Potato, olive and preserved lemon tagine

Store cupboard recipes: 15 of the best

by Great British Chefs 18 March 2020

When you just can’t make it out to the shops, a few key items in your cupboards can open the door to thrifty but delicious meals. Here are a few of our favourite store cupboard recipes to tide you over.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

A well-stocked pantry is the key to turning out delicious meals even when the fridge is looking bleak. There are certain things that we always have sitting in our cupboards – lentils, chickpeas, beans, tinned tomatoes, rice and pasta, just to name a few. Not only do they last for absolutely ages, they’re also solid nutrition providers – particularly lentils, chickpeas and beans, which all provide a good amount of protein as well as important carbohydrates.

A decent selection of spices certainly helps to bring an extra dimension to your cooking too. You don’t need a whole cupboard full of ground spice pots, but a handful of options goes a long way. We gravitate towards cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika and chilli powder.

Whilst we’re on the subject of livening up your food, let’s not forget about condiments and sauces. We always have honey, Marmite and peanut butter on hand, not just for toast but because they are all useful in myriad ways. Peanut butter (and other nut and seed spreads for that matter) are great for making dressings and sauces, as is honey, while a drizzle of Marmite can really add an extra hit of umami to all sorts of things. Don’t forget about soy sauce either – an essential for quick and easy stir-fries.

We’ve pulled together a collection of our favourite store cupboard recipes – the ones we turn to in a pinch when we have to rely on a well-stocked pantry. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger

Jack Monroe’s kidney bean burgers are a fabulous, thrifty way to make something delicious out of a can of kidney beans. Jack rinses and drains her kidney beans and mashes them with a few softened vegetables, spices, seasoning and a little flour before frying on both sides. This is a great, simple blueprint for making a bean burger – you could easily switch things up and use tinned cannellini beans or similar instead.

Tomato and anchovy risotto

Possibly one of our favourite recipes of all time, Luke Holder’s tomato risotto is an unbelievable tidal wave of flavour that will quickly find a way into your regular recipe rotation if you haven’t tried it before. The tomato risotto is delicious in its own right, but the anchovy and parsley gremolata that goes over the top is what makes this dish special.

Red lentil loaf

Lentils – in case we hadn’t mentioned – are incredibly nutritious and should always have a home in your cupboards. Red lentils are softer than French green and Puy varieties, which means you can cook them down until soft and use them to make a vegetarian meatloaf of sorts, like this. Best of all, you can use any leftover cooked vegetables in this lentil loaf too, then season, mix together and bake until golden brown. A thrifty superstar.

Budget creamy salmon pasta

Got a jar of fish lying in the back of a cupboard somewhere? Jack Monroe transforms a cheap store cupboard staple into a delicious pasta sauce by adding a bit of yoghurt and lemon juice, alongside sweet, gently fried onion. Season the sauce to your liking, then toss pasta through the sauce and finish with some chopped herbs and chilli.

Potato risotto

This sounds a bit mad, but hear us out – imagine the satisfying creaminess of a good mash potato, but in a risotto! Using the water you cooked the potatoes in to then cook the rice, you get an unbelievably creamy, luxurious risotto that has more flavour than you might think. Plus, if you can’t leave the house for a little while, this double carbohydrate situation will tide you over for ages. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Egg curry with basmati rice

Egg curry is a classic Bengali dish, and this recipe comes from Adam Bennett’s wife Asha, whose family are from Bengal. With a few spices from the rack and some easily available vegetables, you can whip this up in about an hour – just boil the eggs and make your curry sauce. Adam suggests eating this with basmati rice, but you could use whatever you have to hand – bread, chickpeas or more potatoes.

Puy lentil Bolognese

Craving Bolognese, but don’t have any beef mince? Lentils are the way to go – they’re extremely nutritious, sustainable and give the perfect bite to a Bolognese. Sweat down onions, carrots and celery as normal, then simmer lentils in vegetable stock and add to the soffritto along with tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs. Simple and delicious.

Potato, olive and preserved lemon tagine

This delicious vegetarian tagine is perfect if you have some waxy potatoes knocking around. Roasting the chickpeas in a hot oven gives them a nice crunch, contrasting the soft potatoes. Green olives add a bit of zip to the whole thing (you could probably use anchovies in a pinch) and if you have some preserved lemons in the fridge – that’s a bonus! You could easily use normal lemon rind instead, however or play the long game and make your own preserved lemons by cutting them up and packing them into a jar with plenty of salt.

Dal makhani

A good dal recipe is a lifesaver when you’re raiding the cupboards for something satisfying. This dal makhani recipe by Alfred Prasad uses black lentils (also known as urad dal) but you could easily substitute red or classic yellow split peas, or even small yellow lentils. Soaking the lentils helps them cook evenly and cleans off any grit – after that, just fry off spices, cook the lentils and combine with tinned tomatoes, chilli powder and butter and cook until soft.

Quick-braised celery and chickpeas

Celery is as easily available as any vegetable in the UK, and it goes so nicely with chickpeas. Anna Tobias braises the two together – a classic Italian treatment – and finishes with plenty of chilli, lemon and sage. The fennel seeds are a bonus if you have them, but a great one – fennel and celery are excellent together. In fact, you could include some fresh fennel or dill if you have some.

Indian potato cakes

Alfred Prasad’s Indian potato cakes are so easy to make, and all you need is some potatoes and a few herbs and spices. Alfred cooks his potatoes, then crushes them and mixes with chickpeas, herbs and spices, before chilling in the fridge and frying on both sides to finish. The key is to make sure they’re seasoned properly – potato and chickpeas will need plenty of salt. Feel free to switch up the herbs and spices as you like.

Spinach and chickpea curry

Chickpeas are rich in protein, iron and soluble fibre, and spinach is famously excellent for you, as anyone who grew up watching Popeye can attest to. This curry is certainly health-conscious, but it packs in bags of flavour too, thanks to a bevy of spices (leave out anything you don’t have) and a long, slow braise with tinned tomatoes. Victoria Glass serves the curry with rice and a lovely aromatic carrot salad.

Sun-dried tomato bread

Shaun Rankin’s amazing sundried tomato bread is unbelievably simple – a great starting point if you have a bag of flour sitting in your cupboards and you want to get into some bread making. It does require some sundried tomatoes of course, but again, these are always worth having in your fridge too. Shaun combines the five ingredients to make a dough, then rises twice before baking. Job done.


Although it might seem daunting, focaccia is probably about the easiest bread to make at home – it only requires a single rise and is very forgiving in the oven. Paul Ainsworth’s recipe is as foolproof as they get – work the dough until nice and springy, leave to prove, then bake. Remember, when it comes to bread dough, wetter is better.

Miso ramen soup with pak choi, poached egg, and crispy shallots

Emergency ramen noodles have saved many a student living on a tight budget, confined to the house by looming essay deadlines. In truth, it’s always worth having some packs of ramen on hand – you can eat them on their own but they also make a good base for a more substantial meal. Shu Han Lee stirs miso paste into the broth and simmers pak choi and an egg in there, before scooping out into a bowl. Or you can just eat it from the pan – your choice.