In the current climate, which is something we’re all trying to get used to and make the best of, we’re also faced with the challenge of having to rethink how we cook and what we eat during the lockdown. With the mantra ‘stay at home’ firmly in our minds, we are advised only to shop for food when absolutely necessary and when we do pop out for supplies, we are sometimes faced with empty shelves and a sense of panic. This is because we are creatures of habit. We tend to buy the same products and the same ingredients every time we shop. But rather than stress about the lack of our usual store cupboard and fresh food essentials, why not embrace it and use this opportunity to break out of that routine and try something new? We asked Cesar Fernandez, Home Economist at Miele GB, for his top tips on new ingredients to try with advice on different ways to use them.
Along with milk, eggs and butter, one of the items many people have been panic buying is tinned goods. So rather than getting caught up in the frenzy, my advice is to check out the dried pulses section instead. Not only will you get better value for money and supplies that will last longer but you’ll also be buying versatile ingredients and, as you’ll be cooking with them fresh at home, you’re in control of the seasoning. Also, you won’t get that slightly metallic taste that tinned beans sometimes have and the pièce de résistance – cooking with dried pulses gives you one of the most wonderful flavoursome ingredients… Aquafaba, which is the broth you get from cooking beans. It has as much body as a concentrated chicken stock and you can use it instead of egg whites for vegan meringues and other dishes, which might also help if the shops have run out of eggs.
So think differently, and next time you’re doing that essential food shop, pop some dried pulses into your trolley. There are plenty of meals and snacks you can create – a 500g packet of dried beans for instance can easily be transformed into five different recipes (and I’m not just talking hummus). Here are my favourites:
1. Turn them into the star ingredient of a lovely fresh salad. Combine some bitter leafy greens like radicchio with cucumber, roasted vegetables, chickpeas and a sharp lemon dressing.
2. They make a great filling for sandwiches too. Mash the cooked beans lightly with a little yoghurt, squeeze of lemon, chopped capers or gherkins, celery or any crunchy vegetable that you have in the fridge.
3. I’ve mentioned Aquafaba already but mashed chickpeas are one of the biggest trends in vegan baking at the moment and they make a wonderful substitute for butter and a lot of sugar when cooking brownies or blondies.
4. Bulk up a curry, casserole or stew – vegetarian or meat-based – by adding a couple of ladles of cooked chickpeas.
5. You can also roast them in the oven with a few aromatic spices for an easy mid-afternoon snack.
For a wholesome, tasty lunch or supper. Check out our recipe for Spice Roasted Cauliflower with Crispy Chickpea Salad, which is so easy to make and is sure to become a family favourite.
I’ve also included my own basic recipe for dried beans below to help get you started.
500g dried beans, soaked overnight
1 white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
½ lemon, peel only
A few sprigs of thyme, parsley, bay leaf or similar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients together with 1.5 litres of water and a very generous pinch of salt in a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium/low and simmer for around 60 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface.
When ready, leave to cool before storing in the fridge.
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