How are you doing? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. We got back from a lovely break in Exmoor and Devon on Saturday and I’m still stunned by how lucky we were with the weather. The camping part of our holiday in the Doone Valley in Exmoor was great fun too – more fun than I’d expected it to be, to be honest, as I’m not a big camping fan as you know.
After a long drive on Saturday we came back, tired and hungry, to an empty fridge and scratched our heads about what to eat for dinner – a typical situation when you’ve returned from hols. Takeout is always a possibility, but usually you’ve already spent all your holiday money, perhaps overdosed on meals out and fancy some home cooking. But by the time you’ve driven for five hours and unpacked your cases, spending hours making a casserole is the last thing you want to do (and there was Eurovision to watch after all).
It got me thinking about my favourite ‘store cupboard’ meals – the ones we make when we haven’t had time to go shopping or have run out of other foods. I call these meals ‘no ingredient’ recipes after one of the first dishes DJ ever cooked me – a pasta dish which is delicious but has very few components. It reminds me of one of my favourite childhood folk tales – ‘Stone Soup’ – in which a mysterious traveller claims to be making soup from a stone and tricks curious villagers into giving him ingredients for it.
On Saturday night I cooked one of my favourite store cupboard recipes – egg fried rice. I love Chinese food and this meal is so easy and cheap to make, plus you can throw in any leftover meat or veg you have lying around. All you do is cook some rice (roughly 75g per person), then fry up some chopped onion, chopped bacon, pepper, cabbage, leek, peas, anything you’ve got spare, then add the cooked rice to the pan. Crumble in a vegetable stock cube, add soy sauce, pepper, a bit of chilli powder and cook through. Then crack one egg per person into a bowl or mug, beat it and add gradually to the pan, cook and stir through the rice. It’s cheap, quick, uses very few ingredients and is always tasty.
DJ’s ‘no ingredient pasta’ takes a bit longer to cook but is always worth it. He chops up a couple of onions into slices, fries them on a low heat with lots of garlic and olive oil to caramelise them and separately fries chopped bacon until it’s really crispy and fine breadcrumbs for a few minutes and sets the bacon and breadcrumbs aside. Then he cooks pasta – usually spaghetti – and combines the pasta and onions in a pan to get the pasta coated in the delicious garlic and olive oil. Finally, he places the pasta on a warmed plate and sprinkles the bacon and crispy breadcrumbs on top. We added a bit of leftover chopped chilli to it the other day and that gave it some extra bite.
With no time to go shopping over the weekend because we were attending a wedding on Sunday, we woke up on bank holiday Monday a bit worse for wear and still with little in the fridge. What were we going to eat? Luckily Marmalade and Lexi our hens had been busy producing eggs and we still had a bit of veg and bacon left. DJ and I made pancakes and cooked up a delicious savoury filling of stir-fried cabbage, peas, bacon and onion which we ate followed by a sweet pancake each with lemon and a little sugar.
By Monday evening we still hadn’t been shopping – DJ was distracted by all the weeding that needed doing in the garden and me by other household chores. So we made pizza dough using our breadmaker, spread tomato paste on top of the pizza and added chopped garlic scapes from the garden (these weird edible shoots that appear on garlic plants in the summer), tinned sweet corn, chopped olives, cabbage and, after cooking, parmesan shavings. Delicious! It’s amazing how many meals you can make from few ingredients when you put your mind to it. It just takes a bit of imagination.
What are your favourite store cupboard recipes? Which ingredients do you like to keep on hand in your cupboard for emergency meals? Leave a message and let me know.
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