What's a pantry challenge? In our home, once every week or so, I tend to delve into the bottom two shelves of the pantry, looking for a half-finished packet of something that can be entirely finished for dinner. Noodles, quinoa, rice paper sheets or felafel mix - these dry and colourless ingredients can actually be a great launching point for a brand new meal, given a quick trip to the shops for some fresh veges on the way home from work.
That's hardly a challenge, though, is it? Well, on Tuesday night I managed to create a meal using only ingredients already at home. I realise that's par for the course in many households, but it's highly unusual here. We often don't plan our meals any more than hours ahead, and buy groceries up to five times a week. (For the record, my pantry meal consisted of stir-fried mock chicken and shredded Brussels sprouts with soba noodles and Happee Monkee's dark caramelised garlic sauce.)
Kathyrn from Limes and Lycopene has set an even greater pantry challenge. Can you create a tasty and nutritious meal using only ingredients from her list of 15 non-perishable foods? I reckoned I could, though many of the items don't typically reside in my own pantry (Michael eyes frozen vegetables with deep suspicion, and we don't even hoard tinned legumes, though we eat them often). It's not exactly the on-the-table-in-20-minutes affair that most folks are looking for on a weeknight, but that's because I wanted to slow cook the onions for maximum soft sweetness. However this recipe still doesn't require too much effort - just set the onions cooking as soon as you can and spend the next half hour ticking off another task. Answer your mail, write a note to long-distance friend, or give your mum a call!
Moroccan spiced chickpeas
250g box frozen spinach
2 x 400g cans chickpeas
2 onions, sliced into rings
a small splash of olive oil
~1 tablespoon ras el honout (a Moroccan spice mix, or substitute garam masala)
salt and pepper
Put a small splash of olive oil in a non-stick frypan and add the onions. Cook them over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes, until very soft. While the onions are cooking, take the spinach out of the freezer to partially defrost, and drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Once the onions are ready, push them to the side of the pan and plonk the spinach into the centre. Gently break the icy chunks up with your spatula or wooden spoon as it thaws. Once it's completely thawed, add the chickpeas and stir everything together. Sprinkle over the spice mix and season to taste.
If I were unconstrained, I'd suggest finishing this off with some lemon juice and a side of couscous. As it is, a splash of vinegar and some toast does very nicely.