I have long been a food hoarder, perhaps borne out of growing up in a house without much money. When I'm out shopping, I constantly find myself picking up a bag of fancy-looking pasta or an unusual jar of sauce. Often, I have no idea what to do with it, but I want to have it ‘just in case.’ It wasn't until I started cooking with leftovers that I began to truly appreciate the joy of a well-stocked store cupboard and just how useful it can be.
When I am cooking, I love to save a little bit of this and that, in the hope that, with the help of my cupboards, I can make something delicious with it another time. And that is how my new cookbook, Weekly Provisions, was born. It is organised according to season, and in each chapter, you'll find three different bountiful feasts each consisting of several dishes, all of which are designed to intentionally provide enough leftovers to make further tasty morsels far beyond the original meal. I use staples like pasta, cheese, and rice - things that most of us have in the cupboard or fridge - as the base for these meals and to reinvent leftovers. Think Hawaiian fried rice made using leftover honey and bay roasted ham, or sweet and spicy paneer made from a block of leftover paneer from another recipe. This way, nothing is wasted and satisfying, creative meals are easier to rustle up on days when you're too busy to spend a lot of time cooking. It is much easier to resist the ready meal from the supermarket when you know that something tempting is waiting for you at home. It's also much easier to counter the urge to pick up your phone and order food when you’ve planned for dinner is quick and easy to throw together.
For me, it's the condiments that grace my cupboards that make the food I eat something to forward to and using up leftovers easy and enjoyable. Here are my five store cupboard essentials for ensuring you are always ready to get the most out of your leftovers.
Maggi seasoning or liquid aminos
This is one of my all-time favourite seasonings (also sometimes called liquid seasoning.) The dark black liquid looks similar to soy sauce and provides a mountain of deep umami savoury flavour. It's my absolute go-to for making deliciously rich noodles or fried rice dishes. It also adds a real boost to ragù and mushroom-based dishes.
There is always a bottle of light soy sauce in my cupboard. Essential as a base for an unlimited number of salad dressings and stir-fries, it is also another excellent source of umami and brilliant at adding depth of flavour to a whole host of dishes. I also always keep a bottle of sweet soy sauce at home, which is also perfect for dressings.
The reason I choose malt over other kinds of vinegar is its versatility and its price. You can whip up a quick pickle in no time with malt vinegar, but also add brightness and bursting flavour to fried mushrooms. I love to add a dash or two to batters and sautéed greens for an extra boost. I also love malt vinegar as the base of a dipping sauce for dumplings, paired with finely sliced ginger and soy.
Toasted sesame oil
A bottle of sesame oil will last such a long time and you need only a small amount to add amazing aroma and unmistakable flavour. It's the key ingredient in dumplings and the source of the aromatic comfort in a chicken noodle soup. I also like to add a dash of sesame oil to hummus to complement the tahini or on top of a deeply roasted soy-glazed aubergine to make an easy dinner with flavours far more complex than its few ingredients might suggest.
Cooked beans and pulses
One of my favourite dinners of all time is miso-laden puy lentils and there's a version in Weekly Provisions with roasted swede that's just pure comfort food personified. I also use pre-cooked haricot beans as the base of an utterly delicious duck cassoulet, which is a great way to make a whole duck go further. I always have a tin of chickpeas in the cupboard so I can put together a speedy chickpea stew or whiz together a bowl of hummus if I have guests in need of a treat. My current favourite is a jar of butter beans, which, in the form of mash, go a long way to making a perfect side to leftover ragù.