Recipes: Mum's storecupboard standbys for tasting eating in testing times

What can we feed ourselves during this period of social distancing and self isolation? Di Curtin has the answer...
Recipes: Mum's storecupboard standbys for tasting eating in testing times

Storecupboard Pasta with Scallions and Cheese.

THERE'S no doubt about it, we’re experiencing some very difficult circumstances at present. It would be hard to ignore that and write about something less important this week. So I’m turning my attention to Coronavirus, Covid-19, and what we can do to feed ourselves well during these periods of social distancing and self isolation.

My Mum lived through a war and knew only too well what it was like, to have to live on what was in the pantry. A skill that stayed with her all her life, passed on to me probably by osmosis more than ever being taught. Our pantry was forever stocked with ‘handy tins’. These included plum tomatoes, baked beans, canned fish, canned corned beef and canned fruit. As pulses grew in popularity, these were introduced too. I also remember dried peas, barley and split peas ‘for soup’. Ours was a wartime pantry, stocked by someone who lived on rations for several years of her life. In these times, I’m glad I have a role model to follow and I can’t think of a better way to honour my Mum on Mother’s Day this Sunday, than to put to good use the skills she gave me.

I’ve stocked up on a few essentials to get us through the weeks when those of us who are working from home or have been laid off can survive without leaving the house. The less we do that the better, is the advice. As a basic list I’d suggest canned tomatoes (flavoured ones are good for sauces) baked beans, canned pulses of any sort, canned fish, pasta, rice and lentils.

All these are full of protein and will either bulk out a small amount of fresh ingredients or make a nourishing meal in themselves. We didn’t have a freezer then, but most homes do now. A well stocked freezer contains frozen veggies, fish and meat cuts, so there’s always something to make a dinner.

This weekend’s recipe uses only penne pasta with canned chopped tomatoes flavoured with garlic and herbs, as a really basic sauce. I had some scallions handy in the fridge and plenty of cheese, so you’ve got your carbs and protein in one shot. You can supplement it with any fresh or frozen veggies you might have or add canned tuna as well. My version isn’t fancy or fabulous. But its basic grub you can knock up in no time without having to run down the shop.

You can eat this as it comes or bake it in a pre-heated oven for a golden and bubbling gratin.

Make sure you also have a few cans of evaporated milk in your cupboard. Great for a creamy and comforting rice pudding, and means you don’t have to use as much fresh milk. Use it for pancakes and baked items too. Eat well, sleep well, keep your mental health in good shape by getting out in the fresh air, even if it’s only the garden, read books, listen to your favourite tunes - and hopefully we will all come through these next few weeks with our health and sanity intact.


Ingredients (Serves 4)

 300g penne pasta 

Extra virgin olive oil for cooking

 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped 

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes flavoured with garlic and herbs 

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

50g grated mature cheddar 


  • Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water till just al dente.
  • While pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a pan. Reserve a few scallions for the top, add the remainder to the pan. Cook for a minute, stirring.
  • Stir in chopped tomatoes and season. Bring to bubbling, stirring. Season. Cook for a few minutes till sauce is reduced slightly.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain, leaving a little water clinging to the shapes.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and stir through. Season and scatter over the reserved chopped scallions.
  • Spoon into a dish and cover with grated cheese. Eat as it comes or pop into a pre-heated oven, Gas 5 375F 190C for 10 minutes or until browned and bubbling.
Rice pudding topped with Strawberry Jam.
Rice pudding topped with Strawberry Jam.


Ingredients (Serves 4) 

110g pudding rice (short grain) 

25g sugar 

410g can condensed milk 

425mls fresh milk 

Freshly grated nutmeg 

1 tsp ground ginger Knob of butter 


  • Place the rice and sugar into a large ovenproof dish roughly 1.1ltr capacity. Stir to mix together evenly.
  • Heat the evaporated and fresh milk gently in a pan but don’t boil Pour over the rice.
  • Add nutmeg and ginger.
  • Dot surface with butter and add extra grated nutmeg Bake for an 1-1/1/2 hours or until the rice is tender and pudding is set.
  • Serve topped with jam, compote made with frozen fruit, or canned fruit in natural syrup.


Penne pasta 1kg 94c

Chopped tomatoes with garlic and herbs 2 x 400g €2.90 

Scallions 69c

Mature cheddar cheese 200g €2.00 (special offer)

Total: €7.53 


Evaporated milk 410g €2.29

Milk 1ltr 99c

Pudding rice 500g €2.19

Total: €5.57


More in this section

Sponsored Content