How to ace healthy pantry meals
Making a meal using food from the cupboard can turn out to be a little bland at best: the pasta sauce just tastes like passata and everything is a little soggy. If your fridge is looking a bit bare, give your pantry a raid and read our top tips and ideas below on how to turn your tinned food into a tasty treat.
Adjust the five basic sauces
Before you start, it’s good to get familiar with the five basic sauces so that you can use them as a base of your meals.
The classic tomato sauce is can be adjusted to a pantry-friendly version by just using fried onions and garlic rather than a variety aromatic vegetables. There is a great recipe here for a basic tomato sauce that can be a used in many dishes.
Otherwise, you can create bechamel as a starting point for a wide variety of other sauces, including cheese sauce. If fresh milk is in short supply, you can use long-life milk, plant-based milk or freeze a small bottle when you next pop to the shops, ready for cooking with.
Caramelise your onions
Use this method to bring so much more flavour to your meal, just using the onion in the back of your cupboard, fat and vinegar: read this recipe to find out how. You can eat them like this or add it to passata for an easy and delicious pasta sauce.
Take your time
Dishes like casseroles and curries, or anything using chopped tomatoes as a base improve if you wait for them to simmer for a while. This allows their flavours to really shine. Naturally when we’re hungry we often just want to eat the meal we’ve cooked as soon as possible, but if you take your time you’ll find it’s worth the wait!
Steam don’t boil
For potatoes and tinned vegetables, steaming rather than boiling keeps in their flavour and prevents them for going too mushy. A really simple swap that can make all the difference!
Reach for the wine
To intensify the flavour of a meal, adding a cup of wine can help improve a dish without adding extra fat such as oil or butter – particularly useful in casseroles and pasta dishes. Cheers to that.
If you find your meals are bland, you probably need to step up your seasoning game. To do this in a healthy way, melt your butter and season with thyme, garlic, and lemon juice or zest. You’ll find this boosts the flavour and you won’t need to add as much butter in the dish.
Healthy store cupboard supper inspiration
Now that you have some tips to up your store cupboard supper game, here is some inspiration and recipes that you can try yourself.
Due to many ingredients in Mexican cooking, such as beans, sweetcorn and rice, being cupboard-friendly, you can make lots of really tasty and healthy meals based on Mexican cuisine. Try these super easy black bean and corn quesadillas or chilli pots to start with.
Curries often use long-life ingredients and you can whip up a really tasty one using just coconut milk, chickpeas, curry powder and potatoes. Here is an easy tomato and chickpea curry recipe to try when ingredients are low.
Soups and casseroles
Soups and casseroles, using a tasty bechamel sauce as a base or stock, can be a very forgiving recipe for experimentation. Try this lentil and chickpea soup or sausage casserole for a starting point. Give your food a bit more of a kick by adding a dash of soy sauce as well as a stock cube when cooking.
Always a cupboard staple, use the tomato sauce above to create a delicious base for a pasta dish, bulk out with cannellini beans or tuna for protein and brown in the oven to create a family-pleasing dinner.
Fancy baked potato
When you’re not in the mood for a long cooking session, see what you can do with a humbled baked potato as a starting point. Try with black beans or fish for a healthy weeknight meal.
Granted, you need to be quite prepared to make sushi straight from your cupboard supplies. But this can be a really fun meal to prepare with ingredients that last for ages in the cupboard. For example you can make a simple tuna roll, or a vegetarian version with sweetcorn.
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