Old Mother Hubbard, went to the cupboard…

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After a busy weekend that involved much socializing and not much planning for the coming week, I felt like Old Mother Hubbard on Monday evening, staring into my almost bare cupboard with a rumbling stomach and a 4 year old that is likely to get hangry if not fed regularly.

Thankfully, there are a few food basics that are always in abundance in our house, and one of these is basmati rice. I often over-buy it because when I pass it on the supermarket shelf, I think “do I have enough rice for dinner at home?” and decide “feck it, it’s only 5 cent for a 14 kilo bag, I’ll get some just in case”.

Cupboard Surprise

Now I was able to confirm that I had a carbohydrate staple from which to form a basic dish before the red mist descended on Easkey from lack of food. So I decided to work my magic with the remnants of what was in the kitchen using a flexible recipe that my husband likes to call the “cupboard surprise”.

I gathered low-sodium stock, mushrooms, onion, pepper, dried oregano, soya sauce, parmesan cheese and some leftover chicken and set about making a risotto-style dish that would hit the spot, despite not being legally deemed a risotto since I was using basmati rice. But that’s just semantics…

It is true what they say that hunger is the best sauce – the dish was perfectly tasty, though missing some extra flavor punchiness that would have been possible if I had had extra cheese, a variety of mushrooms and fresh herbs. I added a cherry tomato and cucumber salad tossed in some balsamic vinegar to give the dish some colour. And all-in-all, it was a solid 7 on the tastiness spectrum 😀

I didn’t want to write this post just to show off my clearly awesome culinary skills, and my even more amazing photography 😉 But I just want to share that if you are smart about your shopping list, especially for the store cupboard basics, you will always have something on hand that will stop you from reaching for the take away menu or a ready meal, or any other options that will leave you feeling guilty and/or a little less well off on the wallet front.

My advice is to make up a list of staple foods that you use often and that you enjoy, and keep the list on your phone so that you always have it to hand if you’re caught on an impromptu shopping trip (the worst kind!). Or if you have a few kids hanging off you in the shops and concentrating for more than a nanosecond on the task at hand is nigh-impossible, never mind trying to time-travel back in your mind to remember what’s in the cupboards.

Preparation is key (and that’s an old staple on the cliché front!)

Cupboard Surprise Mushroom Risotto


  • Pack of mushrooms
  • Leftover chicken (if you have it)
  • 1 low sodium veg stock cube
  • dried oregano
  • Tsp or 2 or soy sauce
  • 350g Arborio rice (or any rice you have, cooked to instructions)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 80g freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Put the rice in large pan of salted water and cook for 15 mins (or per instructions). Check it is cooked through but with a slight bite.
  2. Fry the onion and mushrooms in oil for 4 mins, until soft, and remove from heat.
  3. Add a crumbled stock cube, mushrooms, soy sauce and oregano (and chicken if you have it) to the onions.
  4. Stir in a few tablespoons of water.
  5. Drain the rice and return to the hot pan.
  6. Add the mushroom sauce to the rice, mixing to combine.
  7. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper and some more oregano if you like.

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