Store Cupboard Essentials

In many of my recipes I talk about using store cupboard essentials, which are items that I deem to be kitchen cupboard staples, ingredients that can turn the most mundane leftovers into a tasty wholesome family meals and so I thought that it was only right to share with you what these items are.

OLIVE OIL – not only used for frying but also great for making marinades and salad dressings. I never buy pre-made dressings as they tend to go off quickly and can contain many additives, home made dressings can be whipped up with very simple combinations of oil, vinegar or lemon and herbs.

WHITE WINE VINEGAR – as above, it’s great for salad dressings and marinades and can also be used to add acidity to a large range of dishes.

SOY SAUCE, SESAME OIL & HONEY – the holy trinity for any Asian cuisine enthusiasts out there, these three ingredients make a great base for a quick teriyaki sauce and can also be coupled with other ingredients to open up a huge array of Asian inspired recipes.

WORCESTER SAUCE – I believe that this is a traditional English ingredient and I’m not sure of it’s availability worldwide but it is an excellent tool for adding a bit of je ne sais quo to casseroles and a Kung Fu kick to the humble cheese on toast.

RED CHILLIS/ CHILLI FLAKES – an instant flavour hit, chilli is used in many cuisines, fresh red chillies can be cut, deseeded and stored in the freezer but if this sounds like too much effort, dried chilli flakes also make an excellent substitute.

FLOUR – simple flat breads or rotis can be knocked up in minutes with the addition of a bit of salt or sugar, flour can also be used to whip up a white sauce for pasta and to thicken up casseroles.

EGGS – one of the few fresh ingredients that I insist on keeping in stock. Omelettes are a speedy and simple way to use up leftover vegetables and cheese and the humble egg is also a fabulous source of protein.

GARLIC – not much to say here apart from that it’s used in pretty much every dish I cook, also ignore the best before date as it’s pretty obvious if garlic’s off when it changes colour or dries up

TOMATO KETCHUP – yes indeed, believe it or not but many chefs use ketchup as a flavour agent; it can be used in casseroles and stir-fries as an effective sweetener

STOCK CUBES – I always have beef, vegetable and chicken stock cubes in as they are the bases of many sauces, simple gravy can also be made with flour, butter, water and a stock cube. If you make your own stocks you can freeze in ice trays to be use at a later date.

TINNED TOMATOES – one of the most versatile ingredients out there, there’s absolutely no need to buy expensive jars of pasta sauce as the humble tinned tomato can be the base for creating your own.

PASTA/RICE/NOODLES – dried items that have a long shelf life can be used as the carb portion of your meal when you have fresh ingredients to use up.

HERBS – so many herbs to chose from but no need to but them all. Whilst fresh herbs might not go off, they do lose their flavour. Many herbs can be used as substitutes for another, make sure to check out website here before you run out to buy a new jar of something you don’t have. I’d recommend having mixed herbs, paprika and chilli powder in as a start.  You can even create your own dried herbs by drying out leftover fresh herbs.

And that’s it, a rather comprehensive list of almost all imperishable ingredients that can help to make a delicious dish out of pretty much any leftover.

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Sausage & bean winter casserole

It’s supposed to be spring but it’s still absolutely freezing outside so I’m resorting to cooking casseroles to keep me warm. From a food waste perspective casseroles are an absolute dream; it’s a dish that you can produce by mixing the simplest ingredients together and turn into something tasty by throwing in a few store cupboard essentials such as stock cubes, tomato sauce or Worcester sauce.

The humble sausage is the main basis for this meal, a cheap and tasty ingredient that can be used to create a hearty protein filled evening meal. A lot of the other ingredients in this recipe were from my freezer, I needed to empty my freezer as I was moving house and this recipe enabled me to use up loads of fresh ingredients that I’d previously frozen. You can find tips on freezing fresh items here and I promise that I will do a follow up blog post soon with further tips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 x sausages cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 400g pinto beans
  • 2 x sticks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 x carrots sliced
  • 1 x onion thinly sliced
  • 1 x parsnip diced
  • 8 x mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 16 x cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 x cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 x red chilli finely sliced
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • Dash of Worcester sauce

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Fry the sausages for approximately 4 minutes or until browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the onions start to soften.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced red chilli and cook for 1 minute before adding the paprika, stir well so that all the ingredients are covered in the spice and cook for a further minute.

Add the white wine or a splash of stock to the pot and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon, turn up the heat and bring the casserole to the boil, continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add all the remaining vegetables to the pan, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes before returning the sausages to the pan.

If using, add the cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the stock, Worcester sauce and seasoning. Bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes, adding more stock if needed.

Finally remove the lid, add the pinto beans and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, serve with crusty bread.

TIPS

If you prefer a thicker sauce add a tbsp of flour towards the end, or more if required.

Substitute the vegetables for any others that you need to use up.

Turkey Soup – Asian Style

I mentioned in my Too Much Turkey? post that I’d received some beautiful Japanese ramen bowls as a gift from a very kind sister. So with left-over turkey and some new bowls to use a, turkey ramen seemed like a must make.

The best thing about making this was that I didn’t even need to pop to the shops as christmas leftovers and store cupboard items granted me all the ingredients needed.

My boyfriend has decided to get in on the whole food waste thing and he had made a delicious stock from the turkey bones the previous day. To make stock, simply chuck all the turkey (or any meat bones) in a large sauce-pan with a carrot, onion and a couple of celery sticks (the veg is fine-cut into big chunks, and there’s no need to peel the carrot). Top with water, bring to boil, pop on a lid and simmer for a few hours, skim off any scum that collects on the top of the pan during the process. Once the liquid has reduced by about a third, sieve into a container or another pan and hey presto homemade stock.

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Now I didn’t follow a recipe for the ramen but I cook a lot of Asian style food where the base commonly contains ginger, garlic and chilli, all of which I had in stock. Heating a tbsp of olive-oil in a large saucepan I fried the garlic, chilli and ginger up for a couple of minutes, before adding the leftover turkey. This is a great recipe for getting rid of some of the darker, tougher meat as it adds more flavour and the turkey softens slightly as it flakes up in the soup.

After about 3-4 minutes I added in the pre-prepared turkey stock and gradually brought to the boil. I’m never sure on how much simmering time to allow but as my stock was already marvelously rich and the turkey already cooked, I figured 20 minutes of a low simmer would be plenty of time to allow the flavours of chilli and garlic to infuse into the stick.

Normally in an Asian soup I’d add in vegetables such as bean sprouts and Pak choi but my Christmas leftovers consisted of baby carrots and fine green beans so in they went.

I chopped the chantry carrots into lengthways slices and added into the simmering stock for 5 minutes before adding the fine green beans in  for the last two minutes. The final step of the stock was to add in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and a dash of white wine vinegar to taste.

Whilst the stock was simmering I separately boiled  and de-shelled two eggs (medium/hard-boiled – about 6-7 mins) and some fine egg noodles which were tossed in soy sauce before being added to the soup. The outcome was an absolute delicious and refreshing soup which made me forget I was eating turkey for the 4th day in a row.

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If you fancy recreating a similar soup yourself, it will work well with most leftover meats, especially chicken and pork. If you don’t have the bones or the time available to make your own stock, shop bought stock will do just fine. Also any vegetables can be added, whatever’s left over in your fridge, just adjust the cooking time for however many minutes that particular veg takes to cook.

The ingredients I used in my ramen can be found here for inspiration but why not get soupy and go create your own.

 Ingredients

1 x tbsp vegetable oil

1 x clove of garlic

2 x chillies

1x tsp grated ginger

1 x onion

2 x handfuls of cooked turkey

750ml turkey stock

Handful baby carrots

Handful green beans

2 x blocks of fine egg noodles

2 x eggs

Soy sauce

White wine vinegar