If you’re anything like me, then when a big supermarket shop is almost due, you might open the fridge or the food cupboard door (I don’t have anything that could be described as a ‘larder’. This always conjures up images of stately homes for me), and end up staring into a black hole, an almost-empty abyss, inhabited only by an out-of-date jar of gherkins and some houmous that has seen better days.
We’ve all been there. I hope it isn’t just me. But it is for times like this that I reserve those essential food items, those ‘staples’, that I always try and keep to one side for a family meal emergency. Something that can be transformed into a passable dish when it’s not quite the end of the month and the bank balance won’t stretch to an indulgent roast dinner. So I thought I’d tell you about some of my favourite food staples and why I love them so…
Open my food cupboard and hiding behind all the old cake decorations and stock cubes, you will always find a couple of tins of tomatoes. God bless tinned tomatoes, I say. If all else fails, they can provide the basis for an easy pasta dish that doesn’t require a huge amount of effort.
I always make sure I have a bit of seasoning set aside so they don’t taste bland beyond belief – dried herbs, the aforementioned stock cubes, some Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper, obviously.
And a tin of pulses wouldn’t go amiss either. Then there’s the really important ingredient in any pasta dish… that would be pasta, yes. You can never have too much pasta. Especially if you have a ‘larder’ in the corner of a kitchen the size of Surrey.
If you’ve got some favourite fridge staples, even better. I think most families probably have a healthy supply of milk, cheese and butter (or equivalent) going in and out of their fridge on a regular basis. Well, take those two, along with a bit of flour and seasoning, and you can make an easy cheesy sauce that would go well with either the good old pasta, or any cauliflower or broccoli languishing at the bottom of the vegetable crisper.
And talking of vegetables, it’s always handy to have a few onions within reach, along with a bit of garlic and the odd potato. A baked potato filled with cheese never fails to delight.
And you remember that tin of pulses I mentioned before? Well, I wasn’t just talking borlotti or kidney beans, wonderful and useful as they are. There’s nothing wrong with baked beans on toast for tea every now and again. Or scrambled eggs, for that matter. Eggs are brilliant, aren’t they?
Now let’s talk about the freezer for a minute. I think many of you, like myself, try to avoid ready meals as much as possible, but there are a few convenient freezer foods that make life so much easier. I’m talking fish fingers people. Not every day, mind, but knowing that I have a packet set aside is enough to ease my worries, especially on evenings involving after school clubs and dashing back home at all hours. The relief in knowing that I can whack of few of those bad boys in the oven if I have to is worth its weight in gold. And then same goes for frozen peas – one of your family’s 5-a-day that is never pushed to the side of the plate.
It’s great to play around with fresh ingredients and be creative in the kitchen, but mustering up a meal out of very little can sometimes be just as rewarding. So maybe devote a bit of your shopping budget to having these back-ups there when you need them and then enjoying a balanced diet needn’t be reserved for days when your kitchen is stocked to the brim with culinary delights.