Getting creative with basic foods

Posted by Alex on 25/03/20 in Cooking on a Budget, Recipes

We are certainly living in strange times.

I visited the supermarket the other day and most of the fresh vegetables and fruit were gone! This will inevitably pass at some point but, in the meantime, we may need to get a little creative with a few basic ingredients. Time to look to the back of the cupboard...

Looking in my cupboard and freezer I found several bags of peas, spinach, frozen stewed apples from the garden and various pulses. This is quite a selection and in terms of nutrition this is fine; frozen and tinned vegetables are often as nutritious as fresh ones.

Here are some easy, tasty recipes for you to try.

Pea and onion soup

The humble frozen pea, often overlooked, is a good source of vitamins A and C, and protein.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 125g frozen peas
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml milk or soya milk
  • Salt and pepper

From these basic ingredients add any spare vegetables you have to hand e.g. celery, spinach or cauliflower.

Method

  1. Gently heat the oil and fry the onion for at least 5 minutes. Don’t rush this.
  2. Add the garlic, peas, stock, plus any other vegetables you have to hand. I used a stick of celery when I made mine.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
  4. Using a hand blender, puree until smooth.
  5. Add the milk and reheat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sag Aloo (simple spinach and potato curry)

This is a firm favourite of mine. I tend not to measure quantities too much and add extra vegetables depending on what I have in. I would recommend adding coconut cream or a splash of soya cream to give your curry a creamy texture and flavour. Although not traditional, you could add a tin of drained butterbeans or chickpeas when you add the stock.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped into cubes
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 125g frozen spinach
  • 300ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, gently fry the onion for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and potato.
  2. Continue to cook for 5 minutes stirring from time to time. Add the curry powder and cook for another 5 minutes. This will really add to the flavour of the dish.
  3. Finally, add the spinach and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Serve your curry with any of the following depending on what you have in: pitta bread, naan, rice, chips, jacket potato or noodles.

Rice pudding

My mum used to make rice pudding in the oven and cook it for hours while other dishes were cooking at the same time. For a quicker version, try making it in a heavy bottomed saucepan. It is a lot quicker, although you will need to stir it from time to time to prevent it from sticking. Rice pudding is quite a flexible dessert, so if you've not got pudding rice you can instead use white rice – or even brown rice. I would however avoid wild rice, because this tends to have a firmer texture that doesn't work as well for rice pudding.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20–30 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 500ml oat milk, or any other milk you prefer
  • 100g pudding rice
  • 1–2 tbsp sugar
  • A few drops of vanilla

Additional extras if you are feeling fancy: dried or frozen fruit, orange zest, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger or rosewater.

Method

  1. Simply put all of the base ingredients into a pan and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. If your rice pudding starts to get a little dry, add a little extra milk.
  3. Serve hot or cold as you prefer or with a little tinned fruit, chopped nuts, maple syrup… have a look at what you have in your cupboard and get creative! They say necessity is the mother of invention.

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