Cooking In The Time Of COVID-19: Making Do With What We Have

So you’re in self-isolation because of COVID-19. Or maybe you’re just wanting to do a bit of social distancing and are staying in rather than eating out. Perhaps you’re like me you might have discovered that because of panic buying, you’re unable to get any food into the house, so you have to make do with what you have on hand.

If you’re a cooking novice then the idea of having to make something edible out of a bunch of random ingredients might be a little scary, but never fear! I happen to specialise in simple cooking.

This is what my store cupboard shelves look like at the moment.

You’ll notice there’s a lot of chickpeas, baked beans, and soup. Oh there’s some Marmite, coconut flour, and the brown packet on the far left is kale powder, while below it is cacao butter. Sure your shelves more than likely won’t look like this but even with this lot I’m scratching my head as to what to do with them. Soup and beans, not a problem…but all those chickpeas! Anyway.

I’m not going to be making anything from those ingredients tonight. Instead, I’m going to show you a simple way to use up the veg that are quite possibly lurking in your fridge and turn them into something absolutely amazing.

Chances are you’ve got some of these veg hanging about in your fridge, or in the case of onions, wherever you keep them (ours are in a box). We’re using courgettes/zucchini, aubergines/eggplant, and a green pepper/capsicum, and onions, because that’s what we had. This would work equally well with tomatoes, or even potatoes, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash. Spinach or cabbage would work too! You might not have onions, but leeks would work just as well…or leave them out altogether. Substitute whatever you’ve got and “make do”.

Once you’ve got your ingredients together, go wash your hands. Properly! The whole 20 seconds worth. Now take the onions, chop the top and bottom off (the sort of frilly bits) and peel the top layer of skin off. Apparently if you put a piece of bread in your mouth it stops your eyes watering – no idea if that’s true or not! If you’ve got a chopping gadget like me, you can have a little bit of fun smashing them to pieces…

Or…you could just chop them into fine pieces.

Before you chop up the onions, pour a nice dash of extra Virgin olive oil into a wok/frying pan/saucepan, and heat it on the stove for a bit while you’re taking all your tension out on your onions. Pour the onions into the pan, taking care not to be splashed by the hot oil.

Next, peel your courgette/zucchini, and chop it into batons (thin strips).

Add these to the pan. You’ll have also added some herbs and spices to the mix – doesn’t really matter what sort, just what you’ve got on hand really! We added coriander, dill, thyme, garlic granules, and maybe just a little bit too much fennel seed. You live and learn!

Stir stir stir. Get all those spices mixed in. Next you’re going to chop up your aubergine/eggplants. Same sort of deal as with the courgette/zucchini, peel the skin off, then cut them into batons:

Pop them in the pan as well, stirring stirring stirring. Now cut up the pepper/capsicum. I only had a green pepper on hand, but for this I’d most likely have gone for a red pepper or a yellow/orange pepper, not only because it adds some colour, but also because I prefer the flavour. Did you know that the so-called traffic light peppers are actually just the same variety (California pepper), just at different stages of ripeness? Green is mature, but not fully ripe, yellow or orange is intermediate, and red peppers are fully ripe. So there you go! The easiest way to chop up a pepper/capsicum is to slice down between the ribs –

Once you’ve done that, make sure to cut out the white bits, as they can be a bit bitter. Also make sure you remove all the seeds. You can put them aside and grow them if you like!

Slice up the pepper pieces in the same way as you sliced the rest, and add to the pan. You’re going to have to slosh a bit more oil in every now and again, but not too little and not too much – a “Goldilocks” amount.

Keep stirring and mixing. Now pour it into a casserole dish (or some other heatproof dish). We got this one with a jar of Dolmio pasta sauce a few years back, but you can pour yours into a baking tin, or whatever you have on hand. Basically it’s just to warm it all together. You can even it it like it is.

If you’re a vegetarian pop it in the oven now to give it a quick warm through at about 200 degrees C (350-375 degrees F) for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Meat eaters follow me! If you’ve got diced chicken, or mince of some variety to hand, make sure it’s properly defrosted, then pop it into the pan. Mix a few more spices – we added some of the kale powder from our store cupboard:

Cook thoroughly – we don’t want food poisoning! If you’ve got diced chicken make sure there’s no pink bits – the same goes for mince. Once you’re satisfied it’s all good, add it to the veg in the casserole dish and mix it all together. I added some apple cider vinegar at this point, but it’s not necessary – I just like it! As with the veg instructions, cook for about 10 minutes at 200 C/350 F. If you want, you can grate some cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan…) and sprinkle it on top before you put it in the oven.

Once you’ve finished, pop it in bowls and eat. We served 4 quite easily.

Let us know if you cook this! What did you think? Did you make any changes, or did you make some improvements? We’d love to know!

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email