The pantry challenge: what you cooked
I’ve been thinking recently about one of the difficult parts of keeping on the dietary straight and narrow. Planning and shopping. They’re an integral part of eating well, but for most of us there are days and weeks when thinking ahead and getting to the supermarket just doesn’t happen.
At these times it’s easy to fall back on fast food and take away.
So a few weeks ago I set a challenge. Was it possible to make dinner from a list of 15 basic, long life ingredients? Adding a further degree of difficulty, the dishes also needed to be interesting, easy and healthy.
The ingredients were limited to common, easily purchased foodstuffs:
- Olive oil
- Tinned tomatoes
- Tinned legumes or beans
- Soy sauce
- Frozen vegetables
- Tinned fish
- Fresh onions
- One spice or spice mix
- One dried herb or herb mix
Given 15 ingredients what would you cook?
This isn’t the easiest of challenges. However a handful of you lovely readers have come through with the goods, and proved me right.
Below are seven fantastic dinners. That’s a week’s worth of meals, which can all be made using only the ingredients listed above.
Seven different and wonderfully tasty looking meals.
Kate from the well named blog Healthy, Tasty, Green & Cheap adapted one of her quick cooking chickpea dishes to suit the challenge.
Frozen spinach, onion, chickpeas, olive oil and cumin are all it takes to make dinner. And Kate’s meal is ready in under ten minutes.
Serve this by itself, or with some boiled rice.
Healthy, Tasty, Green & Cheap’s chickpeas with cumin and spinach.
Despite wanting to bump up the ingredients list with lemon, Hippolyra from Fuss Free Flavours managed the challenge with flying colours.
Her dish is a baked risotto using tinned mackerel and chickpeas, topped off with a bright and vibrant pea “mash”.
Fuss Free Flavours baked tomato, mackerel & chickpea risotto with pea puree.
The aim of the challenge was to make an easy dinner. However Cassie from Veggie Meal Plans took it one step further.
Her salad gets tastier the longer it sits. Plus it travels well.
So from a few minutes in the kitchen, you have dinner and a salad to take to work the next day. All from a tin of mixed beans, some frozen green beans and five other pantry ingredients.
Veggie Meal Plans’ mixed bean salad with bread.
While she was initially flummoxed by the challenge Wendy from A Wee Bit of Cooking ignored her fresh herb and vegetable garden for one evening. Instead she put together pasta with chickpeas and tomato.
Wendy was first introduced to this dish by an Austrian-Italian friend, and spices it up with chilli flakes and dried oregano.
A Wee Bit of Cooking’s pasta e ceci.
In the midst of moving Lucy from Nourish Me is in the mood for cleaning out her pantry.
And she puts together a filling and nutritious paella using brown rice, tomatoes, peas and a splash of smoked paprika.
While it’s unusual to use brown rice in a paella, Lucy follows Mark Bittman’s advice and par-boils the rice.
After a little bit of stove-top cooking, it’s then finished off in the oven.
Nourish Me’s tomato and brown rice paella.
Cindy from Where’s the Beef put together a Moroccan inspired spicy chickpea dish.
She chooses to slow cook the onions for “maximum soft sweetness” and then adds spinach and chickpeas. The dish is spiced up with Ras el hanout and served with bread.
Where’s the Beef cooks Moroccan spiced chickpeas.
This was my entry in the Pantry Challenge.
It’s a variation of a dish I make regularly in all different guises.
This time tomatoes, spinach and peas are boosted up with some rice and then flavoured with Moroccan spices.
The dish is finished by cracking eggs on the top and gently poaching them in the spicy tomato mixture. It’s filling and nutritionally well balanced.
Limes & Lycopene’s tomato, spinach & egg tagine.
Add 15 ingredients to your pantry
So add these 15 items to your shopping list. Put them in your pantry and freezer. Then next time you’re busy and have forgotten the shopping – you can still make a wonderful dinner.
For those of you who weren’t able to take part in this round of the Pantry Challenge, I’m going to repeat the challenge in November.
And thank you to all the entrants – your dishes are marvellous
Spinach photograph by Mary Mactavish.