I’m going to be honest: food has been a big focus for me during lockdown. My pantry has become a place of obsession, where I’ve tried to reinvent meals using the tins and dried goods I already have to hand.
Obviously, there were some failures: the fresh pasta that crumbled away, and the overly dry flapjacks that I eyeballed and put too many oats in, are just a few. But here, I want to show you a few highlights, made from food that’s pretty easy to get hold of, and can also be adapted to whatever you have lying around…
5 Easy Meal Recipes Using Pantry Ingredients
Fried Bread & Tomatoes
In my guide to reducing food waste, one of my top tips is to freeze stale bread. It’s the perfect way to preserve it for toasting, making croutons, or grinding up into breadcrumbs. But what about using it in fried bread recipe?
My anti-food-waste take on Ottolenghi’s Tomato & Bread Salad is quite simple – replace the fresh bread with frozen stale bread, nix the anchovies (ew), throw in whatever tomatoes you have, and use any herbs/additions you have around. I’ve been building our ingredients cupboard for a while so I have capers and chilli flakes to-hand, but if you don’t have them, that’s ok too – you could substitute them for example, olives and a sprinkle of chilli powder, or leave out completely. (That’s why I love cooking more than baking – you can still cook even if you don’t have all the ingredients!)
Courgette, Basil & Pea Soup
Another anti-food-waste tip from me before I introduce this recipe: freeze your herbs! You may already buy frozen peas, broccoli, and leafy greens, so why not also get frozen herbs? Herbs take cooking to another level so easily, but can wilt quickly in the fridge, so preserve them in your freezer. I recommend getting started with basil, coriander, dill, and parsley, and build out from there.
Now, onto the recipe: one of the best soups in my repertoire is this Courgette & Pea soup, which was first introduced to me by my friend Megha. It has a stock base, so it’s perfect to make whenever you’ve got leftover vegetable scraps (just make sure to follow Kitchn’s advice on stock-making, and avoid certain veggies to stop it from becoming overpowering). And if you don’t have scraps to make a stock? Use a stock cube of course!
Admittedly, this soup requires fresh courgettes, which I have to plan ahead for, but everything else used are kitchen essentials: garlic, olive oil, frozen peas, frozen basil, and I use lemon juice instead of lemon zest.
Ramen & Mushrooms
If you’re still a student-at-heart, this recipe is for you. I loved ramen when I first started university: it’s quick, easy, cheap… it just misses out on the nutrition side of things.
When lockdown was first announced, I decided to buy a few extras that would keep well in the pantry, and ramen packets was one of those items. They’re still a rare treat for me, and this dish makes the most of ramen, alongside old mushrooms and any other leftover veggies you’ve got lying around.
For the ramen, make as per the packet’s instructions. For the mushrooms, cut 1cm thick slices and fry on a high heat with a little oil until brown. Remove from heat, add a splash of soy sauce, and then top the ramen. And for the topping, use any leftover veggies you’ve got lying around: spring onion stalks, tomatoes, whatever – just dice and throw on top.
(With or Without Egg) Shakshuka
Hands up, who else misses brunch? Despite my boyfriend making the best coffee and the best eggs in the world, there’s always a little something missing when it’s served at home.
This Shakshuka recipe adds something extra that doesn’t totally fill the brunch-shaped-hole in my heart, but does jazz up the usual lunchtime meal. Its main ingredient is tinned tomatoes, which are a real kitchen cupboard staple for me, as well as onions, garlic, red chilli (frozen!), and coriander (also frozen). If you’re like me and occasionally eat eggs, you can also poach eggs in the sauce at the end, or serve it with scrambled eggs (pictured here).
Leek & Potato Soup
Finally, here’s a recipe that makes the most of traditional British vegetables: Leek & Potato Soup.
Onions, leeks, and potatoes are all in season right now, and this is one of the heartiest and most delicious ways to serve them. I’ve actually had a real thing for potatoes recently – perhaps because they’ve been so easy to get hold of, in comparison to other carbohydrate staples like pasta or rice.
I shared this recipe within my review of Prestige Cookware’s Eco Pots & Pans review, so scroll to the bottom to follow it.