Kiwi cook Annabel Langbein has a practice that’s super handy at the height of summer. “Fridge fixings” are usually leftovers or components of meals that can be cooked ahead, to create a quick meal when you’re in a hurry or it’s too hot to cook.
“When you are tired and hungry, it’s virtually impossible to feel creative. You just want to eat right now, without having to think about how or what. Taking a little time each week to prepare flavour bases such as tasty pestos and enticing dressings greatly streamlines the cooking process and has a dramatic effect on the results”.
Langbein on Fridge Fixings, The Best of Annabel Langbein.
My favourite fridge fixings
Many of these recipes have been on high rotation during the hot weather. If I’m home in the comparative cool of the morning, I try to get some the hot work out of the way – oven roasting vegetables, making sauces and pickles if there’s an abundance of veg in the garden or at the market.
Caramelised onions – makes a speedy frittata or omelette, or throw them into most dishes that use cooked onions.
If you’re not a fan of the sugar in caramelised onions, simply sauté a big batch of onions (and garlic if you like it). Or next time the oven is on throw some unpeeled onions in a pan and roast them. Leave them whole in their skins in the fridge and chop as needed.) Cook a head of garlic while you’re at it and you’ve cut out the need to sauté the onions the next time you cook. Roasted onions also taste good sliced and added to salads.
Caponata – a Sicilian eggplant favourite that’s great as a side dish, or with pasta or eggs. I enjoy some non-traditional versions, sometimes adding a few soaked barberries or this twist with a few mystery ingredients!
Ratatouille – a French cousin of caponata, that can be used in similar ways.
Fermented vegetables – such as pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi – are a simple way to get a decent serve of vegetables without having to cook them. I usually have a combination of homemade or store-bought jars of these in my fridge. A spoonful of pickles can also lift the flavour of a salad, in a wrap or with a serve of protein.
Boiled eggs – when the pot is on I’ll cook a couple for today and a few to keep in the fridge for tomorrow or the day after. Don’t forget to rapidly chill the leftover boiled eggs in cold water, to stop them developing an unsightly dark ring around the yolks.
Roast vegetables – leftovers go well in salads, frittatas and even blended with stock for a soup. Don’t forget to throw in a few extra onions and some garlic.
Roast cauliflower gets a special mention. Leftovers make a delicious dip, or the hero ingredient in salads and pastas.
Asian spicy sambal is always worth making a double batch. This is a major cook-ahead component for nasi lemak (the perfect hot weather dish). As well as a condiment with an Asian meal, this sambal is great tossed through steamed greens or use a big dollop to stir through fried rice a couple of minutes before serving.
Parsley pesto – use your favourite green herb in season for this dairy-free/vegan version of the classic. I like it mixed through bean salad, steamed vegetables, zucchini ‘noodles’ or pasta.
Chia puddling is my favourite make ahead breakfast or dessert. It only takes minutes to stir and can last up to a week in the fridge. Serve with fresh fruit, nuts and/or cacao nibs.
Fixings in the freezer
I don’t tend to freeze many leftovers but there are a few staples in my freezer that are getting me though the summer.
Left over dhal – other than as a meal in their own right, it can be turned into a soup with vegetable stock, adding a dash of fish sauce (or soy), a squeeze of lime an and little extra chili before serving. A small serve of dhal when reheated can be the base of a wrap, with some salad leaves and chutney.
Vegan ravioli – a local company in Sydney’s inner west makes a fantastic range of frozen vege-packed ravioli. At a pinch, it’s easy to toss them through some garlic and herb-infused olive oil, if I can’t face making a more traditional sauce.
Corn tortillas are handy. I’ll throw almost anything in a tortilla or taco. Roast vegetables, canned fish, salad – you name it! The ingredients don’t have to be “Mexicanised” but it’s easy to make a quick salsa, guacamole or add just some hot sauce if you want to create those flavours.
Fluffy Greek pita breads (or your favourite gluten-free alternative) – I thaw small ones in the toaster, while the big ones get a minute or two each side in a large cast iron frying pan. Great for wraps.
Need more inspiration?
My Copy Me That recipe box – including chimchurri, fish vindaye, Gangas braised tomatoes and lots more pickles.
More pickles, condiments, sauces and dressings recipes, in the resources section of this site.