Having a few tricks up your sleeve is always a handy way to be able to feed people without too much time spent laboriously slaving over a hot stove.
During the recent heatwave I certainly relied on my repertoire of short cuts when preparing meals that were quick and easy to pull together!
I know when it’s that hot all you really want is light salads, and quite possibly bucket loads of ice cream or gelato!
And may I quickly add in here that the house-made gelato at Il Gelatino in Torquay is superb, with lots of gluten, vegan options.
I’ve often said, “life’s short, eat dessert first” and so for a handy cheat’s pantry trick, duck out and buy your dessert, thus leaving more time to kick back and relax, or water the garden, or catch up on the newspapers! Another pantry trick I’ve been relying on lately is using the microwaveable instant rice from the supermarket.
There are many varieties, some with brown rice and quinoa, pilaf style, black rice – any of these can become the base
for nutritious, easy salads by adding various other ingredients such as blanched green beans, or endame beans, roasted cauliflower florets and almonds.
Endame beans are recent new find for me, and as they’re readily available from the freezer I now keep these as a pantry staple.
Endame beans are the young soybeans and are therefore a great source of lowfat soy protein, just the ticket for those following a vegetarian diet. When fresh they are often steamed, or boiled and eaten as a snack or appetiser in Japanese cuisine.
I simply boil the beans 5-7 minutes, drain and pod them – the pods are inedible, but great for the compost!
Another pantry staple is smoked salmon trimmings instead of the more expensive carefully sliced variety. These trimmings are terrific in a pasta dish using a fine fettuccine style pasta – two pantry staples that won’t break the budget, and yet add a touch of ‘luxury’ for an easy mid-week dinner when served with a simple green salad of cos, avocado, crumbled feta and loads of continental parsley.
One of my old party, or should I say pantry tricks is to keep some really, seriously good sausages in the freezer. I call them my “mystery bags” as that best describes the various fillings combined in a skin casing.
Once you get onto a really good sausage, I recommend you keep a couple in the freezer.
If you’ve tracked down really scrumptious pork and fennel or chicken and tarragon sausages, simply cut two Spanish onions
into thick slices, and layer these with four roma tomatoes sliced lengthways.
Place these in a roasting pan with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, some fresh thyme and rosemary; prick the sausages all over and lay these on top – I serve one sausage per person, but you could serve two. Bake in a hot oven
approximately 40 mins. Half way through the cooking time, turn the sausages once only.
Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and some bright green beans – voila, a perfectly acceptable and delicious main course for your next dinner party! Incidentally the origin of the sausage can be traced back to the 9th century BC.
So, expand and practice your range of pantry tricks so that at a moment’s notice you can always bring together quick, easy meals – as easy as pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat! No magic wand required, just pantry staples!