Take on the Back of the Cupboard Ingredient Challenge!
What’s languishing at the back of your kitchen cupboards? The remains of the pricy ingredients you bought for that birthday cake? Evidence of the weird diet your significant other tried several months ago? Unopened packets of pulses with a Best Before date two years past? Can’t remember the last time you even saw the back of the cupboard? Crumbs...
Time to join us for January’s Back of the Cupboard Ingredient Challenge! We’re pledging to dig out and use up the oldest food from our kitchen storecupboards while it’s still edible. As we unearth lost treasures and clear some space by cooking up what’s already in stock, we hope to see a reduction in our usual grocery bills.
‘Use By’ vs ‘Best Before’ dates
Let’s get our food labels straight before we start exploring. Don’t get caught out!
>> Food safety is hugely important and ‘Use By’ dates are a hard deadline. Find something approaching its ‘Use By’? Either make a plan to eat it up within the date or freeze for a later meal. Past its ‘Use By’? The food could be unsafe to eat or drink so even if it looks and smells fine, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it.
>> ‘Best Before’ dates, sometimes abbreviated as BBE, are indications of quality and not safety. Many foods at the back of the cupboard may be past their ‘Best Before’ dates but still perfectly fine to cook and eat.
A final important point: both ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates are only accurate if the food has been stored according to the instructions on the pack. In doubt? Search for your ingredient on the Still Tasty database to find out whether to cook it or toss it.
To get you thinking on how to nom your neglected foodstuffs, we’ve rounded up a few of our usual suspects and some tasty ideas…
Dried fruit and nuts left over from Christmas
>> Pre-mix leftover raisins and sultanas into porridge oats or cereal to make them go further and bag an extra dose of nutrition at breakfast time.
>> If you still haven’t quite got over those ‘pigs-in-blankets’ from Christmas Day, wrap leftover prunes, apricots, almonds and Brazil nuts in bacon and tuck around the roasting meat for an extra delicacy come Sunday lunch.
Those last bits of flour at the end of the packets
>> Chuck all the leftover flours into a bowl and add milk or milk-substitute a little at a time, stirring constantly until you get to double cream consistency. Whisk in an egg and a pinch of salt for a simple pancake batter. Start flipping immediately or freeze the batter for a future weekend brunch.
>> Alternatively, combine your batter with chopped onion, a little paprika, fresh or dried parsley and a well-drained tin of sweetcorn. Heat some oil in a heavy-based pan and fry up tablespoons of the mixture into crunchy mini fritters. Serve with salad, rice and lashings of sweet chili sauce.
Stale biscuits and cereals
>> Knot the biscuits inside a clean plastic bag, wrap in a tea towel and bash the bundle with a rolling pin. Very cathartic! The resulting sugary mess makes a treat of a topping for crumble, ice cream or yoghurt.
>> This easy recycled biscuit cake recipe could also take care of any leftover Christmas chocolate or golden syrup lurking around.
>> Post-Christmas dieters might want to steer clear of chocolate cereal cakes. Instead, use up tired cereals in healthier homemade energy bars. They’re the perfect grab-and-go snack for the morning rush, and you can bung in any leftover desiccated coconut or glacé cherries lying around too!
Forgotten herbs and spices
>> When warming up plain old packet custards and rice puddings, pop in a bay leaf and grate over a little nutmeg to liven things up. Remember to fish out the bay leaf before serving!
>> Sprinkle warming ground spices, such as coriander, ginger and cumin, generously over oiled vegetables and roast at 190°C until tender and brown at the edges. Squashes, root veggies and cauliflower florets love this treatment. Serve as a side for curry or as a meal in itself with rice, yoghurt and chutney.
>> Crushed juniper berries or star anise add a certain je ne sais quoi to the first gin and tonic of the weekend – and the second and third too! Detoxing but still want to feel fancy? Mull some apple juice with a stick of cinnamon and a couple of slices of lemon or orange.
>> Jazz up a frozen pizza with a shake of dried basil or oregano before you bake. Or get a subtle hit of Mediterranean flavour into a bog-standard tomato soup by stirring through a half-teaspoon of either of these herbs before heating.
Random tins of beans
>> Drain, retaining the liquid, and whizz the beans with a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, lemon juice and a little olive oil for a bold hummus-style paste for sandwiches or dipping. Add a little of the leftover liquid if the mixture needs loosening up.
>> The drained liquid, known as aquafaba, can substitute for egg whites in vegan meringues, mousses and many other recipes.