Tomatoes are important for a lot of recipes, but you can use tomato puree and a bit of stock to add flavour and liquid to your cooking, or use fresh chopped tomatoes. If you only have a jar of roasted red peppers, you can make a fantastic sauce using them, some garlic, basil and a bit of stock. Just remember, a bit of inventiveness will go a long way. If you don’t have tomatoes, consider using red lentils and stock in a stew or curry to add creaminess and colour instead of a tin of tomatoes. They’re a brilliant source of protein and count as one of your five a day, too.
If you don’t have any stock, it’s easy to make some from scratch. You’ll need some fresh bones and scraps from any meat you’ve been eating (a whole chicken carcass without the meat is ideal for this, or some lamb shank bones) but if you’re veggie you can skip this bit. Then you’ll need carrot peelings and odds and ends from prepared vegetables (onion ends, skin and celery tops and bottoms are perfect). You can also use potato skins, garlic skins and herb stems. Pretty much anything veggie that you would usually throw away. Make sure your scraps have been boxed up and put in the fridge for no more than a few days. Pop them all into a pan of boiling water, cover and gently simmer, for 30 mins-4 hours. Strain through a sieve and bin the scraps. Use within 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Bingo, fresh stock and not a stock cube in sight!
If you don’t have an onion to spare for your recipe, don’t worry. You can use leeks, shallots or spring onions instead. Don’t forget onion salt can add flavour in a pinch, too! If you have fresh chives on hand (or in your garden), they have an onion-flavour and work beautifully chopped and used as a garnish.
Just plain white rice (or basmati or long grain if you have it) will work for a stand in with risotto, paella or pilaf. If you can’t find any rice, remember there are plenty other brilliant grains you can swap it out for. Couscous, quinoa, barley and bulgar wheat are all great to use instead for sides for curries or tagine. Or you can embrace the vegetable revolution and use finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli. Delicious!
If you run out of oil, it’s not a total disaster, you can use butter or margarine in a shortage. Remember, if you only have sesame oil that will also work for plenty of asian dishes and salad dressing.
A fantastic staple to have in your cupboard, be that chickpeas, kidney beans, black eyed beans, cannellini beans or our old favourite, the baked bean. Use them in chillis, curries, stews or you can make fritters or falafel, and if you only have kidney beans instead of chickpeas, they're pretty interchangeable for most recipes. Don’t worry if all you have are baked beans, just wash them under the tap and you’re good to go.
Brilliant for thickening sauces, coating meat before frying and adding to fritters or burgers to help them keep their shape. If you don’t have flour, corn flour will do the same thickening job, whereas breadcrumbs will stand in for burgers and is great for breaded fish and chicken.
If you don’t have breadcrumbs, ground oats, almonds, crushed cornflakes, popped rice cereal or even blitzed nacho chips make a fantastic breaded alternative for katsu chicken, chicken nuggets or a mac and cheese topper. Remember, if you are frying or baking, dip the piece of meat into beaten egg mixture, then roll in your breaded mix before cooking for a crunchy treat.
Pittas, naan or flatbread
If you’re hankering for bread goodness but you have nothing left in the loaf bag or you have no yeast to make your own, check what you have in your fridge. If you have some unflavoured yoghurt, oil and flour, you’re in luck! You can make a cheat’s flatbread to serve as an admirable pitta or naan substitute. Add 1:1 ratio of self-raising flour to yoghurt, leave to prove in a warm bowl, then divide into small balls, flatten and cook using a frying pan, 1-2 minutes on each side!
Do you have any garlic knocking about in your fridge? How about some sad looking salad leaves, kale or spinach? If you have some nuts (almonds or walnuts work well here, or if you have pine nuts, score!) some hard cheese and oil, you’re in business to make some punchy pesto. Add basil if you have it, but you can experiment with whatever mix you have. Just use this equation - two cups greens to one cup oil, plus a half cup of nuts and cheese each, and chuck in garlic for deeper flavour. That should give you a spring board to use up your forgotten fridge greens.
So you want to create a delicious cake, maybe for someone’s birthday, but you don’t have eggs? It’s not a disaster, just take a leaf out of the vegan cook book. You can use a half banana for every egg in your cake recipe (these also work for pancakes too)!
What's in the fridge?
Stuck with a couple of ingredients but no idea what to turn them into? Don't worry, CBBC have a recipe finder at the ready to help you figure out what to do with your rogue ingredients!