As the winter glut of root veg, leafy greens and citrus fruit start to wind down and we enter the short interval before spring’s bounty of asparagus, Jersey Royals and fresh peas, it can feel like an uninspiring time of year. But it doesn’t have to be. Food stylist, cookbook author and mother, Georgina Hayden shares how she’s filling in the upcoming hungry gap with a delicious storecupboard soup the kids will slurp up happily. Family food made easy.
Photography: Georgina Hayden
Writing storecupboard-friendly meals is one of my favourite ways to write recipes, as sad as that might sound. Sure, I go out with the intent to shop for specific recipes but half the time I’m cupboard and fridge-foraging. What needs using up? What have I bought too much of? In true Farmdrop style, I have become really aware of food waste in recent years and I wanted to do something about it.
While I am organised half of the week and meal plan when I need to, the rest of the time I make sure I use whatever’s leftover in my fridge or cupboards. The odds and sods that look a bit sad but are are nonetheless perfectly edible. Limp celery or carrot? Trim, chop and add it to the base of soups and stews. Not going to use up that last chunk of Cheddar? Grate it, bag it up and pop it in the freezer for a cheese-toastie rainy day.
When all you have is a tin of tomatoes…
Often, it’s not just my fridge that needs raiding. My larder and dry store is just as important. Some of the things I always seem to have too much of are bread, pasta and tinned tomatoes (it appears that I buy tins of tomatoes every time I shop). So making pappa al pomodoro is a no-brainer when it comes to using up leftovers or storecupboard bits and bobs.
If you’ve never tried it before, it’s one of those recipes that’s so much more delicious than the ingredient list makes it sound. Also, it’s unbelievably easy and not too involved either; both key factors when it comes to cooking with kids around. And if you are feeding very little ones, the beauty of this soup is how thick it is. Toddlers eating water-based soups is a disaster waiting to happen.
This is a classic version of the recipe, but you could also pimp it with other larder favourites such as charred red peppers or even olives (depending on how little your kids are – just be careful with salt content). I’ve included fresh tomatoes for real sweetness, but if it’s out of season or you only have tinned ones to hand, you can use those too. These ricotta fritters are my own addition, as I try to make meals for Persephone that are as well-rounded as possible; always some carbs, dairy and veg. Feel free to leave them out for a real storecupboard meal.
Pappa al pomodoro with ricotta fritters
Serves: 2 adults and 2-4 kids
– extra virgin olive oil
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pappa al pomodoro:
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 bunch of basil
– optional: 280g ripe tomatoes (or a second 400g tin of plum tomatoes)
– 1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
– 250g stale white bread
For the ricotta fritters:
– 250g ricotta
– 1 egg
– ½ a lemon
– 30g mature Cheddar (you can use Parmesan for older kids)
– 1 tablespoon self-raising flour
To make the soup:
1. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Pick the basil leaves, leave to one side and finely chop the stalks. Roughly chop the fresh tomatoes, if using.
2. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large saucepan, then add the garlic and basil stalks. Leave to soften for a couple of minutes then add the chopped fresh tomatoes and soften for 5 minutes.
3. Add the can(s) of plum tomatoes, plus one and a half cans’ worth of water. Break the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon and bring to the boil.
4. Turn the heat right down and leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
5. Tear in the basil leaves, season with a little salt (depending on the age range you’re cooking for) and black pepper and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
To make the ricotta fritters:
6. While the soup is ticking over, make the fritters. Beat the ricotta in a mixing bowl with a fork. Crack in the egg, finely grate in the lemon zest and Cheddar and season with a little pepper.
7. Beat it all together then finally mix in the flour.
8. Place a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-low heat and drizzle in a little olive oil. Fry spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture until they are golden underneath, around 3 minutes, then flip over and fry for a couple more minutes until cooked through.
9. After cooking the soup for 30 minutes, tear the bread into large chunks and stir into the soup. Serve with any remaining basil leaves, a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (for the adults) and fritters on top.
For your storecupboard staples and all other ingredients featured in this recipe, go to farmdrop.com.
Seeking more meal ideas to feed the whole family? Check out more of Georgina Hayden’s recipes in her Farmblog series, from quick fish pie and 30-minute Sloppy Joe Burgers to Thai fish curry to breakfast cauliflower cheese fritters to this cowboy bean stew.