It’s a fa­mil­iar sce­nario. You ar­rive home from work and stare into the abyss that is your pantry, won­der­ing what you can make for din­ner. For some in­spi­ra­tion, ANGELA SAURINE asked top chefs and cooks to share their best tips and tricks for trans­form­ing t

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Delicious -

In to­day’s fre­netic world, it can be all too tempt­ing to or­der UBEREATS if you haven’t had the chance to visit the su­per­mar­ket. But if you are smart about the in­gre­di­ents you buy, and how you pre­pare them, you can al­ways cre­ate a lit­tle culinary magic with what you al­ready have.

Aus­tralia’s best chefs and food ex­perts have plenty of ad­vice on mak­ing the most of the items al­ready in your freezer and cup­board. Here are their top tips for pantry alchemy.


The restau­ra­teur be­hind Glass Brasserie in Syd­ney and Salt Grill in Surfers Par­adise al­ways has eggs in the fridge.

“If you have eggs then you can cre­ate a meal,” he says. “I’ll use them to cook up a quick frit­tata or omelette. Throw in some left­over ve­g­ies, herbs and feta cheese. Toss to­gether a quick green salad and serve it with tomato chut­ney.”

Or you can use a fried egg to bulk up an­other dish, like fried rice with hot sauce or mie goreng.

“Freeze items that thaw quickly like crab meat and peas, to cre­ate a quick pasta dish,” con­tin­ues Mangan. “I also freeze ripe ba­nanas for smooth­ies, and I’ll freeze soup por­tions in win­ter.”


TV pre­sen­ter, cook­book au­thor and Ital­ian na­tive Sil­via Col­loca is pas­sion­ate about cucina povera, or “peas­ant cook­ing”.

“It’s the prin­ci­ple of Ital­ian home cook­ing where a lit­tle bit goes a long way,” she says. “Any left­over can be turned into some­thing new.”

In her de­li­cious. on Sun­day meal plan this week, Col­loca cre­ates an ap­petis­ing br­uschetta us­ing canned tuna, turns can­nellini beans into a salad, and makes quinoa a show­stop­ping dish. Stale bread, mean­while, can be used to make a pan­grat­tato to top off a sim­ple pasta, ad­ding crunch and flavour, or to cre­ate a hearty pan­zanella salad.


If Alas­tair Mcleod needs to turn around a home-cooked meal in a flash he can do it with just three in­gre­di­ents: miso, but­ter and pasta.

He boils the pasta in salty wa­ter, cooks the miso and but­ter in a pan us­ing wa­ter from the pasta to make a sauce, and sea­sons with black pep­per.

In fact, miso paste has many ap­pli­ca­tions be­yond Ja­panese cui­sine. Use it spar­ingly to pump up the flavour of any dish. For ex­am­ple, rub 1 tbs of miso paste over a steak as a quick mari­nade and then char the meat on the bar­be­cue.

The Ready Steady Cook reg­u­lar and Queens­land Week­ender pre­sen­ter also cooks dou­ble the amount of rice that he needs in or­der to make fried rice for the fol­low­ing night’s din­ner.


If he’s strapped for time, de­li­cious. on Sun­day food edi­tor War­ren Men­des al­ways turns to pasta.

“You don’t need a mil­lion in­gre­di­ents for a sat­is­fy­ing pasta, or fresh in­gre­di­ents for that mat­ter,” he says. “Add punchy el­e­ments like an­chovies, gar­lic, olive oil, ca­pers and you have a pretty de­cent, quick meal.”

Men­des says puff pas­try shouldn’t just be re­served for desserts.

“Pop a frozen sheet in a hot oven (about 220 º C) and top with any veg­eta­bles you have, goat’s cheese and herbs and you’ve made a free-form savoury tart.”

Men­des also al­ways makes sure he has some parme­san in the fridge.

“Never throw away your parme­san rinds,” he adds. “Wrap them up and keep them in the freezer.

“Added to pasta sauces, braises or stocks, they pack a umami punch and will help sea­son a meal with­out much ef­fort.”


Ice cube trays are one of the most un­der-utilised items in kitchens, says Mel­bourne chef and for­mer Con­vic­tion Kitchen star Ian Curley. “When you have ex­cess serv­ings of cooked veg­eta­bles like roasted pump­kin or sweet potato, don’t throw them out, freeze them,” he says. One trans­ferred to a freezer tray, the veg­eta­bles can be re­heated as small por­tions for kid’s meals, or added to a stir-fry. “Spinach is very bulky when fresh, but once cooked down it be­comes very com­pact and freezes well, ready to be added to the pan straight from the freezer,” he adds.


As well as al­ways hav­ing in­gre­di­ents for pasta in the cup­board, chef Danielle Al­varez from Syd­ney restau­rant Fred’s, ad­mits buy­ing par-cooked brown rice.

“I love brown rice but it takes so long to cook that those pack­ages re­ally help to get some­thing nu­tri­tious on the ta­ble swiftly,” she says. “A fast stir-fry or steamed with any lit­tle bits of ve­g­ies I have, toasted nori and a fried egg with chilli sauce can make some­thing ap­petis­ing su­per quickly.”


If there is one thing Viet­name­seAus­tralian chef Luke Nguyen al­ways has in his freezer, it’s pho broth. “You cook a lot of it and in­stead of hav­ing in­stant noo­dles you have a nice broth that’s a healthy, light dish.” Nguyen, whose restau­rants in­clude Red Lan­tern in Syd­ney and Fat Noo­dle in Syd­ney and Bris­bane, says green Asian sta­ples, such as choy sum, last longer than other veg­eta­bles. Wrap leafy veg­eta­bles in damp tea tow­els be­fore stor­ing in the crisper to ex­tend fresh­ness. “I would toss the Asian greens with some­thing in the pantry that keeps for­ever – fer­mented bean curds. Good qual­ity shrimp paste also keeps well in the fridge, and you only need a small amount to add a great deal of flavour to a dish. Some­thing like that with a bit of rice goes a long way.”


While Matt Mo­ran prefers to use fresh in­gre­di­ents as much as pos­si­ble, he does freeze pro­duce from time to time. The Great Aus­tralian Bake Off judge, whose restau­rants in­clude ARIA in Syd­ney and Bris­bane, saves the tops and bottoms of veg­eta­bles and freezes them in a con­tainer.

“I don’t be­lieve in be­ing waste­ful and they come in handy when I want to make the next batch of stock, soup or braises,” he says. “When it comes to pantry sta­ples, my house­hold al­ways stocks legumes, pasta, bak­ing ba­sics, spices and sea­son­ings,” he says.

Mo­ran ad­vises stor­ing in­gre­di­ents cor­rectly so that they last longer. For ex­am­ple, keep av­o­ca­does or ba­nanas in the fridge to slow the ripen­ing process.


Canned chick­peas are Scott Pickett’s num­ber one go-to pantry item.

“They’re great for mak­ing a quick dip at home and they are al­ways per­fectly cooked and ready to be poured with some tahini, lemon juice and olive oil for a great snack,” says the chef, whose Mel­bourne restau­rants in­clude Estelle Bistro and Saint Crispin. For an in­stant bar nib­ble, fry chick­peas in a lit­tle oil, tossed with salt and spices.


Frozen prawns are the key in­gre­di­ent when it comes to last-minute meals for David Whitting. The ex­ec­u­tive chef at Bistro Remy at The Lang­ham Syd­ney loves to make pasta with pump­kin and prawns he’s cooked on the bar­be­cue. His other go-to is a prawn laksa.

“I keep a home­made laksa paste por­tioned in the freezer that’s ready to add to the pan,” he says. “I add a stick of lemon­grass and some co­conut milk from the pantry and then the prawns at the last minute. I then take some rice noo­dles from the pantry, soak them in the bowl and pour the hot liq­uid over the top. Gar­nish with bean shoots and some co­rian­der from the gar­den.”


Any­one who knows Matt Pre­ston, Masterchef judge and de­li­cious. on Sun­day columnist, knows that he is a ma­jor ex­po­nent of hacks. His most un­usual is for a two in­gre­di­ent cake in­volv­ing self-rais­ing flour and melted vanilla ice cream – avail­able on de­li­cious.com.au.

Pre­ston also sug­gests freez­ing in­gre­di­ents that can be used as flavour bombs. “Fresh bay leaves, curry leaves and kaf­fir lime leaves de­frost in no time, and can be used to en­liven a soup, curry or stir-fry,” he says.

Cured meats, like speck and pancetta, have long shelf lives in the fridge and add flavour to pas­tas, soups and more. “Fry them off with onions and let the fat ren­der to of­fer savoury notes to the dish,” he adds.

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