By Naomi Crisanteon 18th Jun 2013 01:32
It doesn’t matter whether you are single or in a household of many, the busyness of our lives means that getting a good meal on the table quickly is always a challenge.
For those times when I am under the pump, I rely on a well-stocked pantry so that I have the makings of a great meal at my fingertips. The girl guide in me says ‘Be Pantry-prepared’! My shelves are packed with quality canned tomatoes and beans, a range of pasta and rice, pesto, olives, capers, artichokes, herbs, spices and sauces. Just by opening the pantry doors and standing there with the big question ‘What will I cook for dinner?’ spinning around in my head, I am instantly inspired.
Pasta is the easy standby of course but it also helps to have a few cooking basics in your repertoire that you can turn to, like the versatility of the sauté! A nice deep non-stick sauté pan is a must. Drizzle in some olive oil and brown onions and strips of chicken until golden. Add a little wine, a can of diced tomatoes, cannellini beans and a handful of olives and simmer until thickened. Freshen it up with spinach leaves, parsley or even rocket just at the end and serve it with crusty bread for a delicious 10 minute meal. Use the same method with beef strips tossed in Mexican seasoning and combine with onion, tomatoes, red kidney beans, capsicum and coriander and serve with rice for a Mexican twist.
When I want a bold burst of flavour in a fast meal, I use the power of pesto and it’s so much fun now that I have a variety to choose from whether it’s basil, rocket, tomato, chilli or even eggplant. I like to dollop a little rocket pesto on a pan fried chicken fillet or steak and top with a slice of mozzarella until smothered – delish! Or I might sauté prawns or marinara mix and stir in a little basil pesto before tossing through some fine cappellini pasta that only takes 5 minutes to cook. Lamb cutlets are a favourite so I simply chargrill them and serve on a bed of salad leaves dolloped with chilli pesto to spice things up. If I want a gourmet burger, then Eggplant pesto is fabulous on a chunky big beef pattie with tomato, red onion rings and a slice of feta!
When there are only salad veggies in the fridge, then I can make a nutritious meal Nicoise-style by layering lettuce and tomatoes with hard boiled eggs and topping it with tuna, chargrilled capsicum, black olives and anchovies. I often use the oil from the tuna combined with a little mayonnaise as a dressing. Change it up with rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, chilli tuna, cucumber and capers for a modern version. And remember you can always add a can of beans to your favourite salad combo and it magically turns it from a side dish into a main meal as the beans are such a great source of protein.
And back to pasta, if I am low on fresh produce I turn to the famous Pasta Puttanesca. This Southern Italian sauce was named after the busy ladies of the night who slept in during the day and never had time to shop for fresh ingredients! It’s made with tomato passata, olives, capers, garlic and sometimes anchovies and, no matter what it’s called, it is a very tasty classic that works with any type of pasta you have on hand.
So, in order to cope with those busy times of the week, the main thing is to make sure the pantry is full of good things so that you can instantly be inspired to create a marvellous meal in minutes!
P.S. Deli2Home have some wonderful gourmet pantry sampler packs that will get your pantry off to a great start!