IN TIMES like these, when we are stuck in our houses, going out just for exercise and groceries, it can feel harder to find inspiration and motivation to make the most of the food we have already in our cupboards, fridges and pantries.
There is something about the lack of pressure, deadlines, timelines and structure, where days lead into days in the seemingly endless lockdown, where it can be even more difficult to find structure and routine amongst the monotony.
In our own work, we are lucky in one way in that we should be used to self initiating our own schedules, structures and timelines. In another way it seems the unknowns and unknowables of this pandemic can lead to a whole host of anxieties, distractions and general confusion that makes doing anything constructive seem a little futile.
One of the biggest things that has connected us back to routine and structure, is the obvious need to feed ourselves. Instead of thinking about this period as something to get through, we have started to think of it as a chance to take advantage of time, to make use of what we already have, to be resourceful and creative.
For the next couple of weeks we will be focusing our attention on the whole idea of the store cupboard, the ingredients we have stored away but maybe overlooked. We will also look at ingredients which keep well, are relatively inexpensive, easy to get and don’t require too much stress or labour.
This has been a learning curve for us as well, we were perhaps a little spoiled in our approach to food and cooking. The abundance of choice is something we definitely took for granted but more than that, we were guilty of letting foods build up that we purchase but never use.
The recipes we will be showcasing is our attempt to use what we already have in the house with the addition of humble, simple ingredients which are easy to find.
We obviously won’t all have the same store cupboard ‘essentials’ in our kitchens and pantries but hopefully there is enough here to show how we can all be more resourceful during these strange times.
Halloumi is a great ingredient to have in the fridge. It will keep for a good amount of time, over two weeks in the fridge and is substantial enough to replace meat or be in place of a protein.
We have been making these quick sliders at least twice a week while this lockdown has been in effect. The carrot pickle is super quick and you can of course scale up to make bigger batches.
To make the quick pickle, peel the carrot and discard the outer shavings. Continue to peel the carrot into ribbons until you get down to the core (you can keep this for the stockpot).
Place the carrot ribbons in a medium sized bowl along with the vinegar, honey, sea salt and mustard seeds. You can add a little water to make sure all the ribbons are covered with pickling liquid. Leave marinading for at least an hour before using the carrot ribbons.
Heat a tiny bit of oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, frying in the oil for a minute or two. Discard the garlic and add the spinach to the oil with a splash of water. Cook the spinach down for another minute until very wilted and green. Remove from the pan and place on a kitchen towel so it’s not too wet.
Slice the halloumi and pan fry until golden on both sides. I like to squeeze some lime juice over the halloumi while I fry it.
Toast the burger buns and add a large dollop of the mayonnaise on each bun. Arrange slices of halloumi and wilted spinach and top with a little carrot pickle. Serve hot.
We make this often during the spring and summer, when easy lunches and dinners are appreciated.
Having some pre-rolled puff pastry in the freezer at all times is incredibly useful in a tight spot, when you can’t get to the shops and you are looking in cupboards and the fridge for whatever ingredients you have left to make some sort of meal.
Puff-pastry pizza is delicious. We recently made one using our wild garlic pesto as the base, but use whatever you have, be inventive, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
The ingredients we have listed below are mostly just a guide. You can use whatever you have or like, such as mozerella, chedder, pepperoni, mushrooms, sweetcorn… just, please, never pineapple.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Roll out the puff pastry on parchment paper, with a little flour. You want to have a large rectangle, around half the size of an average oven shelf (15x10).
With a sharp knife, cut a thin border around the pastry rectangle and prick the middle with a fork in a few places. Transfer to an oven tray.
Spread whatever sauce you are using liberally on the base, leaving the border clean. Scatter over the cheese and then the chorizo, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Crack a good bit of black pepper over and place in the hot oven.
Place in the oven for roughly 25-35 minutes, until the rim has puffed-up and browned. Serve with some more torn basil/parsley leaves scattered on top, or else a little dressed rocket.
Peppers, chillies and cherry tomatoes, not only are these amazing bed fellows in culinary terms, they also keep very well as vegetables go.
I often find a little brown bag of cherry tomatoes at the bottom of the fridge, briefly forgotten but holding onto their freshness all the same.
This is the base of all sorts of lovely pasta dishes and works especially well with prawns but pancetta, lardons of bacon, chicken or chorizo would be great too.
Cook the pasta according to the packetinstructions in generously salted water, until al dente.
Remove the stalks and seeds from the bell peppers and chop the flesh into a fine dice.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil on a medium high heat and add the diced peppers, chilli and garlic. Sautee for6-8 minutes, stirring regularly until theingredients are fragrant and softened. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
Next, add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for another 3-5 minutes.
Add a little pasta water to make it more saucy if you wish before adding the drained pasta, stirring it well into the sauce. Mix through the lemon juice, parmesan and chopped parsley, check for seasoning and serve.
Bertha’s Revenge Sloe Gin25% ABV; 50cl — €29.99
Stockist: Bradleys, Celtic Whiskey Shop Killarney and Dublin www.celticwhiskeyshop.com, Martins, Mitchells, Castle Tralee, www.ballyvolanespirits.ie I’ve long been a fan of Bertha’s Revenge Gin from Ballyvolane House in Co Cork as I love its spicy cumin-juniper kick — I’m pleased to report their new Sloe Gin is also excellent. A crab apple version is currently macerating for a planned summer release.
Bertha’s Revenge Sloe Gin is infused for several months with wild and cultivated sloes and then sweetened with a little sugar syrup before bottling. Fragrant and complex on the nose with floral and berry fruit aromas, balanced bright hedgerow fruits on the palate with herbal touches and lingering berry and sweet violet notes on the finish.
Perfect for Kir and a great match with Easter Eggs.