COOKING for one can be easy and enjoyable, but before you get ahead of yourself, check out the following list of tips for useful and healthy pantry items, and cooking guides.
Clear the pantry cupboard and draws to ensure you know what you have and whether any of it needs tossing out due to very old use-by dates, weevils or you simply have no idea how to cook with it. Once you have done that, check out the list of recommended pantry items that you may not have already.
Don't forget - aim to buy salt-reduced products wherever possible.
- Rice and pasta.
- Tinned Fish - avoid those in oil.
- Rolled oats baked beans.
- Noodles such as Hokkien. Avoid the quick cook ones that contain salt.
- Tinned vegetables such as tomatoes, green beans, corn.
- Dried fruit such as apricots and sultanas.
- Milk powder and long-life milk.
- Pasta sauce.
- Breakfast cereal - watch out for the sugar content.
- Biscuits - watch the sugar content as well as the amount of salt, or make your own for greater control.
- Soup mix or tinned soup.
- Processed cheese - buy reduced fat and salt-reduced varieties.
- Olive oil.
- Tomato paste.
- Stock powder or cubes.
Why worry about salt?
We all need some salt in our diet, but many processed foods we buy contain added salt. The experts tell us a high salt diet increases the risk of us developing high blood pressure, which is fairly common in Australia for people aged 60 and over.
Try to replace added salt with herbs and spices to help flavour your food.
Which herbs should I use?
Many herbs can be easily and cheaply grown at home. If they grow too well, you can chop them up and put them in a plastic container in the freezer for use at a later time.
Here's a few herb ideas -
- Basil is excellent for flavouring tomato dishes. It's also good with egg dishes, mushrooms, pasta and meat.
- Bay leaf is used for stocks, soups, fish, lamb and beef dishes. You can also place it in lids of storage jars to keep weevils out.
- Chives are onion-like in flavour and can be used to garnish soups, savouries, salads and sandwiches.
- Coriander resembles parsley, but has pungent flavour used in Asian cooking, curries and salads. Its seeds may also be used.
- Garlic has a strong odour and flavour and is used with meat, chutneys, sauces and in salads. If a cut clove of garlic is rubbed around a salad bowl, sufficient flavour is imparted for a subtle taste, especially in a lettuce salad.
- Mint leaves and sprigs are from the spearmint family and are used in mint sauce for roast lamb and are also used to flavour new potatoes, green peas, fruit drinks, pea and lentil soups.
- Oregano is used in Italian cooking, omelettes, pilafs and meat dishes.
- Parsley leaves are used to flavour and garnish most savoury dishes, soups and sauces. It's very easily grown in the garden and is much better if fresh.
- Rosemary is a small evergreen bush easily grown in the garden. It's better if fresh when used for meat, chicken, egg dishes. Use as sprigs or chopped.
When a recipe has quantities
You can use this quick guide to better understand quantities used in recipes.
- 1 cup of liquid = 250 ml
- 1 cup of flour = 125 g
- 1 teaspoon of liquid = 5 ml
- 1 dessertspoon of liquid = 10 ml
- 1 tablespoon of liquid = 20 ml
Before you turn on the oven
Oven temperatures will vary between manufacturers. The following are broad Celsius temperature ranges which can be applied to most recipes.
If you have a fan-forced oven, you should set the oven at 10 degrees lower than the temperatures recommended in the recipes.
- Plate warming - 60 (gas), 60 (electricity)
- Keep warm - 80, 80
- Cool - 100, 110
- Very slow - 120, 120
- Slow - 150, 150
- Moderately slow - 160, 170
- Moderate - 180, 200
- Moderately hot - 190, 220
- Hot - 200, 230
- Very hot - 230, 250
Food ideas and recipes are provided courtesy of Whittlesea Men's Shed.