These kitchen hacks will make your lockdown cooking more resourceful
From substitutions to tasty toppings, these tips help to cut food waste
A few years back, I spent 12 months traveling the world. I cooked in 12 different kitchens, from Mexico City to Kyoto, Japan. I got pretty used to adapting recipes according to whatever ingredients I could find at the local markets and stores. At first it was a real challenge, but then I realised that having to be resourceful was making me a better cook. I understood what spices could be swapped out, what vegetables work in place of ones I couldn’t find, and what adds texture to a dish when you’re missing that one ingredient.
What I never anticipated is that the experience would actually come in handy for cooking in lockdown during a global health crisis. But these days I often find myself relying on the tips and tricks I picked up during that year.
Not only will these habits make your cooking more resourceful and inventive — at a time when trips to the grocery store should be limited — they also have the added benefits of reducing food waste, and making our ingredients go further.
So how do we make our ingredients do more heavy lifting for us? Here are six little tips, tricks and hacks to help you get the most out of your food.
1) You don’t need eggs to make delicious pancakes
I actually discovered this one when I was looking up recipes for vegan pancakes, many moons ago. But it came in handy again the other day when we weren’t able to find eggs at our local grocery store. Mix a mashed banana (pro tip: you can freeze bananas so they last for longer) with apple cider vinegar and use that mixture in place of an egg to make pancakes. They literally taste as good if not better than egg-filled pancakes – seriously, true story.
2) You can make granola with anything
Ok, not literally *anything*. But pretty much any nut, seed or dried fruit will work in granola. The recipes tend to be pretty prescriptive, but I’ve successfully made granola with just about every combo of nuts and seeds; basically, whatever I could find or afford at the market. What you always need are oats and either honey, maple syrup or golden syrup. Gently toast the whole lot together for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven and you’re golden (sorry).
cr: Fallon Michael via Pexels
3) Vinegar works instead of fresh citrus
If you’ve used up all the lemons and limes you have in the house, you can still add an acidy kick to a lot of dishes. I’ve used apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice to add to a curry, and rice wine vinegar in place of lime juice to make a zingy carrot pickle.
4) Soup can really be jazzed up with different toppings
I’m making soup *a lot* these days. It’s my go-to recipe for nutritious, easy meals that really make the most out of the produce I get from the store. But having soup several times a week can get quite dull. So I like to spice things up (sometimes literally) by topping the soup with a range of different things. It’s a trick I learned from my favorite chef, Anna Jones, who taught me everything I know about texture. Soup toppings might be gently toasted coconut flakes, fried spices, roasted seeds or chopped nuts. You can also whizz up your favorite herb (I used cilantro recently) with olive oil for a tasty topping.
5) Garbanzo bean liquid is super versatile
It can be tempting to absent-mindedly throw that liquid from your tin of garbanzo beans away. But hang on to it! That liquid is called aquafaba. And if you whip it up, aquafaba can be used for a huge range of different things, from meringues to mousse, ice cream and even whipped ‘cream’.
6) The freezer is your friend
Many of us are relying on our trusty old freezers right now to get us through quarantine cooking. But the freezer is good for a lot more than pizzas and keeping leftovers of that stew you made ages ago. You can freeze pretty much anything, including fish, veg if you blanche it first, and even milk.