It’s at times such as these when the store-cupboard comes into its own. And that applies as much to one that contains only a few cans of pulses and veg, a dusty spice rack and a few other bits and bobs as to a fully stocked one. With that in mind, here’s a three-course meal I came up with a year or so ago that’s based on two tins of chickpeas, two tins of coconut cream, a bunch of other mostly inexpensive kitchen staples and a few fresh ingredients. Even when we’ve little on the shelves, there’s still lots to enjoy. Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi’s three-course store-cupboard meal
Chickpea and rainbow chard soup (above)
Kitchen aide: If you can’t get chard, use savoy cabbage or mature spinach, or kale or cavolo nero (though those last two are much more robust, so will need cooking for longer). And if you don’t have fresh thyme, try oregano or marjoram instead.
Courgette chickpea and herb pancakes
KA: You could try making these with carrot, too; and remember, courgettes are a member of the squash family, so a par-cooked (to soften) and shredded butternut squash would also work. And if you don’t fancy making the cashew cream (though it is delicious), serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt and/or a squeeze of fresh lime.
Coconut ice-cream with strawberries and crisp coconut
KA: As with many summer fruit recipes, any soft fruit you can get your hands on can take the place of the strawberries here. Or swap them out for any frozen fruit you have lurking in the bottom of the freezer, but make sure it’s thoroughly defrosted before mixing it with the lime juice.
Thomasina Miers’ date and tahini cake with sticky toffee sauce
KA: Dates can be substituted for all manner of dried dark fruit, from figs and raisins to cherries and cranberries. Mix and match with whatever you’ve got to hand. Dried apricots would work, too, though that would make for a very different tasting end result. Use any sugar you have to hand, if need be, and try sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead of the walnuts; pistachios would also work.
Meera Sodha’s courgette and cashew subji
KA: In India, subjis are made with just about every vegetable going, so use whatever you have in store – carrots, green beans, cabbage, potato – for this classic dry curry. If you can’t get hold of cashews, try almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or even pine nuts.
Anna Jones’ store-cupboard stand-bys
Egg noodles with peanut, sugar snaps and chilli
KA: Try mangetout if you can’t get sugar snaps; young, fresh, new-season pea pods, which are just coming into grocers now, would also do the trick nicely, as would fresh or frozen and defrosted edamame, if you can get them. Failing that, use french or runner beans blanched so they still retain some crunch.
Quick soba noodles with double ginger
KA: Try half the amount of spring onions, finely shredded, in place of the chives, while parsley, dill or tarragon, or a mixture of all three, can take the place of the coriander, if that’s all you have.
Felicity Cloake’s perfect pasta pomodoro
KA: If the supermarket’s run out of basil, try parsley or oregano in its place, or just leave it out altogether. It’s not an essential flavouring in this rich sauce. And while it’s traditional to serve it with long, thin noodles, there’s no law to say you can’t use another pasta shape – it also works particularly well with short stubby tubes such as penne, rigatoni and tortiglioni.
Meera Sodha’s Egyptian rice with lentils, tomato sauce and onion
KA: This is Egypt’s go-to store-cupboard dish, so is endlessly adaptable. If need be, swap the macaroni for another smallish tubed pasta such as cavatappi, chifferi or ditaloni; rice-shaped orzo or broken up vermicelli would also do. While every vinegar has its own distinct flavour profile, any red-wine, sherry, cider or even balsamic vinegar would be more than capable stand-ins for the white-wine vinegar.
Tamal Ray’s chocolate fudge tart
KA: If the shelves have been stripped of Hobnobs, try digestives or gingernuts in the base (the latter add a nice, spicy note, too). And if double cream is scarce, try whipping cream, or even plain yoghurt let down with a little milk.