During these challenging times, we all need to get creative in the kitchen and sometimes go back to basics, argues VfL Roving Chef, Alex.
When I was in the supermarket the other day, I overheard a man looking for yeast. I thought 'good idea, make your own bread.' Bread-making is for another day, though.
A quick search on the internet will provide lots of inspiration on how to get creative in the kitchen. This is my take on it.
I actually quite like cookery challenges and being a little creative. Sometimes you discover a new way of doing things that becomes the new normal.
Take one can of soup…
Use it as a base sauce for pasta, lasagne, moussaka, paella or chilli. Alternatively, and especially with tomato soup, you could make a tikka masala sauce. The story goes: a diner in an Indian restaurant in Birmingham was not happy with his curry; it was too dry. So, he sent it back to the kitchen. The chef, short of ingredients, did have a can of tomato soup and used this to create a mild and sweet sauce. The tikka masala as we know it was born. It’s a nice story.
Take one bag of rice…
A staple food for half the planet and not without good reason. Try paella, risotto, jambalaya, salad or biryani. In all of these dishes, the rice is the star. Alternatively, add a handful to any of your favourite soups, stews or casseroles. You could just boil it, too, and serve as a dish accompaniment!
Take one tin of baked beans…
Containing a good amount of protein, beans are one of the nation's favourites. Commonly served on toast or with a jacket potato, it doesn’t need to end there. Try using them as a base for cottage pie, add to your favourite chilli recipe, fry half an onion with a little garlic and cumin, add your beans and mash the cooked mixture for a refried bean. Alternatively, drain the juice (save and add to any soup stew recipe) add a little garlic, lemon and blend for a simple dip. The reason for draining the juice is if you don’t, the dip can be too wet and too much like blended baked beans rather than something else.
Take one loaf of bread…
We are so used to having a loaf in the kitchen that it can sometimes be overlooked as something to hold a sandwich filling together or toasted with a little butter and jam. Try Apple Charlotte: this can even be made in a sandwich toaster (ah student days!), croutons, or mock pastry for sausage rolls. This was a recipe from Blue Peter from the late 70s. Trim the crusts off a slice of white sliced bread. Roll the bread flat with a rolling pin. Brush with a little oil or butter and a little mustard. Add your cooked vegetarian/vegan sausage of choice and roll up. You may need a cocktail stick to hold it together then bake in the oven until the bread in nice and crispy. As I remember it was the winner of the gorgeous grub cookery competition they held. Funny what you remember. Alternatively try summer pudding or bread and butter pudding. Breadcrumbs can be used to bulk out and help stick together homemade veggie burgers or sausages and used as a crispy coating for your homemade burgers and sausages. Alternatively use as a crispy topping for savoury crumbles. The list goes on.
Take one bag of crisps…
Crisps are not a million miles away from tortillas, so almost any dish made with tortillas can be made with crisps. Nachos maybe the obvious choice but they may get a little soggy if you put too much wet topping on. So sparingly top with grated cheese and put under the grill for a few moments for the cheese to melt, then top with sliced chillies and tomatoes, avocado, cream cheese, and a little chilli. Serve straight away. Alternatively use them crunched up as a topping on a savoury vegetable crumble. Or, perhaps as crisp coating for rissoles or homemade burgers. Personally, I think crisps enhance just about any sandwich filling.
What about those odd bits of fresh vegetables?
An odd assortment of vegetables can be a base for so many dishes. Naturally soup, but what about curry, chilli, risotto, casserole, pie and pasty fillings, roasted added to pasta or rice salad, used as a filling in wraps, pitta or flat bread? Mash any cooked vegetables and turn them into burgers or sausages. Many vegetables can also be used in both sweet and savoury dishes too.
Whatever you do, eat well, be creative, and above all, stay safe.