So things are getting serious now with Coronovirus and it is likely many of us will be working from home and/or self-isolating over the coming months. We all have food cupboards stuffed with random items, but with a bit of planning we can set ourselves up so that our time of isolation can at least be very tasty and nutritious. Hot Dinners asked food writer and cookbook author Niamh Shields to come up with some suggestions...
What should be in your store cupboard
Get these in and you're in business; tinned tomatoes, eggs, lentils and beans (dried or tinned), chorizo, pasta, rice, potatoes, coconut milk, greens like kale or cabbage, chicken thighs, frozen prawns, frozen peas, frozen sweetcorn, pumpkin or squash, garlic, bacon, pots of favourite fresh herbs like basil and coriander and - vitally - chocolate.
What you can make
Tinned beans will make an excellent speedy mash, warmed through with some olive oil and herbs. They're also great in an easy soup cooked with some garlic and onion and stock. You can also mix them with some greens, chilli and tinned tomato for a nourishing and speedy meal. If you have some chorizo that would be perfect in here too.
Use these to make a lovely quick soup - there is so much you can do with tinned tomatoes.
- Fry a couple of cloves of garlic
- Add a tin of tomatoes and a tin of stock (chicken or vegetable), a tablespoon of honey or sugar and a tablespoon of cider vinegar.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Purée until smooth and finish with some fresh basil (from that pot you bought!), and some cream if you want a little luxury. Avoiding dairy? Coconut cream does very well here too.
Chicken thighs with pumpkin and garlic make a lovely easy traybake.
- Oil a sheet tray lightly and put the chicken thighs on (two chicken thighs per person), skin side down to begin with.
- Remove the cloves from a bulb of garlic (keep the skin on) and scatter around the tray.
- Put slices of pumpkin and squash (seeds removed) in between.
- Lightly oil the skin of the chicken, the garlic and the squash and season the tray with salt and pepper.
- Roast at 200C for the first 25 minutes before turning the chicken for a further 15 minutes (this will depend on the size of your chicken thighs and your oven, when gorgeous and golden they will be done, and if you have a thermometer it will be perfect at 75C).
Photo: Comfort & Spice copyright Georgia Glynn Smith
With flour, you can make so many things. Pancakes, bread, cakes, pasta! A great quick bread is the Irish Soda Farl. A little precision is required but these come together really quickly.
- Combine 225g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 150ml buttermilk and ½ tsp salt.
- Bring together until it forms a dough. No need to knead.
- Flatten into a thin circle and cut in half, then in quarters, and then in eighths forming eight triangles.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil or butter in a frying pan and fry over a medium heat until golden on both sides and cooked through (about 4 minutes per side depending on thickness).
These are best eaten immediately, you can refrigerate (three days) or freeze any dough you don’t use for later (three months).
The humble spud lasts for ages, is easy to prepare and is super nutritious. Fill your pantry with them. There is so much you can make, but how about starting with a simple hash with eggs.
- Dice your potatoes (as much as you need for the number of people involved) to about 1cm size and sauté in enough oil to shallow fry.
- Stir occasionally and when crisp outside and soft inside, choose the protein of your choice (bacon or chorizo work well), add and fry until cooked.
- Fry an egg per person to go with it
Sit down and enjoy the very tasty fruit of your labours. Hash is too good to be just a brunch dish.
Eggs deserve their own category. They are nutritious, cheap, fast to prepare and super flexible. If you are feeling unwell boil up some eggs and keep them in the fridge to snack on. A fried egg on some seasoned rice with chilli oil and some greens is a speedy quick meal. A quick omelette is perfection. What about some scrambled egg tacos? Your options are endless.
Well, pasta is one of the worlds great joys. Stuck at home? Then what about a brilliant classic carbonara? Eggs, cheese, bacon, pasta, that is all. To be authentic you ought to have guanciale (Italian cheek bacon) but this is a pandemic, so don't sweat it.
- Per person cook 100g pasta - if you are hungry, then 250g.
- While the pasta is cooking, fry chopped streaky bacon or lardons, chunky as you can, in its own fat.
- In a separate large bowl whisk two egg yolks per person with 4 tablespoons of fine grated parmesan until well combined.
- Drain the pasta when it is cooked and add to the bowl with the whisked egg yolks and mix well and fast. Stir through the fried bacon and any rendered fat.
Season to taste and have as much extra parmesan as you like. Gorgeous!
Rice is so much more than a side to a feature dish, and you don’t need a rice cooker to make it. You can make perfect fluffy rice as long as you follow these simple instructions.
- Soak it, or rinse it three times in sieve with running water.
- Cover with water so that the water rises about an inch above it, and add a generous pinch of salt.
- Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, keeping an eye on it. Do not stir it, it will make it sticky.
- Add a little water from the kettle if it is boiling off and the rice is still not done.
- When it is done, it should still have bite but be soft.
- Make sure most of the water is boiled off, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or plate for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
Now, what to do? Make stir-fried rice by frying - for example - some chopped chicken (raw or cooked) with soy sauce, spinach and mushrooms. When those ingredients are cooked add the rice and stir through. Egg fried rice? Make some space at the side of the pan, crack an egg in and stir furiously until cooked and stir through the rice mixture.
Ham or bacon and sweetcorn fritters are delicious, fast and easy. Combine 300g sweetcorn with 100g cooked bacon or ham, 1 egg, 100g flour, ½ tsp of baking powder and 150ml milk. Use a couple of tablespoons per fritter and fry until golden on each side.
Make a speedy pea soup, if feeling poorly, by boiling peas in stock with some garlic for 10 minutes. Puree and add some cream or coconut milk. Mint is superb here if you have it. I like some chilli too.
Fry 3 cloves of garlic for 2 minutes in a little oil, add the prawns and cook for just a few minutes until pink. Finish with a little coconut milk or cream, a squeeze of lemon and some fresh coriander. Gorgeous. Perfect with rice or noodles.
Always an essential; just snack on it for pleasure or make a quick and easy classic mousse.
- Separate four eggs.
- Melt 100g chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water.
- As it is melting, whisk the egg whites until they are in stiff peaks.
- When the chocolate is just melted (don’t let it get hot or you might scramble the eggs, chocolate melts at body temperature) take it off the heat and quickly whisk in the egg yolks, and then gently stir through the egg whites.
C'mon, that's almost a health food, isn’t it?!
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