The self-isolation cook – making the most of an almost empty cupboard

Just me and my trusted beans. (Abby perusing her thinly-stocked cupboards)

Life right now is very strange and uncertain, it’s sort of like we are living inside a dystopian teen novel. Sports and events are cancelled and have been replaced with Australia’s hottest new craze – panic shopping.

The rules of this are simple: every person for themselves.

But, if you’re like me and missed the memo, you may be left with a nearly bare cupboard. All except that one shelf that’s stacked with canned goods that you don’t know why you bought in the first place, and secondly don’t know how to turn them into a tasty meal.

Or maybe you’ve stocked up on those non-perishables and are drowning in tins of chickpeas.

Me in my kitchen: Other bean benefits – they make great friends in isolation.

I asked Melbourne chef and co-author of The Plan, Buy, Cook book Jen Petrovic her advice and favourite recipes for when fresh produce is hard to come by and, non-perishables become our primary food source.

Jen says it’s about being resourceful during these strange times, and using what you can buy differently.

“It’s about buying things people don’t usually buy and then knowing what to do with it,” she said.

“People are going to begin to think about their food waste in the next few weeks… don’t ever throw out breadcrumbs again.”

“A really simple recipe and it just tastes great” is how chef Petrovic describes this dish.

Pasta with anchovy breadcrumbs

Pasta with Anchovy Breadcrumbs (Photo: Plan Buy Cook)

Recipe 1:

Heat 4tbsp of oil in a wide frying pan. Add 1 diced onions and cook on a low heat for 30-40 mins, occasionally stirring until golden brown. While onions are cooking, cook 250gs of pasta according to the packet. Add 8 anchovies and anchovy oil to the onions, until the anchovies ‘melt’. Turn up the heat and add in 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs. If you have it add in 4 parsley sprigs and some lemon zest. Combine and serve!

Jen described this next meal in one simple word: “Great”.

This one is also a very filling meal for any vegetarians out there living off tins of boring beans.

“People get hung-up on having all the ingredients,” she explains, adding that barley can be swapped for brown rice if it needs to be.

“OK it would be nice, but if I can’t get that (ingredient) will this be enough of a meal without it?”

Bean and barley braise

Bean and barley braise (Photo: Plan, Buy, Cook)

Recipe 2:

Heat oil in a large saucepan, add in 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 stick of celery and 2 carrots. Add in chopped parsley, cumin, coriander, and bay leaf and stir for about 2 mins. Add in a tin of lentils, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, a tin of diced tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 mins. Boil an additional 2 cups of water, add in 1/4 cup of barley, cook for 20 mins. Once done add everything together and enjoy.

Jen’s advice for making glamorous meals with food out of a can is: “Make do with whatever is around… If people find themselves at home for two weeks, you’ll find plenty of time to cook.”

The Plan, Buy, Cook website features many more recipes that only use minimal ingredients of those pantry staples.

All the best for your lockdown cooking.