Easy recipes with ingredients from the back of the pantry

Don't get disheartened by empty supermarket shelves. Picture: Shutterstock
Don't get disheartened by empty supermarket shelves. Picture: Shutterstock

It only seems like yesterday that we were dealing with empty supermarket shelves and wondering what to do with that can of chickpeas in the back of the pantry.

Can you believe it's almost been two years since the first of our self-isolation suppers ramblings? We all know the past few years have been something of a blur, but here we are again.

Footage of empty supermarket shelves are returning as grocers begin to experience supply chain struggles. Chicken is harder to find than a RAT. And Coles has put a limit on mince. Things are repeating themselves quicker than that home-delivered curry you regret ordering last night.

So to help you make the most out of your dwindling food supply here's a few of our favourite recipes from the pandemic.

Georgia Houston's dahl with mango chutney yogurt. Picture: Supplied

Georgia Houston's dahl with mango chutney yogurt. Picture: Supplied

In the can

Nutritionist Georgia Houston shared a great recipe with us, using canned lentils and chickpeas to make a great dahl with a mango chutney yogurt. "If you are eating a healthy, varied diet you will be doing the best thing for your immune system," she says.

Dahl with mango chutney yogurt


1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large brown onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp ginger, finely grated

1/3 cup korma curry paste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

400g can diced tomatoes

250g cherry tomatoes

1 cup water

1 cup light coconut milk

400g canned brown lentils, drained and rinsed

400g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

brown rice, aim for 1/2 - 1 cup cooked rice per person, to serve

Mango chutney ingredients:

3/4 cup Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp mango chutney


1. Fill a medium saucepan with cold water. Add rice and cook for 25 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger, stirring until soft. Add paste and spices and cook, stirring until fragrant.

3. Add canned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, water, coconut milk, lentils and chickpeas. Mix to combine and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare mango chutney.

5. Once rice is cooked, drain and divide between four bowls. Serve dahl with brown rice, coriander and chutney.

Serves 4.

Something's fishy

One book I've been cooking with, since the fires really, is Ross Dobson's 3 Ways With .... Stale Bread (Murdoch Books, 2007). It's an oldie but a goodie. I tracked Dobson down at the time and we joked that perhaps it was time for a new edition 3 Ways With ... during COVID-19. (Still waiting Ross.) "I went to my supermarket the other day," he was telling me. "And I couldn't believe there was still so much canned fish on the shelves. A can of tuna is one of the most versatile things out there." If you've got one, make this.

Baked tuna and zucchini risotto

Have your oven hot and ready at 200C. Heat a splash of olive oil in a casserole dish and stir-fry one chopped onion and two grates zucchini for two to three minutes so the onion softens and sizzles in the hot oil. Add 220g short-grain rice to the pan and stir for a minute then add 225g tinned tuna, drained, 400g tinned chopped tomatoes, one teaspoon rosemary leaves, 375ml chicken stock and season well with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Scatter a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley on top.

Serves 2.

Annabel Crabb's pantry challenge gratin. Picture: Supplied

Annabel Crabb's pantry challenge gratin. Picture: Supplied

Pantry challenge

Annabel Crabb is a sensible woman. We love her pantry challenge gratin. Stop rushing to the supermarket, people, and cook with the food you already have in the back of the cupboard. Crabb's book, Special Delivery: Favourite food to make and take, co-written with Wendy Sharpe, is full of useful recipes for these times.

Pantry challenge gratin


1 leek, well washed and outer green leaves discarded, finely chopped

olive oil, for frying

a little white wine or water, if needed

175g cooked cannellini beans

75g crème frache or sour cream

2 1/2 tbsp cream

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 x 335g jar white asparagus, drained

30g coarse fresh breadcrumbs

50g finely grated parmesan

2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Preheat the oven to 160C.

2. In a frying pan over low-medium heat, fry the leek in the smallest amount of oil, adding a little white wine or water if it starts to stick. When the leek has wilted a bit, take the pan off the heat and mix in the beans. Mix the two creams with the mustard until smooth. Take a shallow baking dish about 20 x 15cm and spread about a tablespoon of the cream mixture over the base. Lay the asparagus spears on top, spoon over the leek and bean mixture, then pour over the rest of the cream mixture.

3. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and parsley, then sprinkle over the gratin. (Just by the by, I recommend having a secret stash of this gratin topping in the freezer, ready to sprinkle at a minute's notice - it is also good on lasagne and other baked pasta dishes.) Bake your gratin for about 25 minutes, or until it is crispy, with bubbling cream underneath.

Serves 4.

The only biscuit recipe you'll need; from Cornersmith. Picture: Supplied

The only biscuit recipe you'll need; from Cornersmith. Picture: Supplied

Afternoon tea

I was taking a break from filing copious amounts of copy the other day and I needed a biscuit. I didn't have any. I should have made these wonders from Cornersmith's cookbook Use It All, by Alex Elliot-Howery and Jaimee Edwards (Murdoch, 2020) and make it your lockdown bible.

Clear out the pantry cookies


550g plain flour (or half flour and half almond meal; half flour desiccated coconut; half flour and half bran; half flour half LSA)

3 tbsp pantry strays (spent coffee grounds, cocoa powder, sesame seeds, chopped sunflower seeds)

1 tbsp spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice)

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

300g soft butter

250g sugar (brown, raw, caster or a combination of what needs using up)

3 eggs

100g sticky sweetener (molasses, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup)

1/3 cup chopped extras (dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, choc chips)


1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Combine the flour, pantry strays, spice, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a bowl.

3. Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time until well combined. Add the sweetener and continue to mix on medium speed, then fold the dry ingredients into the creamed butter until just combined. Fold through your choice of chopped extras.

4. Divide the mixture in half and set one portion aside. With the rest, roll into 50g balls and flatten slightly, then arrange on the prepared tray with room to spread.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until cooked through but still a little soft, then allow to cool for five minutes on the tray. Set aside to cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

6. Roll the remaining dough into a thick log, wrap well and store in the fridge for up to one week or the freezer for a few months. You can slice straight off the log and bake from frozen.

Makes 24 cookies.

You'll be taken back to your childhood with a honey jumble. Picture: Supplied

You'll be taken back to your childhood with a honey jumble. Picture: Supplied

Or make a honey jumble



60g butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3/4 cup golden syrup

1 egg, beaten lightly

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarb soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground clove

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice


1 egg white

1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar

2 tsp plain flour

1 tbs lemon juice, approximately

pink food colouring


1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease oven trays.

2. Stir butter, sugar and syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cool for 10 mins.

3. Transfer cooled mixture to a large bowl; stir in egg and sifted dry ingredients, in two batches. Knead dough on a floured surface until it loses its stickiness. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 mins.

4. Divide dough into eight portions. Roll each portion into a 2cm thick sausage; cut each sausage into five 6cm lengths. Place on trays about 3cm apart; round ends with lightly floured fingers, flatten slightly. Bake for 15 mins. Cool on trays.

5. For the icing, beat egg white lightly in a small bowl; gradually stir in sifted icing sugar and flour, then enough juice to make icing spreadable. Place half the mixture in another small bowl; tint with pink colouring. Keep icings covered with a damp tea towel while in use. Spread over cooled biscuits.

Makes 40 biscuits.

  • Recipe from CSR Sugar. csrsugar.com.au
This story What to cook when the supermarket shelves are empty first appeared on The Canberra Times.