Lockdown suppers: more ideas for dinner when the cupboard is almost bare

Out here in the sticks, we have a food delivery once every nine or ten days. Day ten’s last supper, before the food van arrives, usually involves a hearty stew of whatever gnarly bits and pieces are left over in the vegetable rack and the fridge. My mother used to be proud that she could make something out of nothing and I’m the same, although the word nothing for my generation means I may not have all that much in the way of fresh produce, but we are fairly well-stocked for spices, herbs, condiments, cans of beans and rice. ‘Nothing’ in my mother’s day meant exactly that – hardly any food at all, so I cook with the realistion of how lucky I am. 

The first seven days were fine. I have tins in the larder and a few items in the freezer such as plant-based sausages, home-made vegan chorizo and a bag of peas but they are just there to embellish any dish I cook. So by day eight, the fresh produce was becoming a bit dog-eared, the couple of remaining potatoes were sprouting. There were a few veggies in the rack: a butternut squash, a couple of  onions, a beautiful big celeriac gifted fresh from my neighbour’s garden, a few sweet potatoes. At the back of the fridge, I had a couple of unhappy mushrooms, a damp carrot or two and a few ends of celery and leeks.

That night I made a leek and onion quiche: the pastry was easy to make with the last of the plain flour, some plant-based margarine and shortening rubbed in, salt, white pepper and a little cold milk. I left the pastry in the fridge wrapped well for a few hours as that really improves the crumbly texture when cooked. I sweated off some onions, garlic, leeks in a little olive oil, turned the pan off and added plant-based cheese, then in a blender I whisked a small carton of silken tofu, a tbsp of plant-based milk and some nutritional yeast. I then combined this mix with the cooked onion and leek mixture and poured it all into a greased quiche tin lined evenly with my pastry, rolled out and placed in just before.

It was baked in the oven for 40 minutes at 180;  the quiche turned golden brown and the leek mixture set perfectly. I left it to cool for a couple of hours as I always find this improves the texture and taste, and warmed it up again for ten minutes with some chunks of sweet potatoes (with a little oil, salt and black pepper, some lime juice) roasted in their skins the oven 20 minutes earlier. I made a  creamy coleslaw, using the last chunk of red cabbage I’d found in the fridge, some onions, carrots, walnuts, raisins and mayonnaise.

By day nine, I decided it was time for the celeriac to step into the limelight. I slow-cooked a few lentils and some old vegetables – a sweet potato, a potato, a drained tin of sweetcorn, broccoli, onions, a bit of leek, some kale that had seen better days and some frozen peas. This was much improved by a dollop of harissa, a bit of paprika, some grated lemon zest, a dollop of coconut yogurt. The peeled celeriac was chopped, steamed and then put in the blender with a bit of plant-based margarine, salt, pepper and the last dregs of a pot of horseradish I found at the back of the fridge. (Celeriac mash is delicious with just a little salt and pepper, but a dollop of mustard would replace the horseradish and take it to the next level.) Served with the slow-cooked stew, it makes a really tasty meal.

Which brings me up to the last meal before the night-time food delivery: the butternut squash was roasted in the oven and added to a pan with a little oil, some sweated onions and garlic and anything else I could find in the fridge, which wasn’t much, (three pieces of kale, three green beans, one very wrinkled mushroom and a bit of celery) plus a tin of chickpeas and a curry sauce made from spices that I roasted in the pan beforehand: fresh ginger, chilli, garlic, fenugreek, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, garam masala and turmeric. These spices, blended into a paste with the last of the coconut yogurt and a spoonful of tomato puree or, in this case, ketchup because I was out of puree,added to the vegetables will create a thick and delicious sauce. I always make curry hours before I eat it and then serve it with rice, home-made naan and papadums.

The alternative is usually to saute the onions, then cook all the vegetables gently with some red lentils and vegetable bouillon. Put the lot in a dish, taste and season the gravy and smother the top with potatoes mashed with mustard and black pepper. This dish is much improved with the addition of a dollop of marmite, brown sauce or even soy sauce to the gravy; a bit of plant-based cheese on top is good too. The picture above shows the shepherd’s pie just before it goes in the oven – it’s another great stand-by dish to make when there are only old bits of vegetables left in the house.

Now the fridge is virtually bare and the vegetable rack has only one onion and one potato. Later, when the delivery van arrives, we will be ok for food for another week, or maybe ten days. I look forward to food deliveries with excitement now in gthe same way  I look forward to Christmas. It’s a joy to have fresh food in the house. Thank goodness for all those key workers who bring things to our door so that we can stay safely at home: where would we be without them?