Copyright Tom Dyson

No veg gluts at the moment. Just snow. I imagine there’s a cabbage glut somewhere under the snowflakes, but since I can’t see it we’ll just have to hope that the snow preserves them for milder days than these. 

Instead, I am embracing the 10cm-of-snow-means-we’re-snowed-in doctrine so prevalent at the moment. I have shunned the supermarket since the snow came (can’t possibly go out in this weather). I am living off tins with best before dates long since past and mysterious jars of nameless chutney from the larder. Turns out, it’s quite a varied diet. And so I unapologetically deviate one again from the rules of g&g to bring you this week’s glut: odds and ends from the pantry and/or freezer.

Warm Lentil Salad:

  • 165g puy lentils
  • 400ml chicken or veg stock
  • A handful of finely chopped allium-related veg (whatever’s lurking at the bottom of the fridge. I like onions and celery)
  • A jar of roasted peppers in oil
  • Some crumble-able cheese such as feta or goats cheese

In a slug of oil, gently fry the root veg until soft but not coloured. Add the lentils and stir to coat in the oily veg. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 25 minutes or until the lentils are done (they should absorb all the liquid).

Mix the lentils with the drained peppers and cheese and pour over a dressing of olive oil and balsamic. If you have lemons, add a squeeze of lemon juice too.

Feeds 2 greedies.

(For the full blown can-get-to-the-supermarket version, see Diana Henry’s Food From Plenty.)

This basic recipe is endlessly adaptable depending on what you have available. If you can see your parsley under the snow, then chuck some of that in. Rocket leaves work well too if you’ve had foresight beyond mine in your greenhouse planning. Anything pork-related loves puy lentils too so raid your freezer for bacon, pancetta or sausages and add them cooked to the stock so their flavour can mingle whilst the lentils cook.

Ras-el-Hanout:

This spice mix translates from the Arabic as “top of the shop” and refers to all the posh spices that were kept on the top shelf of the spice shop because the were pricey and rarely requested. There are endless variations of the mix. I was taught this one at Thyme Manor. I make a jar of it and keep it in the larder rather than mix it fresh every time – I’m not that Stepford.

For the spice mix:

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 6 cardamon pods, seeds only
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 allspice
  • 1 tsp flakey salt

Lightly fry the seeds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes until you can smell their aromas. Grind to a powder and remove any big bits of husk. Mix the crushed seeds with everything else and store in a jar.

Gobsmackingly versatile, this mix is classically used as a meat rub, but brings life to pretty much anything that might otherwise be a bit glum. A humble can of chickpeas warmed in a little stock, half an onion, if you have it, and a teaspoon of Ras-el-hanout left to simmer for about 30 minutes makes a handsome stew. Good with a dollop of yogurt and a flatbread too. And, never one to miss the opportunity that snow brings for comfort food, this mix is ideal for the following rice comforter:

ras stewSpicy Cupboard Comforter:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 girl’s handfuls of basmati rice
  • 500ml veg or chicken stock
  • 2 chicken thighs deboned and cut into chunks
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas (you could also try it with
  • mushrooms, butternut squash or peppers)
  • a scattering of pine nuts or sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp Ras-el-hanout

Toss the chicken in the spice mix with a little oil and leave for as long as you can, an hour minimum.

In a wide and shallow heavy bottomed pan or deep frying pan, heat a little oil and brown the chicken pieces.

Reduce the heat, add the onion and fry gently until soft. If you’re using anything other than frozen peas, add that veg now and cook for a few minutes.

Add the rice and coat in the oil. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer and clamp a lid on for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

15 minutes in to the rice cooking time, add the frozen peas. Once the rice is soft, scatter over the pine nuts and trough, preferably by the fire whilst flicking through seed catalogues and dreaming of spring.

Feeds 2 frost-bitten people.