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Meals from the back of your cupboard

I have always liked to come up with strange creations from the back of my cupboard. Now, in our extraordinary times, as I realise I need to be a little thriftier, I am turning to my food store to cook up some treasures.

I am dreadful for going to the supermarket each week and throwing items in my trolley on a whim. I have my planned meals, to which I should stick. However, there are then those gems that catch my eye, and I believe I will use them one day, honestly. These items then sneak their way to the back of my food cupboard, as I struggle to remember what meal I could create with them.

I am going to put this experience to good use. Here are my tips of using those products from the dark, shadowy recesses of the pantry, offering some inspiration for meal creations.

That random can of chickpeas

You might have gone through the phase of trying to introduce your family to chickpeas like I did when I saw a TV chef produce a hearty soup for under a quid a person. A tin of chickpeas is cheap and is bounteous in essential goodness, such as protein, without being too fatty. They are also an excellent replacement for chicken in a curry.

Recently, I came across this genius idea for creating a fun snack with my chickpeas. Instead of leaving the chickpeas for the spider to use for web-design, I decided to make crispy chickpea snippets using some cornmeal, garlic, a pinch of spices (paprika works best) and some tortillas.

How does it work? Well, roll the chickpeas in a mix of the garlic, flour, seasoning and spices. Make sure they are thoroughly covered. You then fry for about a minute in super-hot oil until they are brown and crisp. Serve in a tortilla or eat like popcorn from a bowl.

If you include some nigella seeds, you get a more exciting texture – but I wouldn't go to the shop especially.

So many instant noodles

When instant noodles are only 40p a pack, I find myself tossing them in the trolley for those "just-in-case" moments. I then forget I did this when I am short on inspiration and time, and instead order takeaways.

I am often left with dozens of packs of noodles at the back of my store cupboard. The obvious option is to liven up the noodles with my spice rack – with some creative mix of turmeric, paprika and maybe even some chilli powder if I am feeling daring.

Alternatively, I crack an egg in there with the noodles for a touch of the Chinese – maybe even serve the noodles with a boiled egg, or perhaps some leftover roast chicken. One of my favourite tricks is to cook the noodles in broth rather than water, as they come out dripping in taste.

Top Tomato! My superhero of the food cupboard

Tinned tomatoes. Yes, you heard me right… tinned tomatoes offer super strength, wizarding wonders to food. I have turned them into pasta sauces, used them as the basis of soup and replaced the more expensive passata in a Chilli con Carne with tinned tomatoes strained through a sieve.

If you want a family pleaser, you can cook them slow and low, add some cheese and a touch of pepper and then serve on toast. Seriously, the most delicious comfort food ever. If, in the words of Masterchef, you want to elevate this dish, throw in some basil and maybe some garlic. Amazing.

Lots of smelly fish

You once read somewhere that people live longer when they eat pilchards and anchovies. You then realised that they were quite the acquired taste and your family hid them from you behind that can of chickpeas you just turned into movie night popcorn (well pop-pea – but you see what we mean). Tinned fish is versatile. We are all used to using tuna in a pasta bake, a sandwich, baked potato, on pizza – but you should also try adding anchovies to your sauces for extra taste and taking those pilchards and flaking them into pasta. Delicious.

My favourite, I recently discovered when I was a little desperate, was sardines and tomato sauce on toast. Who would have thought such a tasty and quick treat was waiting for me at the back of my food cupboard?

Time to play

Now many of us have kids are at home all day long, searching through the cupboards can be something of an adventure. You can send them off to do a bit of hunt and bring you the ingredients they want in our dinner. If you have ever watched Ready Steady Cook, you know that top chefs can do miraculous things with random items. The family enjoys the vote at the end of the meal, as we decide if we will ever eat that mix again!

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