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Store cupboard heroes: sustaining grains

Store cupboard heroes: sustaining grains

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There are some many different varieties of grains that you can use in your meals, you don’t have to stick to rice and pasta. Swapping these for alternative grains or brown variety fills you up much more effectively meaning you might reduce your portion amount and be sure that you’re getting a good variety of carbohydrates.

They can look a little frumpy and boring, but there are loads of grains to choose from that you can cook, dress and enjoy in less than 30 minutes. They’re good for the heart, full of slow-burning energy and fill you up. What’s more, is they’re often great value for money!

Bulgar wheat, farro and brown rice are particular favourites because they suck up lots of flavour from zingy dressings and can help bulk out a salad and give it a bit of body.

For a really quick side or light meal, cook your brown rice or bulgar wheat according to the packet instructions, then toss it with a simple fresh orange and olive oil dressing and lots of chopped herbs like mint and parsley. Pair the dressed wheat or rice with spicy roasted butternut squash, sweet potato or sweet peppers, or toss with some finely chopped raw broccoli and salad leaves and serve with a roast chicken. Other great recipes include this delicious summer four-grain salad with garlic, lemon and herbs or try quinoa as part of this recipe for a South American-style brunch with tomatoes, avocadoes, lots of coriander and a cheeky fried egg.

Pearled spelt and barley work beautifully as a substitute for rice in risotto. Another easy way to use these grains is to throw a handful into soups and stews. They are a great alternative as they cook quicker (25 – 40 minutes) as opposed to hours for the wholegrain variety.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, try using more grains.

Check out some of our other recipes for sustaining grains here.

Store Cupboard Essentials [Part I: Dry Goods] 🌿

In order to cook great quick vegetarian food for my family I rely on a well-stocked storecupboard. My approach to nutrition is to try to eat a wide variety of foods — it’s like placing a bet on every single horse. I find it really useful to have my ingredients organised and use glass jars for lots of the ones I use everyday. After a busy winter, I often find I need to have a rejig and refresh. Now is a brilliant time of year to replenish them.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a fairly comprehensive list of the ingredients I like to have on hand. This is the first in a three-part series.

Lockdown has really focussed my mind when it comes to shopping and checking what we need to have in the house. The list below includes the store cupboard staples I have identified as versatile and filling foods and therefore essential to have in stock at all times.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone to see this at the top of the list. Strong white flour has been flying off our shelves since lockdown began. It is great for a wide range of well known foods ( breads , wraps , flatbreads, pizza bases, pastry and so on and so on), but you may not realise you can also use bread flour for cakes, pancakes, Yorkshire puddings, thickening sauces and much more.

The basic oat is a humble ingredient but has so much going for it. High in fibre and also surprisingly high in protein, oats are both nutritious and cheap. And, wonderfully enough, they are grown right here in the UK, keeping their carbon footprint down too. Like the strong white flour, they are also useful in a range of foods, from the sustaining bowl of breakfast porridge, to delicious snacky flapjack and even included in a range of cakes and great added to a fruit smoothie. They make a great base for adding all those other random store cupboard ingredients to.

Tinned tomatoes

All hail tinned food! And tomatoes are king among these. I don’t know what I’d do without a constant ready supply of tinned tomatoes. They make up the base of so many of my meals, including Bolognese, lasagne, chilli , curry, pizza base, pasta sauce and the list goes on. Plus, you can buy these in bulk when you do make your shopping run and don’t have to worry about them going off.

I know not everyone eats eggs but for us they provide a valuable source of essential nutrients. We aim to get them only from a reputable source and, luckily enough, Chloe’s Mum keeps chickens so we know our eggs are coming from happy chickens which are free to roam the garden. As with all the ingredients on this list, eggs are incredibly versatile and can make a meal if you haven’t got much in the house. Omelettes, quiches, soufflés and plain old eggs on toast all pass for a quality meal. We like to add a fried egg to the top of a vegetable stir fry, yummy. Eggs are also useful in lots of baking although I can’t justify cooking with them at the moment as we would get through so many.

Dried beans

I always have a selection of dried beans in the house and usually go for haricot , kidney and black beans . Although I use them mixed in lots of recipes it is useful to have them separate for when you want something different. We use dried beans in the following recipes: homemade baked beans (uses haricot beans and, when batch cooked and frozen makes a delicious, quick, nutritious meal), refried beans for wraps (uses black beans), and mixed bean chilli . I’ve even used beans in brownies and homemade veggie burgers. Dried beans need a bit of prep as they take a while to cook but you can cook up a batch and freeze them or pop them in the slow cooker in the morning. As well as being versatile, beans are also incredibly good value and an excellent source of protein.

As with beans, these are a good staple for a lot of meals and, unlike the dried beans, they don’t require all that prep. Many a time it has got to 5’o’clock with no tea plans and lentils have come to the rescue. They are great in veggie Bolognese, lasagne, dahls and I’ve even tried a red lentil chocolate cake. My favourites are French or Puy lentils but red lentils are also a good bet and nice and versatile.

The humble spud. “Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew” as good old Sam Wise Gamgee would say. The way you cook a potato can transform a meal. There’s not much out there that beats a good roast potato but it is a completely different meal addition to mashed or even jacket potato. It’s also lovely to get something which can be grown so locally, or even grown yourself if you have the space. We get ours from the wonderful Paul’s Organics.

A bit cliché perhaps but pasta is THE go to quick meal and is a good base for a whole range of other ingredients. Taking only 12 minutes to cook it has been a real winner for those evenings when you suddenly realise how hungry you are. And, as with many of these store cupboard staples, it doesn’t really go off so you can buy it in bulk to make sure you’re never caught short.

Well that’s it, eight store cupboard essentials…at least in our household. We’d love to hear whether you have found this helpful and what you can’t do without in your kitchen.

Our top 10 spices and herbs

Everyone has a view on the must-have herbs and spices to keep in the cupboard. Even just a few basic herbs and spices can be used in different quantities and combinations. Jack Monroe admits to writing 100 recipes for her first book with just three spices: paprika, cumin and turmeric.

This is our top 10 to buy, in a highly debatable order. Buy them over time as a regular investment – a reduced-price "whoopsie" purchase will rarely yield as much value as £1 spent on a spice. Most of these spices are available to buy in 100g bags at a much cheaper price per gram than a jar.

  • Cumin is a must-have according to most of the Thrifty Cooking guests. Not only is it good for curries, but also Middle Eastern or Mexican food. Buy seeds if you don’t mind grinding it yourself, as they will last longer.
  • Paprika (smoked or not) is has a bit of a smoky taste that can round out a curry or chilli. Miguel Barclay recommends smoked paprika for lovers of chorizo, as the flavour can be also be added to veggie dishes.
  • Curry powder: A blend you really like will make a easy curry or soup out of anything. The BOSH chaps love it for its convenience.
  • Chilli flakes are one of Rukmini Iyer's favourites to make a simple dish look and taste great. “Bloom” chilli flakes in hot oil to release their flavour. This flavoured oil is great for drizzling on dal.
  • Dried thyme is a favourite of Melissa Hemsley. This woody herb so it dries really well and retains its flavour. Use with dried oregano in place of a separate pot of dried mixed herbs.
  • Dried oregano is not just for pizza flavour, add to Mexican dishes or Greek dishes.
  • Turmeric will brighten up dal, rice, fritters, potatoes, everything gets the Midas touch with turmeric. One for fans of coconut and chillies.
  • Coriander has a fruity, floral, orange taste that is an essential part of many lighter curries and makes carrot soup iconic. If you have coriander, cumin and turmeric you can make your own easy curry powder blend for convenience.
  • Cinnamon can be used in savoury and sweet dishes. Cinnamon is common in Middle Eastern and north Indian stews and curries. A little dusting will enhance food’s sweetness.
  • Dried mint is never going to make a mojito, but it will make a passable tzatziki and work in marinades.


The UK has some fantastic seasonal vegetables. We take advantage of this, featuring recipes with British classics like cauliflower and asparagus when they’re in season.

To make sure our menu has plenty of variety and each recipe is packed with goodness, we source a wide range of vegetables including firm favourites and specialist choices, from Romano peppers to pak choi, Tenderstem® broccoli to baby kale.

We only use the freshest possible vegetables in our recipes. We do occasionally pre-prepare some vegetables for convenience – like our butternut squash, which we provide in cubes for some recipes (they can be a little troublesome to peel and chop!). However even these will still arrive fresh and in great condition.

Adding a Dash of Spice to Cleveland's Cuisine Scene

The last thing a home cook wants to hear is the word “boring.” Spice can add excitement, and with the growing popularity of world cuisine home cooks are using more of it. But knowing which spice to use, whether it’s fresh, and how much to throw in, can be challenging.

WKSU’s Vivian Goodman reports in today’s Quick Bite that a prominent Cleveland chef aims to help.

On a recent spring morning we find Chef Doug Katz hard at work in the catering kitchen of the Katz Club Diner in Cleveland Heights.

That’s one business of his. He also has Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Heights.

The chef and restaurateur is excited now about a new venture called Fire Spice Company.

World cuisine de-mystified
Today Katz is using one of his new products to prepare chicken the way you might get it in Casablanca.

“If you look in the Cleveland area at all of the different ethnicities that you come across, I think as chefs, it’s our job to really teach people at home how to make these dishes that they’re eating in the Indian restaurants, the Moroccan restaurants, the Thai restaurants. We love these things but we don’t think of making them at home.”

He’s making this North African dish with his bare hands. “I’ve taken all the spice, and now I’m actually just getting it all over all the surfaces of the chicken.”

To make the spice blend for it he had to toast, grind and combine three kinds of peppers.

“There’s guajillo, chipotle and ancho.”

Katz’s Moroccan Harissa chicken has onions, garlic, red bell peppers and jalapenos, too.

A dozen spice blends customized for specific recipes
Along with Harissa Spice, Katz has created 11 other spice combinations for Fire Spice Company.

He seals the blended spices in air-tight envelopes, packages them with recipes, and next month he’ll be selling them at his Shaker Square restaurant.

Fire Spices come in a little matchbox. In a small way, they’re a response to Katz’s restaurant fans.

“People are always asking me for recipes.”

But a home cook might need several different spices for that special dish.

“You end up using a teaspoon of each one, and then they sit in your cupboard for five years. And then imagine trying to use them again. You don’t want to waste them, but then they’re so old that they’re not really of use.”

Countering spice anxiety
He says even when spices are fresh enough, home cooks often worry about using too little or too much.

"They don’t want to waste the $50 they spent on their dinner adding spices and not knowing how it’s going to come out.”

Katz thinks he’s figured out a way to help by providing the right spice in the right quantity for a specific dish.

“It’s almost like I’m able to cook a meal for them in their home by giving them this box.”

The idea came to him one morning while he was making curry.

“I was sautéing my onions and my garlic, and I hadn’t had a cup of coffee yet, and I was sort of in that tired mode. And the minute I added the spices to the pot, it was the most energizing thing that I had done. And I thought to myself if there’s a way that I could bring these into people’s homes as a chef that would be the ultimate recipe to give someone.”

Spices lost or forgotten
He sympathizes with frustrated home cooks rooting around in their kitchen cabinets.

“They have 30 different spices in their cabinet, and they’re lifting every one and seeing which one this one is, and which one this one is, and you go to the stores and you buy an extra cayenne pepper because you couldn’t even find it, and then you find out you have three of them.”

What’s even worse is finding out you can’t use any of them. “What you buy in the grocery store is not necessarily the freshest,” says Catherine St. John. The owner of the Western Reserve School of Cooking warns her students about that.

A way to make sure its fresh
If you bought a bottle of spice more than a year ago St. John says you can usually tell if it’s stale by just

looking at it. “It’s very light in color. It doesn’t have that deep green that maybe an oregano or a basil would have. You could also rub a little between your fingers and smell it. If it’s not really fragrant, then I would pitch it.”

But she says you don’t even have to buy those little bottles.

“There are places all over that you can buy whole spices or herbs. There are places down at the West Side Market. You can go online.”

Your best bet, she says, is buying spices whole.

“Don’t buy ground cumin, buy whole cumin seed. Buy coriander seed instead of ground. Then toast them.”

Toasting your own
She does that in a dry pan.

“We’re going to break the cinnamon stick in there, coriander, cardamom pods. We’re just going to toast these over high heat. I’m going to keep shaking the pan.”

When the spices are toasted and fragrant a simple coffee grinder finishes the blend.

Doug Katz’s Fire Spice Company does much the same on a bigger scale.

“Once the whole spices come in, we take sheet trays. We line them with parchment, and we toast certain ones at certain temperatures to bring out the nuttiness in those spices. We grind those spices, and we combine them based on our recipes that we’ve come up with.”

Sweets, too
Those include desserts, like a cocoa coffee spice for Katz’s Latin Chocolate Brownie and for a French spice cake, a traditional “quatreepices” or four-spice blend.

“Typically the quatre epices mix is pepper -- it can be white pepper or black pepper -- clove, nutmeg and ginger. We’ve added cinnamon and we’ve added mace to it as well. We just felt it gave us a unique balance of flavor that was uniquely ours.”

The chef plans further explorations into the world of spice.

“This is a great learning experience for me and my team. We are researching different ways to procure spices. We’re actually taking a trip to India next January to check out some different spice farms and learn about them as much as possible.”

A Complete Checklist of Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer Essentials

Having a well-stocked pantry and fridge is like money in the bank. With basic supplies on hand, you'll be equally prepared to put together a family-friendly meal or a last-minute dinner for friends. The trick is figuring out what to stock up on and what you will likely never use.

Consider the checklist below a rough sketch only you can determine the essentials based on your palate, repertoire and needs. Trying to cut back on meat? Skip the Italian sausage and swap in frozen wild-caught shrimp. Don't like peanut butter? Pick up a tub of hummus instead. The idea is to make sure you have enough proteins and sturdy vegetables to pull together several satisfying meals, plus some flavorful condiments and seasonings to keep things interesting (even on a school night).

Whatever you decide to toss in your shopping cart, you can rest happy knowing you won't ever again have to call spaghetti with butter dinner — unless that's exactly what you're in the mood for.


Since then, Pinch of Nom has grown into a community of 1.5 million users. Having asked them what recipes they want to see, we set about creating healthier versions.

Our dishes look exactly like the photos, and all of the recipes in our new book, Pinch Of Nom Everyday Light, come in at under 400 calories.

Today, we're sharing some of our favourite 'fakeaway' recipes with you . . .

This cheeseburger pizza takes 15 minutes to cook and is 343 calories per serving

Pizza can sometimes seem like the enemy when you're trying to follow a healthy diet, but by swapping a dense, carb-laden pizza base for a tortilla wrap, you can eat it with a good conscience.

Using some clever ingredients creates a classic cheeseburger taste, which feels like a real treat.

  • 75g 5%-fat minced beef
  • Pinch of dried oregano, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Pinch of onion granules
  • Pinch of garlic granules
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ onion, finely diced
  • ¼ red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 ½ tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 low-calorie tortilla wrap
  • 1 small pickled gherkin, thinly sliced
  • 20g reduced-fat Cheddar, grated
  • 35g low-fat mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 220c/fan 200c/gas 7. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Put the minced beef in a bowl with the oregano, onion granules and garlic granules. Season with salt and pepper, then mix well and divide into 15 equal pieces, then roll them into meatballs. (You can freeze the meatballs at this point for cooking on another day.)

Place the meatballs on the baking tray along with the diced onion and pepper. Cook in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove and set aside. Turn the oven temperature down to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Mix the tomato puree with the balsamic vinegar and spread it over the wrap. Place the wrap on the lined tray. Spread the cooked meatballs, onion and pepper over the wrap, then sprinkle with the gherkin slices.

Cover with the grated Cheddar, then tear the mozzarella into pieces and arrange on top. Sprinkle with oregano.

Bake for 7 minutes or until the wrap is crisp and the cheese is melted and golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.

Chicken And Black Bean Sauce

This classic Chinese takeaway dish has been given the Pinch of Nom treatment and takes ten minutes to cook

We've given this classic Chinese takeaway dish the Pinch of Nom treatment, reducing the typical quantity of oil and calorific ingredients, while not sacrificing those authentic tastes of soy, miso and the depth of that spicy, black bean sauce.

A perfect Friday night craving sorted!

  • Low-calorie cooking spray
  • 500g chicken breast (skin and visible fat removed), cut into strips
  • 6 spring onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2cm (¾in) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp Chinese five-spice
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100g baby corn, each cut into three
  • 75g mangetout
  • ½ red pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • ½ green pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 x 400g tin black beans, drained, rinsed and roughly mashed
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white rice vinegar
  • 100ml water

Spray a wok or frying pan with low-calorie cooking spray and place over a high heat. Add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until lightly browned, then add the spring onions, garlic, ginger, five-spice and chilli flakes and stir well.

Add the vegetables and stir-fry for another 3–4 minutes.

Stir in the miso paste and the crushed beans, followed by the soy sauce, rice vinegar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Check the chicken is cooked through and serve with rice or noodles.

The yeung chow fried rice takes 20 minutes to prepare and is 400 calories per serving

We love a Chinese takeaway, but we don't love how unhealthy they can be. This Yeung Chow Fried Rice tastes as good as the real thing but comes in at 400 calories per serving.

  • 150g pork loin steaks, cut into strips
  • 200g long-grain rice
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • Low-calorie cooking spray
  • 100g frozen peas
  • Bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 100g cooked ham, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 100g cooked prawns
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Chilli sauce, to serve
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Pinch of Chinese five-spice
  • ¼ tsp garlic

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, add the pork loin strips and mix until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cook's tip

Substitute 100g of chicken for the prawns, if you wish

Cook the rice according to packet instructions, fluff up with a fork, then allow to cool.

Heat a wok over a medium heat and scramble the egg. Place on a plate and put to one side.

Wipe the wok, spray with low-calorie cooking spray and place over a high heat. Add the marinated pork strips and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

Add the peas, onions, ham, carrot and prawns and stir-fry for another minute.

Add the cooked rice, cooked egg and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to stir-fry, until ingredients are well combined and the rice is thoroughly heated, then serve with chilli sauce if liked.

This flavoursome balti means you get that authentic takeaway flavour, while keeping a handle on the calories

Using fresh ingredients for this flavoursome balti means you get that authentic takeaway flavour, while keeping a handle on the calories. Scale up the ingredients for the balti paste and portion it off for freezing, so you have an easy curry base on hand for whenever the takeaway craving pops up.

  • Low-calorie cooking spray
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 1.2 cm (½ in) piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150ml chicken stock using ½ stock cube
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 gluten-free chicken stock cube
  • 1 red, yellow, orange pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
  • Sea salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Handful coriander leaves

Start by making the balti paste. Spray a frying pan with low-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium heat. Add the onions, ginger and garlic to the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes until the onion is golden brown.

Put the contents of the pan and the rest of the paste ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until it forms a paste. Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool and put in the fridge, or – if you're making ahead – freeze it in an ice-cube tray.

Place the chicken in a freezer bag or bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of the paste, mix well and place in the fridge to marinate for an hour or so.

Spray a large frying pan with low-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium heat.

Add the cinnamon and chilli flakes and cook for 2 minutes, then spray the pan with more cooking spray, add 4 tablespoons of the balti paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes and stock cube, stir well and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the marinated chicken and pepper strips and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste the curry and add more salt if you like, and check that the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the garam masala, cook for another 3 minutes and serve garnished with the coriander, if using.

Fish and seafood

When it comes to fish, sustainable numbers, sourcing and catch methods are a key factor in choosing suppliers here at Gousto.

Our haddock and cod are MSC certified, guaranteeing that they’ve been sourced responsibly from a sustainable fishery. And our crab, from suppliers in Scotland, is painstakingly hand-picked.


Don&apost underestimate the power of flavorings! When you&aposre cutting out meat from your diet, you may need to lean heavily on flavorings to give your dishes more body. And while fresh herbs from the farmers market are ideal, dried herbs are convenient and sometimes preferred. Salt can be a flavor enhancer if you use it correctly, while items like onions and garlic can serve as flavor bases for meals.

  • Salt: kosher, iodized table
  • Black peppercorns
  • Herbs and spices, assorted dried
  • Onions
  • Garlic, fresh
  • Ginger, fresh
  • Olives: Kalamata, green
  • Capers
  • Lemons, limes, oranges


While many of the world’s leading drinks companies have helped the hospitality industry during the crisis, Diageo has been particularly benevolent. At the start of the crisis it donated two million litres of Grain Neutral Spirit – a 96% strength ethyl alcohol used primarily in production of vodka and gin, to hand sanitiser producers around the world free of charge to go towards the production of 8 million 250ml bottles of hand sanitizer for frontline workers tackling the crisis.

In June Diageo launched a US$100m on-trade recovery fund through its ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative, to help pubs and bars around the world get back on their feet after lockdown. The two-year programme began in July to support the recovery of hospitality centres, including New York, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi and Sydney.

In the UK, Diageo provided funding for hygiene kits, including sanitiser dispense units, medical grade hand sanitiser and a range of personal protection equipment, such as masks and gloves. During lockdown the firm offered hospitality workers the chance to take its online Diageo Bar Academy training course free of charge, to improve their skill set, while allowing more flexibility to its smaller on-trade accounts to help them access products more easily and manage their cash flow.