It’s the end of the month but not payday yet and you’re stony broke – what are you going to cook for dinner tonight?
You head to the fridge and there’s nothing there besides some floppy celery and that fish you forgot to cook three days ago which is now sprouting legs and will probably soon leave the fridge of its own accord.
So what do you do? I had just this experience on Thursday night. Money is tight as just one of us is working full-time and I was reluctant to go food shopping until the cash came in. An added problem is that there are only certain things a three year-old will agree to eat.
I have a few store cupboard recipes I resort to when I’ve run out of everything else. A favourite, which my friend Pratab on Twitter reminded me of this week, is a very cheap and easy pasta sauce recipe.
As long as you have some pasta and tinned tomatoes, you can always make this simple pasta sauce and throw whatever you like into it. Chop up some veg – anything works really, like peppers, mushrooms or carrots (I throw in sweetcorn or frozen peas when there’s little in the fridge – tinned olives are nice) but whatever you have to hand.
If, unlike me as I’m intolerant to them now, you cook with onions and garlic, sautée some chopped onion and garlic and then add your veg. Next, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and then a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a bit of chilli powder or Tabasco and a squirt of soy sauce. Simmer for 20 mins or so and you have a great pasta sauce.
As long as you have some beef mince stashed in your freezer, you can make this simple dish of chilli. Brown mince in a pan, adding some tomato puree or ketchup and a tablespoon of flour.
Add some chopped pepper or any veg that you have spare – courgettes etc – a teaspoon or two of cumin, paprika, some soy sauce or a beef stock cube and chilli powder to taste. Add a tin of tomatoes and red kidney beans – a splash of leftover red wine is good too if you have any lying around – and simmer for a good half an hour or so. Serve with rice, pasta or couscous.
A third good store cupboard recipe is fried rice. I don’t get to do this one much anymore as our little boy won’t eat rice, but it used to be a popular stand-by as it’s really quick.
Cook some rice in a pan – Basmati or American long grain but it doesn’t really matter. Then, in a frying pan, fry up some leftover chopped-up veg – bacon or ham work well too and peas and carrots are good, but you can put in anything really. Then add the cooked rice with a ground-up veg or chicken stock cube, some soy sauce and a squirt of Tabasco or a dash of chilli powder. Mix well.
A nice touch is to beat an egg in a cup and then add this gradually to the pan too as then you get egg-fried rice. Sometimes I get some prawn crackers and have this to feel like I’m having a Chinese takeaway.
What are your favourite store cupboard recipes? Leave a message and let me know.