Melissa’s Store Cupboard Essentials
In these unprecedented and worrying times, you might find yourself having to improvise with meals a little, as getting to the shops can be tricky. Even when you can get to the shops, the shelves have been pretty bare (although this is improving), and the constantly thinking about social distancing, not touching your face, should I be weaning a mask? etc makes coming up with meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner a bit of a blur as you just grab things around the shop.
In the cupboards, fridge and freezer, I always have a few basic things that I know I can create a nutritious, simple meal from, and this has become even more useful in the past week or so! So, here are my essentials. I haven’t had to go to the supermarkets in a couple of weeks now!
At the bottom of this blog is also a recipe for Our Simple Versatile Tomato Sauce served 6 ways!
- Pesto – while fresh pesto really is my favourite, begger’s can’t be choosers in this tough time! Pesto is so versatile, spread on fish, add to pastas, stir into casseroles. Of course you could try making your own!
- Any type of beans – I use chickpeas to bulk out curries, butter beans or flageolet to bulk out stews. Try making your own baked beans as I couldn’t get hold of the ol’ faithful Heinz. Add to soups, chilli, veggie burgers or make your own hummus (homemade really is delicious). In terms of nutrients, beans are excellent sources of fibre and protein so are given the thumbs up while trying to say healthy in these times.
- Lentils – Perfect for making soups, pasta sauces by replacing/supplementing meat in Bolognese or shepherd’s pie (Mama Blake often makes this Sweet Potato Lamb which uses lentils) or bulking up stews. I prefer red split lentils but it’s personal preference. Again, lentils are a great source of fibre and protein.
- Rice – serve with curries, as a side dish with roasted fish or add to a one pot recipe with veg and meat. Risotto rice is also an essential in our house, we love an easy recipe that you can just bung in the oven as Mummy Blake would say. This Herby Tomato Risotto features on the menu in our house at least once a week.
- Quinoa or couscous – easy swap for rice and so simple to prepare, especially when you’re meal prepping. Try serving with roasted vegetables, garlic and pesto. Quinoa is used in April’s flavour; Squash and Quinoa Chilli as it’s a great source of plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids. It also contains a range of other nutrients including calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin E.
- Chopped tomatoes – A great starting point for any store-cupboard recipe. Use in risotto’s, pasta bakes/sauces, parmigiana, I could go on. We’re loving Mr Organic chopped tomatoes as they don’t add citric acid and the tomatoes are sun-ripened so you can just smell the sweet flavour when you open a tin. We use these in two of Aprils flavours, our Squash and Quinoa Chilli and Aromatic Sweet Beef.
- Stock cubes – When cooking for myself I try to only use Kallo Low Salt ones if possible for ease; they do beef, vegetable and chicken. For Sweet Pea Spoons, Mama Blake makes her own to ensure we know exactly what it is going into it, with zero salt or weird ingredients like Maize starch?
- Pasta (although this might prove pretty difficult to get hold of at the moment, fresh pasta still seems to be available though). A simple pasta bake using any vegetables you have at the moment and tinned tomatoes is an easy dinner.
- Flour – you might need it at the moment with all the baking you’re doing with the kids to keep them occupied! On a serious note, you can make pizza bases/flatbreads (mix flour and yoghurt), bread, wraps, pancakes or Yorkshire puddings. If you can’t get hold of an flour, try blending up oats.
- Tin of coconut milk – essential for any curry I make. Again, this Peanut Butter Chicken is on the menu weekly in our house.
- Peanut butter – the above leads me on to an essential ingredient, Peanut butter. I’ve also recently got into peanut butter and jam on toast? So wrong but so right…
- Plant based milk – can be used to make lots of breakfast options like porridge, plus some have long shelf-lives! I always have some in the house as a back up. My favourite is Oatly’s oat milk as it’s so creamy in porridge.
- Tinned tuna – perfect for in pastas like this pasta bake I make or puttanesca. Also great for in easy wraps at lunch etc. and so nutritious!
- Oats – perfect for porridge or smoothies as a fuel rich breakfast, but can also be used in baking etc.
- Pancetta – We always have Waitrose diced pancetta in our fridge or freezer. It has quite a long shelf life and is so useful in many meals whether it’s risotto, carbonara, tray-bakes, it’s the secret ingredient to my famous spag bol! I use this recipe.
- Vegetables – roast them, stir fry them, steam them, mash them. The ways are endless! Most unused one’s going out of date can be prepared slightly like chopped or par boiled and then frozen so as not to waste! We buy ours from Langridge Organic.
- Cheese – Things like mozzarella and feta have quite a long shelf life before opened. They’re also pretty versatile as they can be used in tray-bakes, salads etc. Parmesan has a longer shelf life too and is great for anything pasta, whether it’s risotto (is that pasta or rice?) or pasta bake.
- Yoghurt – Perfect for snacks and dips, breakfast with granola or porridge, lunch in wraps or dinner with curries.
- Milk – did you know you can also freeze it?! Trust me, I don’t function well without my cup of tea in the morning. We buy ours from Berkley Farm Dairy (through the delivery service The Organic Delivery Company), you can really taste the quality, it’s so creamy and delicious!
- Meat – we buy ours from Cobbs Farm Shop and you can just see the quality – zero water comes out of their chicken when cooking unlike cheaper options (see BBC article) and their chicken is very tender, never tough. When I’m shopping for myself in small quantities then I use our local butcher, Armstrong’s Family Butcher in St. Margaret’s. Their Chicken and Mushroom Pies are the best (anyone who knows me knows I’m partial to a chicken pie) and their famous sausages have won awards!
- Fruit – Frozen fruit smoothies have been my breakfast for the past week. I blend frozen strawberries with a ripe banana, oats and some milk of choice – delicious! Frozen berries are also great for in porridge and you don’t have to worry about the short shelf-life of fresh.
- Fish – Whether its white fish or oily fish like Salmon, fish is such an easy and nutritious dinner option. Spread with a little pesto or turn into a pasta for a tasty option. Of course our Salmon with Carrot and Peas from March’s menu went down a hit with customers and we’re about to introduce our April menu featuring Fish and Leek Pie with Root Veg Mash, which uses Cod from the famous Sandy’s.
- Veg – Frozen veg, like peas, are essential and so easy. Most are actually more nutritious than fresh as they have been frozen within hours of being picked to lock in the nutrients, plus they are more likely to have been picked in season. Many frozen veg, like peas, are best cooked by simply microwaving with a little water – it couldn’t get any easier or quicker! Especially when dinner’s ready and you’ve forgotten to put the pot on to boil.
- Herbs – frozen herbs are a life saver! Especially as they can add flavour to any dish really. There’s no doubt about it Mama’s risotto wouldn’t be the same without fresh basil and parsley. Great option for garlic, onions and ginger also, especially as sometimes with ginger you have to buy a great whole piece when you only need a little. Most you can also buy already prepared to make cooking even quicker if you’re short for time.
- Sweet Pea Spoons meals of course!! Essential for any parents with little ones in this tough, unusual time. I have been known to have two pots of the 12+ range myself for lunch! They’re just so delicious and convenient. Our meals are food you would eat yourself, if we wouldn’t eat them then why should our babies?!
I hope you find this list of my store cupboard essentials useful, Sweet Pea Spoons is still open for business so if you are stressed about what to feed your baby at this time, then let us deliver delicious, nutritionist-approved meals to you.
Stay safe everyone,
Our Simple Versatile Tomato Sauce served 6 ways
Here is our super simple tomato sauce with six different suggestions of ways to serve it, the options are endless as it can be bulked out with things like cannellini beans etc. Give it a go! You’ll be surprised how many very different meals you can make from this one simple sauce.
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- Splash olive oil
- 800g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 250ml low-salt vegetable stock (cube or homemade)
- 2 tbsp red split lentils
- Fry onion, celery and carrot in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft, stirring so it doesn’t stick
- Add tinned tomatoes, puree, lentils and stock
- Gently simmer for about 20 minutes
Now get creative! These are our six different ways of serving the sauce:
- Over pasta with some chopped herbs and crumbled feta. Why not add some prawns to the sauce and simmer until cooked. Or try with meatballs – fry in a little olive oil, pour over sauce and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Fancy a creamy sauce? Just stir in some creme fraiche.
- Over sausages with mash or rice. You could always remove the skins and use the meat to make into meatballs (cook as above). Saves making the meatballs from scratch!
- Over chicken; grilled, fried or baked like parmigiana. Or when bubbling add thin strips of chicken until cooked.
- With pork – brown pork cubes in a frying pan, transfer to ovenproof dish and pour over the sauce. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven until the pork is cooked. You could add red peppers, olives and spices like paprika to give it a Spanish twist!
- How about served on a jacket potato with some grated cheese
- Blend sauce with some fresh basil and turn it into a soup
This recipe is easily doubled or trebled so you can freeze some for another time.