Pantry Potrait: Colu Henry

Pantry Potrait: Colu Henry

The food writer and cookbook author opened her pantry for us to share her five MUST HAVE summer staples! Hint: it involves a bean club.

by Colu Henry | @coluhenry

My husband and I are in the process of restoring an 1866 farmhouse in Nova Scotia, so my summer pantry is a bit leaner than my one in Hudson, but it still reflects my cooking philosophy - elegant and approachable. Amidst the construction, I'm developing recipes consistently for my newsletter and working on my third book. The majority of them lean heavily on seasonal produce and what you’ve got hanging around in your cupboards. I’m very much of the “use what you’ve got” mindset, which is how Back Pocket Pasta and Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food were written. I try to provide options for my readers so they can readily swap ingredients without it feeling stressful.

Sophisticated food doesn't need to be fussy or complicated. We can all take a tin of smoked trout, stir in some chopped pickles and creme fraiche and feel pretty great. If you add some radishes and saltines and pile it all on a pretty platter, you’ve done something nice for yourself and whomever else is around your table. Food should feel special, but not overthought.

Oh, and I am very keen on upcycling and utilizing leftovers. We are in a very rural part of the country - our nearest grocery store is about 40 minutes away, so you can be sure that last night’s wood-fired mackerel will be making its way into some sort of hash today. There are a lot of new potatoes in these parts and I can’t get enough!

Colu's Top Five

Given that we’re in Canada, some of my staples aren’t available, so each summer I fill up bins and tote bags to bring along items that are non-negotiable for my cooking!


There is no Diamond Crystal kosher salt in Canada and without it I would be lost. I bring many boxes. I know what I’m working with in terms of saltiness and I truly believe it is the best salt for cooking. Morton’s is WAY too salty. I also always have Maldon or Jacobsen flaky salt for finishing dishes. Salt is life!

Olive Oil

Clearly a must. I use olive oil almost exclusively when cooking. I will also sometimes use a combination of butter and olive oil depending on what temperature I’m looking to cook things and the flavor profile of the dish. Finishing oil is also such a treat to have - “easy, fancy!”


I’m a proud Rancho Gordo bean club member. I make them once a week and work them into meals. They are perfect with pasta, the base of a salad, or ladled straight out of the pot into a bowl and drizzled with olive oil. Heaven.

Tinned Fish

A work horse in the kitchen. Can be used on its own for salads or worked into bigger dishes with beans (!), pasta (!) and so much more.

Bianco Canned Tomatoes

Hands down the best canned tomatoes out there. I stockpile them and bring them from the states to use on pizzas and whatever else makes sense.