You might be self-isolating, at the mercy of relatives and friends for your weekly groceries, or else working from home, struggling to plan meals in the face of depleted supermarket shelves.
Whatever your current circumstances, there are ways to make amazing and healthy meals from the ingredients you have at home.
If you’ve already found yourself delving deep for those forgotten ingredients at the back of the store cupboard then you’re not alone. Famous chefs and food writers – from Anna Jones to Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On – have been quick to extol the virtues of improvising back of the cupboard recipes.
Here’s your handy guide to five amazing meals you can make using the leftover ingredients in your cupboard.
- Sausage casserole
This hearty and warming classic is quick and easy to prepare, and also flexible enough to allow for imaginative substitutions when your kitchen cupboards are particularly bare.
It takes an hour to prepare, serves six and is also suitable for home freezing. Make a batch today and put it aside for later on in the week.
Whether you’re a professional in the kitchen or relatively new to it, this simple recipe is a winner.
The basis of the dish is sausage, bacon, onion and chopped tomato. Lightly fry them and add to a casserole dish for a slow simmer. Cooking time is 30 minutes to an hour.
Get experimental and make your own version, or try the Hairy Bikers take on a classic sausage casserole, available here.
- Lentil Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese is a perennial favourite and a back of the cupboard go-to. Anna Jones’ recipe for puy lentil Bolognese, available here, is perfect for lockdown evenings.
Using onion, carrots and celery as a base, the vegetables you use can be switched to match what you have in the cupboard, or the bottom drawer of the fridge, on a given day – root vegetables or even broccoli work just as well.
Effectively a one-pan dish, add vegetables, along with tinned tomatoes and lentils to a pan and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. Cook your spaghetti separately and then add it to the pan and grate parmesan over the top to serve. Voila!
With only ten minutes preparation time and an hour and twenty minutes on a slow simmer, it’s quick, easy, and not too labour intensive.
If you worry your root vegetables are going to go off before you can use them, parboil and then freeze them to bring out when needed.
- Cauliflower mac and cheese
Another recipe that will use up the leftover vegetables in your cupboard, saving on unnecessary food waste, is this Jamie Oliver hearty and filling dish.
It’s also simple and uses very few ingredients, making it perfect if you’re stuck in the house and forced to make the best of the ingredients available to you. Jamie suggests cauliflower as its base but any vegetables you have lying around will do – leeks, fennel, and celery being the best alternatives.
The only other ingredients are:
- Leftover bread pieces
Whether you’re cooking for yourself or your whole family, mac and cheese is bound to be a firm favourite. The full recipe is available here.
- Leftover rice pathiri
If you find yourself with leftover rice but don’t want to recycle the previous day’s recipe, try using it in this take on a delicious pathiri.
Traditionally from the Kerala region of India, this pathiri recipe couldn’t be simpler. Grind rice and shallots together with rice flour, coconut and turmeric and then fry in a little oil until golden.
Not a full-on meal necessarily but as a hot snack – and a treat for lockdown lunch – these are hard to beat. Dip them in coriander chutney for best results.
The full ingredients are listed here.
- Chicken, spinach, and potato bake
Healthy Food Guide has produced an array of lockdown-friendly recipes including this one, for a chicken, spinach, and potato bake.
Compared to other recipes on this rundown, the ingredients list is quite long so simply omit or substitute where necessary for your own creative take on the potato bake.
Preparation and cooking time is only an hour which makes this recipe perfect if you’re stuck at home with a houseful of children, or trying to work from your home office whilst eating quick and healthy meals.
Cook the chicken in a roasting dish for 3-4 minutes then remove, gradually adding the other ingredients from the back of your cupboard, before reintroducing the chicken and baking for 30-35 minutes.
As with unused vegetables, if you think you won’t be able to use your potatoes before they go past their best, parboil and freeze them for instant potato when needed.