Your Pantry Makeover
Delicious home cooking starts with a well-stocked pantry. Lindyl Crabb reveals the ingredients that will take your meals from simple to scrumptious.
In almost every home pantry you’ll find staples like rice and pasta. But there are plenty of other ingredients that can transform simple meals into sophisticated dishes. And despite their long shelf-life, pantry-stored foods can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, says dietitian Sharon Natoli. Here are 10 healthy items to add to your shopping list.
These low-fat legumes are a satisfying substitute for meat because they’re a rich source of protein, folate and iron, as well as fibre which supports the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
Make it a meal: Brown lentils are a great addition to stews. Green lentils are firm and work well in salads. Red lentils are best for Indian dhals with spices, vegetables and stock.
Chickpeas transformbasic meals into more substantial dishes because they contain plenty of protein and fibre. They also provide amino acids and niacin, a B vitamin that helps your body convert food to energy.
Make it a meal: Add chickpeas to a leafy salad or soup, and you have a tasty and filling meat-free meal. If friends drop by, blend chickpeas, garlic, herbs and olive oil to make a delicious hummus dip.
A can of tuna provides the same heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fresh fish. It’s also a source of immunity-boosting zinc and lean protein.
Make it a meal: Use tuna in a quinoa salad or pasta dishes with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil. To make fish cakes, mix it with mashed potato and herbs and spices, then roll in breadcrumbs and cook in a pan.
This gluten-free wholegrain is packed with iron and fibre so it helps you feel satisfied. It’s also a complete protein – that means it contains all nine amino acids which are usually only found in animal foods.
Make it a meal: Quinoa can be used in place of rice – simply add vegetables, tuna or legumes. You can also stuff baked capsicums with quinoa, tomatoes, olives and herbs.
Made from pureed tomatoes with the skin and seeds removed, tomato passata has a deliciously rich flavour. Just like fresh tomatoes it’s a source of potassium, vitamin C and the powerful antioxidant lycopene.
Make it a meal: Passata is smoother than canned tomatoes and runnier that tomato paste which makes it perfect as a base for your pasta sauce. If you want to flavour the sauce with herbs, choose basil or oregano.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Made from fermented apples, this vinegar variety enhances the flavour of food and contains antioxidants, amino acids and pectin, a prebiotic which promotes healthy digestion. Consuming it with your food can prevent a spike in your blood glucose and help to fill you up.
Make it a meal: Liven up salad dressings with a splash of vinegar or drizzle it over cooked vegetables to add acidity.
Rich in healthy fats that contain fatty acids like omega-3s, eating olives may help lower your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Plus, they provide antioxidants and vitamin E.
Make it a meal: Like anchovies, olives make for a creative, salty pizza topping and they complement Mediterranean cuisine – toss them through salads with feta cheese or in pasta with tomato and chilli. To make a simple tapenade, blend pitted olives with garlic.
Mustard seeds have lots to offer including selenium, which aids thyroid function, and the powerful antiinflammatory compound curcumin, which gives mustard its yellow colour.
Make it a meal: Made from the ground seeds, mustard powder can be used as a spice rub to coat meat, poultry or fish. It’s a key ingredient in Indian cuisine and a tasty addition to homemade vinaigrettes and barbecue sauce.
These tiny fish are a source of omega-3s, calcium, iron, protein and niacin. You can buy them preserved in olive oil but once opened refrigerate any leftovers in the oil.
Make it a meal: When your cooking calls for depth of flavour or a little salt, add some anchovies. Their savoury taste is great in Caesar salad dressing, in casseroles, pasta sauce, or as a pizza topping.
Herbs And Spices
When you want to amp up the flavour in your cooking without adding salt, sugar and fat, herbs and spices are ideal replacements. The absolute essentials for every pantry? Black pepper, dried chilli and oregano. Abundant in antioxidants, these three provide anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing and heart protective properties – and you only need to use a little for the benefits.
Make it al meal: Oregano complements garlic, vinegar and Italian tomato-based meals. Black pepper is pungent and fiery, while green peppercorns are mild and they’re best ground straight onto your food. Dried chilli suits slow-cooked curries and smoky, spicy sauces.