many food channels or cookery shows will not have failed to notice that all the best television cooks, from Nigella to Delia and from Jamie to the Barefoot Contessa, have a larder stocked with just about every store item they need. What is more, they can always easily locate their Kaffir lime leaves or dried cranberries with the minimum of fuss. You never catch Nigel Slater digging through half-a-dozen opened packets of pasta to find the one that he requires or finding a long-expired bottle of Chinese five-spice behind the radiator.
Those who have larders (some prefer to call them pantries) in their homes can become quite evangelical about them, crediting them with almost mystical powers. But the truth is far simpler and that is that a larder is simply a dedicated and well-designed walk-in cupboard that means your cooking is an organised joy rather than a panicked mess. It may seem like something of a luxury when space in your home is at a premium, but anyone who enjoys (or endures) home cooking more than a couple of times a week will find that it makes a real difference when compared to those crowded fitted kitchen cabinets. It can also mean that you have to spend less time re-stocking at the supermarket and less money on deliveries from online retailers.
The first thing to think about when considering a larder is where you will locate it. Obviously, size will play a part in where you can put your larder or pantry. But you will want to find a location in or next to your kitchen that is dry, dark and cool. The space should have enough head space so you can at least walk in some of the way. For that reason, the space under the stairs may not always be the best solution. Likewise, that cupboard where you keep the boiler and possibly a tumble-dryer isn’t going to work.
Remember, larders were what we used before we had fridges, so a spot with a cool external-facing wall would be ideal. You may find that you need to move a fridge or another appliance to create the right space, but do take some time to look around. If it helps, you can always look up at the ceiling to get an idea of the space and shape of your kitchen without appliances in it.
A good carpenter or joiner will be happy to help you with both the layout and design of a larder. They will also be able to help you with finding the best spot for it. Chances are they will have done similar work before, so they will know what will function best for you.
Think about what you want to store and how to arrange that. If necessary you can design shelving around common items you buy and store. So, for example, you may want to base some of that on space for the Kilner jars you have, cereal boxes or large boxes of soap powder, cat food or sacks of rice. You may also want to add crockery or pans to that list if you are losing other storage space to build your larder.
The design can be personalised for you, so use this moment to have something that functions exactly as you need it. Consider roll-out shelving and drawers if you need them, taking into account that such features can soon add a good deal to the cost.
A good larder will cost upwards of £500 to build and costs can go into the thousands if you add features and need a lot of building work doing to make it happen. But do remember, your larder will give you space to store wine and beer as well as cupboard food. So you can stock up in bulk on those items plus more to make savings on offers. You may also find that you have to use your fridge less, saving a little on electricity there.
Fancy creating your own larder to rival that of TV chefs? Let us find you a carpenter/joiner to help!