No ingredient cooking

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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7 Responses to No ingredient cooking

  1. Caroline says:

    Thai tuna and chick pea curry – tinned tuna, tinned chick peas, thai curry paste and a tin of cocnut milk are the essentials, then things like spring onions/shallots/white onions, fresh ginger, fresh chilli, etc added according to what you\’ve got handy! And although you\’d think tinned tuna would be vile in a curry it\’s surprisingly delicious!The same ingredients can be watered down with a bit of veg or fish stock and dried rice noodles added to make a delicious soup too.Another fave is noodle satay – whatever veg is in the fridge, stir fried with egg noodles, then a slosh of soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce if you\’ve got and a spoonful or peanut butter stirred through. And the simplest pasta bake – pasta, stirred into a basic chopped onion/garlic/passatta sauce, then layered in a dish with grated cheddar/torn mozzarella if you\’ve got it and torn basil leaves, baked for about half an hour until the top/edges go crunchy!I\’m hungry now!

  2. Sarah says:

    Love this article, Piper. I have a few no-ingredient recipes up my sleeve but compared to yours they are embarrassingly unsophisticated so I won\’t post them here. I do suspect though, that many people no longer pass down any cooking skills (which explains problems with obesity and children with rotting teeth at 3) and so the whole concept of \’store cupboard basics\’ no longer exists as universally as it once did. I think you should campaign to bring back kitchen basics! Sarah

  3. Flo says:

    A once in a quarter or six months store cupboard shop makes sure that there are essentials there for me. Tinned beans such as chickpea, red kidney beans, butter beans, baked beans and packets of pulses such as lentils and pearl barley ensure that you have protein to hand along with tinned tomatoes, pasta of various sorts. stock cubes (or favourite equivalent which is marmite for me) along with tea bags and coffee if required keeps the shelves full. Add vegetable oil which comes under fresh shopping and a few vegetables from either the freezer or fresh from the garden and you can always make up a meal.If I\’m going away I ensure that I leave store cupboard full of the essential staples and frozen produce from garden or wherever so that I can always produce a pasta bake, stir fry or throw it in a pan soup. I\’m not a one for tinned vegetables mind but do find that a few small tins of pineapple come in remarkably handy for stir fries. You can leave bread in the freezer too so that you can grab baked beans on toast if really starving and in a hurry – honest it tastes just as well without butter if must. And herbal teas don\’t need milk.

  4. piper says:

    I have to say that Caroline\’s Thai tuna and chick pea curry sounds delicious! Thanks for all the suggestions and don\’t be shy, Sarah. Honestly, compared with DJ I\’m not a great cook and I\’m sure your recipes are very tasty. Baked beans on toast is still one of my favourite store cupboard recipes and it\’s hardly the epitome of sophistication!

  5. Bill says:

    In Hereford, they always had a basic list of emergency ingredients that a man should always carry with him, where-ever. Obviously, it was not much, & we soon learnt ter improvise on this, with fresh local ingredients as available. After several days out there in an incessant storm, blizzard, or even worse, with an extreme small window of opportunity, a tasty snack was always more than welcome, but had ter be quick, oft in the worst possible conditions. Fine chopped pine branches, old, or green, packed inter a large can, makes a fine kitchen stove. Just hold upside down ter light it, it will boil a kettle fers a brew so fast, & yer can just keep adding fresh fuel ter the hot ash fers both heat & light. Spuds, other veg & fruit can easily be rolled in a thick coat of mud, & baked in a heap of hot ash, simply adding more pine branches on top as necessary. We could also bake/steam various birds, fish, & other meat in a similar fashion, & I still yet do so on rare occassions, when out on me travels. It beats a 5* restaurant anytime."Vegan coffee", which does not contain a single grain of genuine coffee, also called ersatz (replacement) by l\’ Amis of WW2, or muckee-f*** by the Red Army conscripts of the WW1, the various recipes all originate from the impoverished outback of Imperial Russia, where the peasants grew their own ingredienti, even in secret, even in deepest Siberia. It simply needs a large enough cooking pot ter boil the veg, & fers the end product ter fill a large enough flask. If it is made super-strength, it can be mixed with fresh boiled water several times/day. It is not a diuretic, contains no tanin or caffiene, or any other ill side effects..There is also a list of vital ingredienti which every household should stock fers emergency use, on a permanent basis, on the rear cover of every German \’phone directory. basically just a stack of cans & jars that are seen ter be blast & contamination proof, but which should all be consumed & replaced at least every year. Surprisingly, despite being German civil service, they do not include any booze in the list. These German cans & jars can now be seen in any & every British supermarket, & contain various cheap fish, also sausage, various saurkraut, stews (eintopf – all cooked in a single pot), sausages (including venison & hedgehog), soups, fruit pies, etc..Obviously, I have tried most, but still prefer me home-made, based on Hereford. I do like the red Army coffee though, 3 cheers fer the young conscripts of WW1, their Mothers, Grannies, & several generations before \’em. Many Reds still yet make, & drink, the stuff today, so many generations cannot all be wrong. The only downside, is that some recipes do put so much hair on the chest.

  6. Kerri says:

    Flo – in our house we go through pasta, baked beans (my husband isn\’t the best at eating veg so he eats a lot of beans), and tea bags like there\’s a family of 6 (or more) instead of just the two of us lol! I like your idea about doing a \’store cupboard shop\’ once every quarter or 6mths though. Our store cupboard has been scaled back a bit when we moved at Xmas as I had quite a lot of spices etc that had gone out of date (and I mean by several years!) and really had lost all their flavour (with something like that the use by date doesn\’t really bother me, but I tried one of them and it tasted like sawdust ugh!)Piper – one \’no ingredient\’ dinner my friend recently got me into is rice with pasatta as a base of the meal. Just cook some rice and stir in the pasatta (you could also use chopped tinned tomatoes of you didn\’t have pasatta), then add in whatever else you have to hand, I did one with peas (frozen petis pois) and some lovely sausages (outdoor bred of course!) all chopped up. You could also use sweetcorn, other pulses, other veg and add some cheese too. It makes a lovely \’comfort\’ dinner but doesn\’t need to be too heavy so it also yummy in the beans on toast – winner every time! I also think scrambled eggs on toast is terribly underrated 🙂

  7. Flo says:

    Kerri – the store cupboard shop every quarter or so is to ensure that nothing gets shoved to the back of the shelves and forgotten. It\’s called being frugal and using up what you have. Think we\’ve talked about this before.

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