The Pantry Paradox
It's pantry clean out time as I can't really find the biscuits for the tins or the rice for the zillion types of flour! It's a funny one isn't it, we want it full so we have choices but the more things that pile in, the more overwhelming it can be.
My downfall is when I'm in shops across the other side of town and I just buy random ingredients with nothing really in mind of what I'm going to do with them. It's usually from my Asian grocer escapades so you can just imagine can't you. At the moment I seem to have various packets of ingredients that only have Chinese writing on them. I knew what they were when I bought them as they were clearly labelled (well sometimes) on the shelf in the shop, not now, absolutely no idea! Pretty sure the one below says 'Dried Shrimp' eeek! haha!
I do have some great items in there though, which are perfect 'go-to's' if the unexpected guest pops in. And when I say unexpected, well we have a rule in our household and among our neighbourhood friends...
If we are on the front deck having a wine and you are walking past, you are always welcome to come on in.
Having said that, there was one point where we started with 2 and ended up with 15 - thank goodness for the freezer, because there is no pantry that will support that sort of crowd. You know you have great friends when a pan toasted double cheese sandwich was served, on a beautiful white platter of course, and everyone was happy.
From the pantry, with a dash of lemon!
I have a quick recipe which I make every couple of weeks, which is healthy to snack on during the days I work from home. It actually improves with age which is even better and it's something which you can throw together as a dip for when guests arrive or just use it as a substitute for a spread on some crackers or a crusty roll topped with some fresh salad. This recipe, with the addition of a fresh lemon, comes straight from my pantry.
Quick artichoke, bean and tahini dip
400g can artichoke hearts (see note below on type)
400g can butter beans
2 tbsp tahini
zest and juice on 1 lemon
1 tsp sea salt
cracked pepper to taste
Blend everything in a food processor and place in refrigerator until cold.
Serve as a dip with your favourite crackers (I've added some extra lemon zest for serving) or as a yummy spread for your sandwich.
you need to grab artichokes which have not been marinated and I found the 'Always Fresh' brand is really great. You will usually find them tucked away in the section where the tinned beans and tomatoes are located.
if you have chickpeas in your pantry instead of beans, swap them out for an equally yummy moment.
swap out the tahini for peanut butter too if you like, it may sound slightly strange, but it works with these other ingredients beautifully.
to get more adventurous, try adding 1 tsp of cumin and a chopped clove of garlic.
for serving as a dip if guests have arrived (and pantry presentation is key!) it's nice to top your dip with toasted crushed walnuts or even some crunchy roasted pepitas and a drizzle of olive oil.
What's in your pantry?
Back in my younger years I used to make a 'tin food' pizza with pita bread from my freezer and anything I could find from my pantry. It's interesting what you can create when your budget is low and you are so flat out working, that time for shopping for fresh ingredients was the last thing on your mind (oh how I've changed). Now that I'm much more mature(!), I've renamed my 'tin food' pizza to the much more sophisticated 'pantry pizza' and pimped it up with a few other ingredients, including something fresh, and we eat these as our go to when we don't really feel like prepping anything too tricky. They are perfect for a quick mid week dinner or a lazy Sunday afternoon when the fire in on and you don't want to go out.
Get the Kids involved
With school holidays drawing to a close and you are scratching for some extra entertainment to close off the week, enjoy a bit of family fun by putting all your toppings out on the bench and everyone can make their own. You could even 'Masterchef' the challenge by everyone rating their favourite. It's amazing what flavour combinations kids can come up with and it's a great way to get them into the kitchen without the clean-up being too overwhelming!
Pita Pantry Pizza's
2 pita breads (I always have some in the freezer just for this moment!)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 green capsicum, thinly sliced
handful sundried tomatoes
1 small tin (225g) pineapple chunks (if you dare!), as much liquid removed as possible and roughly chopped
2 handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese or tasty if that's all you have
fresh basil leaves for garnish
Heat oven to 200'C
Spread 1 tbsp of tomato paste over each base and top equally with remaining ingredients. Try not to overload you pizza as it will be hard for the base to become crispy, see more tips below.
Cook pizza on rack for approx 15 minutes or until your cheese is bubbling and golden. Makes 2 pita pizzas.
Some other topping ideas
if you do happen to have some fresh ham in the fridge or left over cold meats like roast beef or chicken, feel free to add these on as well or even some sliced chopped chorizo are great.
for a bit of freshness, try cherry tomatoes, halved, slices of mozzarella and finely chopped garlic. Once out of the oven add a drizzle of olive oil and top with fresh basil. For some extra freshness, once it has come out of the oven, you can also add some prosciutto to this one as well.
what about leftovers from your roast dinner, like lamb and pumpkin, then add sliced red onion rings and handful of cheese. Once out of the oven, drizzle with your favourite mint sauce.
for a quick entertaining moment, brush olive oil onto your pita, sprinkle on a few chopped anchovies and dried chilli flakes and dust it with parmesan cheese. These will cook quickly so keep an eye on them.
for a Mexican version, try a jar of salsa as your base, chopped fresh tomato, capsicum, red onion and some refried beans and grated mozzarella. Once out of the oven, top with sour cream and some avocado if you have it.
boost your flavours by adding some spice mixes like Peri Peri, Za'atar and Dukkah. A dash of chilli jam or Chipotle to the top after cooking, can also be nice!
for a sweet version, what about some Nutella, banana and marshmallows and top with a few crushed nuts once out of the oven. Ricotta, banana or fig, and drizzle of honey once out of the oven are also a fave of mine, topped with a few walnuts too. Ok and maybe a dollop of ice-cream or yoghurt to finish!
some other great ingredients are capsicum, pepperoni, mushrooms, thinly sliced potato, store bought pesto (for the base), bbq chicken, zucchini, prawns, bacon, artichokes, eggplant, blue cheese, goats cheese, prosciutto and fig. The options are endless.
you can be even fancier with your tomato paste and buy the Leggo's 'pizza' version if you wish and there is a 'pizza' blend packet of pre-grated cheese available as well.
I like to use the Sandhurst sundried tomatoes which are in a little vacuum sealed dry packet and not sitting in oil. The oil can sometimes make the pizza a bit soggy.
the key to this 'pita' pizza is not to add too much topping and cheese, and keep the toppings as dry as possible (ie remove as much soaking liquid/oil) or they will not crisper up in the oven.
for a crispy base, sit a wire rack onto your baking tray and pop the pizza's directly onto the rack so the air can circulate to the base. Or if you are happy to clean the oven (!), sit them directly onto the oven racks.
Sometimes it's a fun challenge to see what you can create from your pantry, so why not take the pantry challenge today! It's worth it for the clean-out moment, and hopefully for the 'taste' moment too. You never know what crazy concoction you might come up with, just have FUN!
LOVE YOUR FOOD MOMENTS... ENYOY!