This year I decided to try a plant-based diet. As someone whose favourite meal was a steak and chips and who rarely went a day without eating meat, I thought it would be impossible. The reality was far from it!
I come from a stereotypical Italian family; huge gatherings with tables laden with food and everyone owns a restaurant. But my English family have the same attitude too, so my life has always been about cooking and entertaining.
My new diet reinvigorated my love of food and I’ve started cooking literally everything you can think of from scratch again. When I’ve been out for my weekly shop, the impact of panic-buying is glaring. But one thing people haven’t been doing is stockpiling what our grandparents would have considered essentials. There’s still plenty of flour on the shelves for example.
I thought I’d share some of my favourite, simple & easy recipes that you can whip up at home when your local supermarket looks completely bare. A heads up, you’ll need to buy some flour!
I love this soda bread recipe. Soda bread is quick, simple and very forgiving. It’s a ‘less is more’ situation; the less you knead the dough, the better the end result.
And it would be rude of me not to include a deceptively easy Italian bread recipe – Focaccia! The olive oil makes it feel luxurious, and the salty flavours help with savoury cravings. You can modify this however you like, adding various herbs, or olives … even cheese!
TOP TIP: Have you tried using a basic bread dough as a make-shift pizza base??? Yum!
Pasta is one of the simplest foods to make fresh. It uses very little ingredients but is quite time consuming, which is why it’s fallen out of favour. As life has forced us all to slow down a bit, why not give it a go?
This is a really easy to follow recipe. The best advice I can give is to not get too hung up on needing a pasta maker. Whilst many us have one gathering dust in the cupboard under the stairs (a Christmas present from a well-meaning, ill advised relative), it’s not the only way. You can use this recipe to make all kinds of pasta, from linguine to ravioli, by rolling your dough out as thin as possible with a standard rolling pin and cutting it to shape with a pizza cutter.
Can’t find eggs in the shop? When you drain a tin of chickpeas, save the water. That’s called Aquafaba (translation: bean water) and can be used to substitute for egg in a recipe. Mad, isn’t it?!
Whilst on the topic of pasta, it amazes me how many people don’t realise how simple it is to make a basic sauce from scratch. The base of most of my pasta dishes is this:
Tinned chopped tomatoes
You can throw it together in no time! Add in whatever you fancy … or have left in the freezer.
Got a few sorry looking mushrooms, half a portion of mince (meat or Quorn) and some frozen spinach? Chuck those in the pan, throw in a stock cube and a splash of red wine (if any has survived your evenings in isolation) and hey presto! A twist on a classic Bolognese.
Another favourite of mine was to lob in a tin of tuna, some anchovies, sliced black olives and capers. Sprinkle a few chili flakes and you’ve got a nutritious, quick meal made entirely from store cupboard items. This dish, Puttanesca, apparently takes its’ name from some very thrifty prostitutes …
And what kind of adopted Scouser would I be if I didn’t include this?
Stews are a great way to use up fresh ingredients that have seen their best days, or where you have bits and pieces left in your freezer with no inspiration.
Given that I’ve barely seen any meat in the supermarkets I’ve gone for Blind Scouse. Ideal for plant-based diets, it was originally eaten by those who simply couldn’t afford to buy meat. Hard to imagine nowadays isn’t it?
I really like this recipe because it uses very few ingredients but has the addition of pearl barley (something most people don’t know how to cook with so very likely to still be in stores) for extra substance.
Substitute any of the veg for frozen or dried equivalents or use any sturdy root veg you can get your hands-on like celeriac, parsnips or suede. They stand up well in a stew!
The essential ingredients:
There’s also a recipe for dumplings to go with it. Using all the same ingredients as the bread recipes above with the addition of suet. It might not be easy to find right now, but it can be substituted with butter or margarine! They’re a very tasty addition.
And remember … ALWAYS serve your Scouse with pickled red cabbage.