Bowl of penne pasta on a white bench

3 easy dinner ideas using pantry staples

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Need a little cooking inspiration to turn your pantry staples into a tasty meal? Transform that jar of lentils or can of beans into a healthy and delicious dish using these nutritionally balanced recipes.

1. Healthy bean chilli

Packed with good plant-based protein, vitamins and fibre, beans are always a healthy and helpful thing to have on hand.

And using just one tin from the cupboard, this flavour-packed dish is hearty enough to satisfy even the most devout meat-eaters.
 
Simply fry a diced onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and a couple of celery sticks with olive oil in a casserole dish until softened.

If you have any carrot or other hard, diced veg, toss them in and cook for a few minutes before adding a tin of beans (try red kidney, black beans, cannellini or borlotti), drained and rinsed, along with a tin of chopped tomatoes.

Add half a cup of stock and any spices you have at hand, such as sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin or coriander, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until liquid has reduced and vegetables are softened.

Season and serve with cooked rice or buttered toast.

Still got beans to spare? Check out this recipe for chimichurri chicken skewers with white bean salad

2. Golden garlic, bacon and pea pasta

This dish can be made with any variety of pasta you have to hand – including wholemeal or gluten-free.

Paired with the humble pea, which is incredibly vitamin-rich and full of antioxidants,  it’s a dinner-time winner.

Thinly slice a couple of cloves of garlic and a few bacon rashers.

Pan-fry the bacon until crispy and remove from pan. Add the garlic and fry until golden.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente.

One minute before the pasta is ready, add frozen peas. Reserve a little pasta cooking water before draining. Mix the pasta, reserved cooking water, peas, garlic, bacon, grated parmesan, salt and pepper to combine.

If you have cauliflower or broccoli, this makes for a great addition, too – just add it to the pasta water a few minutes before you drain it.

Make it vegetarian by skipping the bacon. For a purely plant-based dish substitute the parmesan with nutritional yeast.

This sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto pasta is a winner, too.

3. Creamy coconut dhal

Lentils are a pantry power-player. Great in salads and soups, they elevate the protein, nutrient and fibre credentials of any meal. Using red split lentils, which cook quickly, this warming winter dahl can be on the table in 20 minutes.

Heat ghee or vegetable oil in a saucepan. Add a diced onion, a teaspoon of grated ginger and a pinch of mustard seeds and cook until the seeds begin to pop.

Add fresh or dried curry leaves (optional) and cook for 30 seconds.

Add 2 cups rinsed red lentils and stir to coat.

Add a can of coconut milk, and a pinch of turmeric, salt, pepper and cumin, and cook over low heat until lentils are soft.

Stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste.

Serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt and coriander leaves.

Would you like to enjoy more lentils? Try this herby lentil and pumpkin salad.
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