• Choose your next vegetarian dish from one of the many regions of Italy. (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin
Look to the pantry and the freezer... here's what to cook with it.
Bron Maxabella

18 Mar 2020 - 8:32 AM  UPDATED 18 Mar 2020 - 12:14 PM

Right now there's a good chance that at some point you're going to be cloistered at home for a couple of weeks, or even longer. Don't forget what is in your pantry and in your fridge and remember to be considerate and think in moderation. Here are some recipes to keep you inspired and cooking at home.


Pizza rustica

Silverbeet is everywhere in the winter months because it grows like the clappers with little effort at all. Throw a few seeds in now and you'll have fresh silverbeet to add to this savoury pie. If gardening isn't your thing, frozen spinach, well-drained, works just as well. Or add in whatever you have to hand. Everything goes well with eggs.

Pantry: Flour, olive oil, white wine, nutmeg, salt, UHT milk.

Fridge/freezer: Eggs, ricotta (or make your own), salami, silverbeet (or frozen spinach).


Traditionally eaten for breakfast, there's no reason why this Middle Eastern favourite can't be enjoyed for dinner too. If you can't get your hands on fresh capsicum, preserved works well. If needed, any load of fresh greens will be just fine in place of kale.

Pantry: olive oil, onion, garlic, preserved capsicum, chilli, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, tinned tomatoes, brown sugar

Fridge/freezer: kale or other greens (baby spinach, rocket, silverbeet - whatever you can get your hands on), eggs, parsley (optional)

Potato omelette

Potato omelette

Any old omelette would do, of course, but this one is special. It's filled with potatoes to really up the satisfaction score. You can add a little shaved Parmesan or any other cheese you have on hand to add some extra nutrition and flavour.

Pantry: olive oil, potatoes, eggs, salt

Son-in-law eggs (kai loug kheuh)

While stories abound as to how these eggs were named, what’s not disputed is their moreish sweet-salty-sour taste and place as a Thai classic.

Golden egg curry (ou hin)

The eggs in this Burmese recipe are hard-boiled, deep fried until golden and served in a spiced tomato sauce. I think this makes a fantastic lunchtime curry served with some rice.

Eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce (shakshuka)

This popular Israeli breakfast dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce, mopped up with bread, is also served at other times of the day. The origins of shakshuka are debatable; some believe it originated in Tunisia, other believe it was Libya and some claim Morocco.  


Spicy potato salad

Potatoes have kept populations from starving for centuries, so with a stack of spuds at the ready, you're going to be okay. They are one of the most versatile vegetables around. You can substitute sweet potatoes for the potato in this quick and easy dish and most other potato recipes. Depending on your stores/garden, you will most likely need to use frozen peas instead of fresh for this one. 

Pantry: potatoes, chilli, chilli flakes, lemon (you can use bottled lemon juice if needed), black sesame seeds (plain okay), oil, turmeric, fenugreek seeds

Fridge/freezer: frozen peas, other frozen vegetables if desired

Gnocchi with tomato sauce

It's rather magical how a dish this tasty can be conjured seemingly out of thin air. If you have fresh tomatoes, use them, otherwise, tinned whole tomatoes will work. Gnocchi always proves just how versatile and satisfying the potato is.

Pantry: tinned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, potatoes, plain flour,  eggs

Fridge/freezer: Parmesan cheese

Pizza potatoes

This recipe is genius. Turn a can of tinned (preferably plum) tomatoes, a couple of onions, potato and cheese into a warming potato casserole that you can add and subtract from. This is how you eat your cares away.

Pantry: tinned tomatoes, onions, olive oil, potatoes

Fridge/freezer: provolone cheese (Parmesan works too)

Spicy Lebanese potatoes (batata harra)

These Lebanese potatoes cast the baked spud in a whole new light. Crisp, spicy and fresh, they are the star of the show and should have their own accompaniments rather than being one themselves.

Layered potato casserole (rakott krumpli)

Essentially an Hungarian potato bake, this comfort food recipe includes Csabai sausages, available from European delicatessens. Serve it as a side dish to roast meats.

Gujarati potatoes

For potato lovers who like a hint of spice, this Indian recipe is the best thing in the world. The snap, crackle and pop as you fry the spices is part of the joy.


Baked pastichio

Mince might not last as long as other meat in the freezer (about a month), but it's so versatile that it's worth stocking up. You can make a baked pastichio using a packet of minced beef and your pantry and fridge staples. Substitute canned whole tomatoes if you haven't got fresh, and ricotta or additional Parmesan cheese (which lasts for ages in the fridge) for the Mizithra.

Pantry: pasta, olive oil, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes (or fresh), tomato sauce, flour, UHT milk, nutmeg, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper

Fridge/freezer: minced beef, Parmesan cheese, butter, eggs

Turkish pide

Mini Turkish Pide Pizza

Keep yoghurt and flour on hand and you can instantly whip up a versatile dough. Vary the meat filling for these pide pizzas to suit whatever you have on hand. This version uses beef mince and plenty of pantry staples.

Pantry: flour, oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, tinned tomatoes, pine nuts

Fridge/freezer: beef mince, yoghurt

Sweet ginger meatballs

A hybrid Japanese dish that makes the most of beef and pork mince. You could just use one of either if that's all you have in the freezer. Rich, Japanese flavours will be welcome on the palate after a week of tomato-ey dishes. Serve over rice with cooked frozen vegetables (fry them off after boiling for added flavour).

Pantry: ginger, egg, sesame oil, cornflour, oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, dashi or chicken stock, sugar, mirin, rice vinegar

Fridge/freezer: spring onions (use plain onions if necessary), mince

Lebanese stew with peas and rice
This is a classic Lebanese recipe. It is a hearty, spiced stew that is easy to prepare, and you simply cannot enjoy it without the revered rice pilaf with vermicelli.
Afghan lamb meatballs (korme kofta)

We make korme kofta for Nowruz – New Year – along with many other dishes, including colourful rice, lamb curry and haft mewa (seven fruits). Nowruz, meaning "new day", is the first day of spring (the vernal equinox), but in Afghanistan, the festival can last for two weeks. It’s a time of good luck, fortune and new starts.

Meatballs (polpette)

Scatter with parmesan and basil and grab some crunchy bread to mop up all that rich sauce. 

Pulses and beans

Yellow dhal with peas

An easy, one-pot vegetarian dish that's packed with good nutrition from pantry staples. Unless you grow your own, you'll most likely have to skip the coriander garnish, but that won't be sad news for many. You can also substitute tinned whole tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes in this recipe.

Pantry: ghee, ginger, chilli powder, cumin seeds, tinned whole tomatoes, turmeric, sugar, lentils

Fridge/freezer: Frozen peas

Baked beans

Vine-cutters baked beans

These beans are hearty enough to be served as a main meal with some homemade seed bread. The only fridge/freezer item you need is bacon. By all means, leave it out if you want to make this dish vegetarian. You can add in some smoked paprika instead.

Pantry: dried white beans, canned tomatoes, white wine, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, brown sugar

Fridge/freezer: bacon

Chickpea and spinach masala

This is the kind of dish that somehow brings comfort, no matter what. If you can't get a big bunch of fresh spinach for this recipe, frozen will be a good substitute. Everything else is straight out of the cupboard.

Pantry: oil, onions, garlic, chilli, tinned tomatoes, tinned chickpeas, salt, rice

Fridge/freezer: frozen spinach


A bowl of Lebanese mujaddara is the ultimate comfort food and it's amazing to think that so much flavour can come out of lentils and rice.

Chickpea and broad bean falafel

It takes time to make good falafel so you’ll need to start this recipe 24 hours in advance. To shape the falafel you can use a traditional falafel spoon, available at most Middle Eastern grocery stores. Alternatively, you can use two tablespoons, or do it the Egyptian way and make small patties with your hands. (If using either of the latter shaping methods, adding 2 egg whites when seasoning the mixture will make it firmer – although, because it is not traditional, I prefer not to add egg whites.)

Broad bean balls (tamayya)

Sudanese communities prepare this dish as a group, which makes the process far quicker, less labour intensive and, with banter and gossip, lots of fun as well. Soak the broad beans overnight and ground the allspice to allow maximum flavour.


Cantonese noodles

While this recipe calls for fresh egg noodles (a sealed packet of which will last for a month in the fridge), you can easily substitute dried (which keep for even longer in the pantry). If you don't grow spring onions, garlic chives or sprouts - and both are ridiculously easy, so now is the time - you can use finely-chopped plain onions and garlic from your stores and throw in some blanched edamame beans instead.

Pantry: oil, garlic, noodles, Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, sesame oil

Fridge/freezer: spring onions, bean sprouts

Sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles are a street food favourite in Taiwan. Serve this recipe with some frozen greens - beans, edamame, peas, etc - on the side for extra nutrition.

Pantry: tahini, peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, noodles

Spicy pork noodles

Beijing zha jiang mian is another delicious way to use up your store of frozen mince. The tasty sauce is made entirely from pantry staples. You can use finely diced onion in place of the spring onions if needed.

Pantry: oil, garlic, ginger, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, chicken stock, sugar, rice vinegar, noodles

Fridge/freezer: pork mince, spring onions

Shanghai noodles with dried shrimps and spring onion oil (kai yang cong you mian)

This Shanghainese recipe is indispensable in my kitchen. The combination of oil infused with the fragrance of spring onion and dried shrimps and the umami savouriness of soy sauce is irresistible, however simple it sounds. The recipe is said to have been invented by a street vendor near the City God Temple in Shanghai.

Soba noodles with ankake broth (ankake soba)

This is the perfect dish for winter days when you feel that annoying cold about to take hold - the thick, hot broth loaded with grated ginger will warm you from the inside out. Ankake is the name of thickened dashi-based amber broth used as a soup or sauce in Japanese cuisine in various stages of viscosity.

Chickpea noodle soup

Easy to put together, yet delicious in every way, this chickpea soup delivers loads of comforting flavours and textures. It's perfect for any night of the winter-y week.

Frozen vegetables

Buy nothing new curry

In tighter times, you'll want to use up every last scrap of fresh veg and this curry is the way to do it. You literally throw in whatever loose vegetables you've still got kicking around and the aromatic sauce transforms them into dinner. You can also use frozen vegetables if you've already cooked through your fresh stash.

Pantry: coconut oil, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, red chilli, tinned coconut cream, stock, tomato passata

Fridge/freezer: frozen vegetables or any leftover vegetables

Chickpea and vegetable casserole

Fair enough, this casserole is not going to be quite as amazing when made from frozen vegetables, but needs must. There's enough flavour pumping from the harissa, turmeric and paprika to make up for a lack of texture. A casserole like this tastes even better the next day, so make a double batch.

Pantry: oil, onions, garlic, chilli, turmeric, paprika, harissa paste, tomato paste, vegetable stock, tinned chickpeas

Fridge/freezer: frozen vegetables

Split pea and cauliflower curry

Frozen cauliflower is great to have in stock. It can get a little mushy when cooked, but this flavourful curry can take it.

Pantry: yellow split peas, onion, coconut milk, coconut oil, turmeric, cumin seeds, chilli

Fridge/freezer: frozen cauliflower, shallots (use dried or even onion if needed)

Vegetable tagine

A tagine is an aromatically spiced Moroccan stew, and come in an endless array of ingredients and variations. This one is filled with the goodness and colour of vegetables, sweetness of prunes and nuttiness of almonds.

Vegetable pudding (kugel)

Derived in name and form from German kugel puddings, the Jewish kugel, a bake of various grated vegetables and egg, is a popular side dish made during festive holidays. For Passover Seder, grain products of noodles or pasta are often replaced with matzo meal.

Spicy pickled vegetables (achar awak)

These pickles are the perfect accompaniment to a spicy Malaysian meal, especially meat dishes. In this recipe the vegetables are just scalded in the vinegar mixture so they retain their integrity.


Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil

If you've got a bag of pasta, you're never going to starve. You can make the most delicious dinners by adding just a couple of extra pantry-kept ingredients. This simple dish with olive oil and garlic is step number one. At a pinch, you can use dried parsley in place of fresh. You can also leave out the capers and anchovy fillets to leave this dish at its naked best.

Pantry: pasta, olive oil, garlic, chilli, capers, anchovy fillets

Fridge/freezer: parsley (maybe you grow it in the garden?)

Broken pasta and lentil soup

A throw-together dish that will fill you right up. Chances are you're not going to have pancetta on hand, but you can substitute bacon or just leave it out, making this dish vegetarian. Substitute dried thyme for the fresh (unless you've sensibly got some out back in the herb garden).

Pantry: olive oil, onion, carrot, lentils, thyme, stock, pasta

Fridge: Parmesan rind

Spaghetti alla carbonara

This simple meal has got to be one of the top dishes to make when your pantry feels bare. You can throw in some bacon, or you can just skip it. All you really need is pasta, eggs and garlic. Consider this a staple!

Pantry: pasta, olive oil, eggs, garlic

Fridge/freezer: pancetta or bacon (optional), pecorino or Parmesan

One pot penne with tuna, olives and capers

Silvia Colloca shares her family one pot pasta recipe which is full of Mediterranean flavour and a breeze to cook (and clean up).

Pasta with sardines (pasta con le sarde)

Big, bold and beautifully textured, this is an Italian pasta recipe for lovers of seafood. Don’t be put off by the sardines and anchovies – they soften in flavour as they cook and provide a lovely back note to the spices and herbs.

Simmone Logue's Friday night easy tuna pasta

Simmone Logue's tuna pasta recipe is just the thing to whip up for dinner at the end of a busy week. This recipe serves 2, but you can double or triple the ingredients as required to feed the hungry hordes.


Rice with peas

A good risotto is a fine thing to eat in a crisis. This one uses simple ingredients to create something very comforting. Fresh peas are nice, but not essential.

Pantry: risotto rice, chicken stock, olive oil, garlic, onion, white wine

Fridge/freezer: frozen peas, butter, Parmesan cheese

Persian steamed saffron rice

A good part of the world exists on rice each day, which is a good reminder of what a nourishing food it can be. This is a very simple dish that packs a lot of flavour. While this recipe calls on saffron threads, which may not be so readily available in your cupboard right now, you can substitute for a spice of your choice to complement your tastes.

Pantry: rice, saffron threads, sugar, ghee, cumin seeds

Fridge/freezer: natural yoghurt

Jollof rice

This "African paella" is easy to prepare from pantry and freezer staples. To whip up this hearty fish dish whenever you need, make sure you pick up some frozen firm fish fillets, like Hoki, barramundi or snapper - or buy fresh and freeze yourself. You can substitute preserved versions of any of the fresh ingredients in this recipe - tomatoes, capsicums, onions.

Pantry: tinned tomatoes, preserved capsicums, chilli, oil, onion, rice

Fridge/freezer: frozen carrots, frozen fish, zucchini or celery (possible to leave out)

Ginger fried brown rice with egg and spring onion

This breakfast fried rice takes no time at all and is everything food should be, simple and absolutely delicious.

Kimchi fried rice
If you’re like me and always keep a tub of kimchi in the fridge, this is one of those weeknight dishes that’s perfect when there isn’t much else around. You’d be surprised how tasty and satisfying a bowl of this economical fried rice can be.
Iranian rice with broad beans and dill (baghali polo)

When in season, baghali – fava (broad) beans – have many uses in Iranian cuisine. Baghali polo is one of our favourites. Cooked with rice and dill, the bean dish makes the perfect accompaniment to stews and sauces. The list of ingredients can be found almost anywhere and as far as Iranian dishes go, it is one of the simplest we've learnt to cook.

Canned fish

Drunken sardines on toast

A can of sardines produces this simple meal that will leave you feeling happily satisfied. Making your own bread is very satisfying, too. You can substitute shallots or onion for the eschalot.

Pantry: chipotle chilli (or any chilli you can muster), Worcestershire sauce, gin, tomato sauce, canned sardines, olive oil, bread

Fridge/freezer: shallots (or onion from the pantry)

Tuna melt

The tuna melt.

You can make this sensational melt with tinned tuna, whole egg mayo and sliced cheese. Toasties for dinner will quickly become a hit when you use up any sweet corn, onion and celery you may have available, or any other accompaniment you like to house between two slices of bread.

Pantry: tinned tuna, onion and bread

Fridge/freezer: sliced cheese, corn, mayo, celery and/or greens


France's answer to the pizza can be made with either a bread or pastry base and eaten hot or cold. It's full of strong flavours, straight from the pantry -  onions, anchovies, thyme and olives. Pizza dough is simple to make from stocked ingredients.

Pantry: onions, olive oil, anchovy fillets, black olives, thyme, flour, yeast, sugar

Fridge/freezer: butter

Sardines, bread & parsley

A simple dish using fresh sardines served with a vibrant bread and parsley sauce.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

In Italian, this dish translates to ‘spaghetti of the prostitute’. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but garlic, anchovies and capers don’t seem like the most obvious thing to eat before going to work. Or it could be that, historically, the name comes from the fact that this dish is very quick to cook and eat.

Anchovy sables

Sable, a savoury shortbread biscuit, originated in Normandy and date back to the 19th century. Commonly flavoured with parmesan or similar cheeses, this recipe calls for the addition of anchovies for an extra hit of salty flavour.

Pantry greats
Carrot jam (murrabā-ye havij)

Carrots make an excellent jam and with the addition of lemon, cardamom and rosewater this is perfect for spooning over pancakes and toast or in pies and tarts. 

Fermented zucchini

The glut of zucchini has us using every trick in the book to try to preserve their delicate flavour. Fermenting extends their life, and keeps that ethereal flavour that is so readily lost when you pickle using vinegar.

Bacon jam

Bacon jam is a sticky, sweet and salty side you can serve on toasted bread, hamburgers or hotdogs. This recipe adds Sriracha for heat and bourbon for a boozy twist.

Roasted pickled eggplant

This is a good way to use up any excess vegies you have in the fridge. The roasting, pickling and added oil ends up making a more antipasto style of pickle, like those you buy from the delicatessen. They’re perfect for picnics!


A fizzy-drink addict? Loved a sugar-laced iced tea in your past life? Let me introduce you to The ’Bucha. 


Great to have with rice and seaweed, with cold or hot meats in a sandwich, and also as an instant flavouring for soups. Poh & Co. 2

Preserved lemons

Zesty, citrus preserved lemons in jars create such a welcome bright light in any kitchen. They are great in North African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, and work well wherever fresh lemons do — with fish, white meats such as chicken and rabbit. Once opened, keep a jar of your own preserved lemons in the fridge to give an instant zing to salads, or finely dice it into paellas, tagines, couscous and rice.