a flexible approach to quarantine cooking | combining flavors

Quarantine cooking is no joke. With shelves bare, your kitchen cupboard overflowing with spices you never figured out how to use and annoyingly small quantities of random grains, it’s a challenge to piece together a meal.

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Let me help! Food creativity is an ability I’m proud and grateful to have. Having the patience and energy to think through what I’m putting on my plate, with barely anything at all on hand. And sharing my ideas matters to me 🙂

If you have the following on hand, there’s a lot you can do. I’ve upped the ante in my kitchen by cooking simple, flavorless ingredients with a combination of these items to keep things fresh and new.

  • Types of seasoning/’oomph’: spices & condiments. Yes, even that random jar of mustard powder. But also pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, leftover red wine, dried herbs, dried mushrooms, ginger paste, fresh garlic and onion, fresh herbs if you’re lucky, tomato paste, tea bags (for real!), dark chocolate (also for real!), bay leaf, hot sauce, celery, dried seaweed, fish sauce, liquid smoke
  • Types of saltiness: soy sauce, stock cubes, salt, marmite or yeast extract,  nutritional yeast, pesto, miso, cheese, olives or canned mackerel and anchovies, capers are salty flavor bombs
  • Types of sour: leftover white wine, vinegar, lemon and limes, other citrus fruit, fresh coriander, dried mango powder, any type of pickle, berries, lemongrass
  • An element of richness: yoghurt, coconut milk, avocado if you’re lucky, ghee or butter, hummus, shelf-stable cream, nuts and nut butters, tahini, an egg, mayonnaise, pureed vegetables
  • A crispy extra: crispy onions, crushed tortilla chips, sesame seeds, fried breadcrumbs, toasted nuts, fried chickpeas, toasted buckwheat, linseeds, flaked sea salt, coconut flakes, fried egg noodles, spring onions, sliced cabbage, fried garlic

 

Balancing these flavors will make your meals so much more interesting. Here are some ideas divided by meal category!

For a pasta dish

  • Fry garlic, onions, and/or chilli
  • Add meat and/or vegetables and deglaze in some wine
  • Stir in some pesto, chopped olives, chopped anchovies or capers
  • Top with a squeeze of lemon and crispy fired garlic flakes or toasted breadcrumbs

 

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For an Indian dish

  • Cook a pulse in water with either a teabag, tomato paste, bay leaf, dried mango powder and/or a chilli, some stock, paprika, turmeric, and any other spices you may have
  • Fry any vegetables with some onions, garlic, ginger, whole cumin and coriander seed before adding to your pulse
  • Stir in yoghurt, coriander and or lime, coconut milk or a dollop of ghee
  • Top with crispy chickpeas, coconut flakes or spring onion

 

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For a Thai dish

  • Fry a vegetable, meat and/or tofu in oil, ground turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli and/or Kafir lime
  • Add noodles and cover with stock, coconut milk and/or peanut butter
  • Top with some fried egg noodles, spring onion and a squeeze of lime

 

For a broth bowl

  • Fry some garlic, ginger, chilli, onion in oil and top with stock
  • Stir in miso, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter,  or yeast extract
  • Add dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, lemongrass and noodles
  • Top with a boiled egg
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds, spring onions, crispy onions, pickled ginger or sliced carrot

 

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For a rice bowl

  • Cook rice in stock and tomato paste, dried herbs, stock, onions, paprika and/or cumin
  • Top with stir-fried vegetables, tofu or chickpeas in garlic, and salt
  • Add a dollop of hummus, yoghurt, or smashed avocado
  • Sprinkle some nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, flaked salt, toasted buckwheat

 

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For toast

  • Spread hummus, or yoghurt stirred with pesto, or avocado on toasted bread
  • Top with a boiled egg, crispy chickpeas, or canned fish
  • Drizzle hot sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, flavored oil or balsamic vinegar

 

For an egg dish

  • Fry vegetables in garlic, onion and paprika, tomato paste or soy sauce and/or dried herbs
  • Crack in eggs
  • Top with fresh herbs, yoghurt, lemon or spring onions
  • Sprinkle over sesame seeds, or toasted buckwheat or pumpkin seeds

 

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