Cooking from the Pantry


Four weeks on, we’re still self isolating….everyone is reacting differently, some are hating every moment, others are enjoying the excuse to slow down and the opportunity to spend more leisurely time in the kitchen or just pottering around the garden. How fortunate that the Covid 19 pandemic coincided with the onset of Spring so those of us who have been harbouring fantasies about starting a veg patch or a raised bed can indulge their dreams of snipping their own herbs and growing their own greens and crunchy radishes….even on the windowsill…

There’s been an unprecedented rise in requests for recipes. More of us than ever are baking for comfort, enjoyment and to engage the kids.

On a similar note, last week I had several requests for store cupboard recipes – now that we have more time on our hands we’ve been digging deeper, ransacking our cupboards and finding some long forgotten, weird and wonderful stuff…. What to do with those neglected packets, jars and aged spices?  

Not to speak of what we discover lurking in the depths of the freezer when we decide to tackle an inventory that has been on our ‘to do’ list for years.

I’ve had some hilarious conversations with people this week who are determined to make best use of the Covid 19 crisis – to straighten out their domestic arrangements and can’t we all associate with that…. â€œBrings out the 1950’s housewife in all of us” was a friends witty quip .How bizarre that history is at last repeating itself and skills are once again being passed from one generation to the next. Not just baking and gardening but also sewing, knitting and don’t we just love the way TikTok has engaged the youngsters.

Then there is the more recent dilemma of what to do with all the random stuff that we panic bought a few weeks ago. At least the cans and pulses will keep for some time while we sort out the bits and pieces of hitherto unfamiliar ingredients that we bought for an Ottolenghi recipe a couple of years ago. Many will be past their sell by date, so now is the time to start relearning the forgotten skill of judging whether something is safe to eat by using our senses, sight, smell, taste….Unless its fermenting, it shouldn’t be bubbling….

Most sell by dates are very conservative. Manufacturers like to err on the side of caution and cynics might say the less we use our common sense, the more we chuck out the better they like it….  Well time to take back control, consciously work towards Zero Waste and relearn the skill of reworking leftovers into the next meal. I’m a sardine aficionado, and have boxes of them piled up in my cupboard from various trips  – just to cheer you up I recently enjoyed a tin that was months over its sell by date and they were truly delicious – just open the can, smell and as ever a bulging can is never a good sign, don’t open, just discard.

Of course, beautiful fresh produce in season is wonderful, but tins and cans are not to be scoffed at, they are a terrific standby, canned pulses for example are the bases for soups, stews, salads and dips – you’ll have hummus in minutes from a can of chickpeas or white beans. Add some sausage or chorizo even to a can of baked beans in tomato sauce and hey presto you have a bean stew.

Finally in answer to another nostalgic request, a recipe for ox tongue which I too love but is not on the top of everyone’s wish list. However, there is a definite increase in requests for recipes for home cooked food from childhood. Order a pickled tongue ahead from your butcher. I love it with a warm potato salad or this avocado and hazelnut salsa.

Keep safe and continue to boost you immune systems with nourishing, wholesome food.

Check out where we post new recipes every day. Also, check out Rachel and Rory on their Instagram account for lots of recipe tips…


Hummus has quickly become a staple in the last few years loved by children and adults alike, see how you can make your own in minutes….

Serves 4 – 6

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained (or 200g/7oz of dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked in fresh water till soft – reserve cooking liquid)

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ -1 teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin

2 good tablespoons of tahini paste

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning.  Thin to required consistency with chickpea cooking water.

Ox Tongue with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Put the pickled ox tongue into a deep saucepan. Cover it completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover the saucepan and simmer gently for 3–4 1/2 hours, or until the skin will easily peel off the tip of the tongue. Remove the tongue from the pot and set aside the liquid. As soon as the tongue is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Remove all the little bones at the neck end. Sometimes I use a skewer to prod the meat to ensure no bones are left behind. Curl the tongue and press it into a small, plastic bowl. Pour a little of the cooking liquid over, put a side plate or saucer on top and weigh down the tongue. Tongue will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Traditionally, cold tongue is thinly sliced horizontally into rounds. Use a very sharp knife with a long blade. Thinly slice the tongue and serve it with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa.

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of a good potato salad is to use freshly cooked potatoes and then season and toss in French dressing while they are still warm. This simple trick makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour of the finished salad. I’ve had delicious results with both waxy (Pink Fir Apple or Sharpe’s Express) and floury (Golden Wonders) potatoes, though waxy are definitely easier to handle.

Serves 4–6

1.6kg (31⁄2lb) raw potatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped chives or spring onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

150ml (1⁄4 pint) French Dressing

150ml (1⁄4 pint) homemade Mayonnaise, thinned with a little water

Boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large amount of well-salted water. Peel and dice the potatoes while they are still hot and put into a large, wide dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle immediately with the chives or spring onions and the parsley. Drizzle over the French dressing and mix well. Leave to cool and then add the mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning.

Hot Potato Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Gerkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Fold in 2 diced hard-boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons of chopped gherkins. Serve warm with pickled ox tongue, sausages, boiled bacon, warm terrine, hot spiced beef or Danish Pâté

One-Pot Pasta with Tomato and Chorizo (taken from One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Books)

For those of you who are conditioned to cook pasta in a huge pot of boiling salted water, the idea of cooking pasta in the sauce in just one pot may be quite a stretch to consider attempting, but do try it. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the pasta absorbs the flavours deliciously, it’s a revelation and you’ll have such fun experimenting. For some reason I still feel slightly guilty, but less washing up helps to salve my conscience. You’ll need considerably more liquid than in normal pasta sauce because the pasta will absorb much of the liquid.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2–1 red chilli, chopped

900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, in summer or 2 1/2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes in winter

zest of 1 organic lemon

1–2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, depending on the strength of flavour

225g (8oz) chorizo, peeled and diced

850ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

175ml (6fl oz) double cream

300–350g (10 – 12oz) fettuccine or spaghetti

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

30g (1 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a generous pinch of sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a 6-litre (10 pint) stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely
soft before the tomatoes are added.

Slice the fresh or tinned tomatoes and add to the onions with all the juices and the lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add the rosemary. Cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Add the chorizo, stock and cream. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta, stir gently to separate the strands and prevent sticking. Return to the boil, cover and simmer for 4 minutes and leave to sit in the tightly covered saucepan for a further 4–5 minutes, or until just al dente. When you add the dried pasta, it will seem too much but hold your nerve, it will soften within a minute or two and cook deliciously in the sauce.

Season to taste, sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Serve.

Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Taken from One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper. Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages

Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans (or 2 x 400g/14oz tins of cooked beans)

bouquet garni

1 carrot, peeled

1 onion, peeled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

450g (1lb) fennel and chilli pork sausages

175g (6oz) chopped onion

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

flat-leaf parsley or chervil, to serve

Soak the beans overnight in a large pan with plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and return them to the pan. Cover with fresh cold water and add the bouquet garni, carrot and onion. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes–1 hour until the beans are soft, but not mushy. Just before the end of cooking, season with salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables from the pan and discard. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Fry the sausages in a few drops of oil over a medium heat until nicely coloured and remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil over a lowish heat in the same saucepan and cook the chopped onion for 7–8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two before adding the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the cooked beans and the rosemary. Add the sausages and simmer for 5–6 minutes, adding some of the bean liquid if the sauce starts to dry out. Season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes or until the sausages are heated through. The mixture should be juicy, but not swimming in liquid – if it starts to dry out, add more of the bean liquid.

To serve, scatter with plenty of parsley and accompany with a salad of organic leaves or crusty bread, if you wish.


Cheesy Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Spoon the finished stew into a shallow ovenproof dish and scatter over 50g (2oz) breadcrumbs mixed with 25g (1oz) butter and 50g (2oz) grated Cheddar cheese. Flash under the grill until crisp and golden on top.

Chorizo, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary with Chorizo or ‘Nduja

Omit the sausages and add 125g (4 1/2oz) sliced chorizo or pieces of ‘nduja to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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