Pantry recipes from our PhD candidates

In the era of lockdowns and empty supermarkets, it can be hard to pull together the motivation (and ingredients!) for a healthy meal. Here, six of our Deakin Nutrition PhD candidates offer some quick, cheap and healthy recipes anyone can make from things you may already have on hand.


Sarah’s Lentil Bolognese – Sarah Dickie


  • 1 onion
  • 1 small carrot (or half large carrot)
  • A few mushrooms (can be replaced with anything else depending on the season)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced or crushed
  • ½ – 1 cup of red lentils
  • 2 tins of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1-2 bay leafs
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • A couple of pinches of sugar (if you’re not using carrots)


All ingredients cut finely or into very small cubes. It’s possible to also emit all vegetables except the onion and it’s still delicious. Dried herbs and tomato paste are also optional.All ingredients cut finely or into very small cubes. It’s possible to also emit all vegetables except the onion and it’s still delicious. Dried herbs and tomato paste are also optional. Cook onion on medium heat until translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of ingredients, and roughly 1 cup of water (will be absorbed by the lentils). Bring to boil, and after a couple of minutes reduce to a simmer and put a lid on the pot. Cook until lentils are cooked, which is around 30 minutes, they should become slightly mushy (water should be mostly absorbed – a Bolognese consistency). If the water absorbs before the lentils cook just add a little more. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end, and a few pinches of sugar if you didn’t use carrots. Serve with pasta of choice!

Tuscan Tomato-Herb Foccacia Bread Clinton Maleki

Clinton Maleki’s Tuscan Tomato-Herb Foccacia Bread


  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup of lukewarm water
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbls rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and tarragon (can be dried/powder but I prefer fresh from my garden)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (have extra for dusting surface and hands)
  • 4-5 small/medium sized tomatoes or 2 large plum tomatoes
  • **OPTIONAL** – 1/4 cup of mozzarella and 4 tbls Parmesan cheese 


  1. In a large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of boiling water – this will make the bowl warm for your dough to rise (let it sit for a bit to come down to a cooler temperature. If you do not have a warm space in your kitchen, turn on your oven to 150 degrees
  2. Add in yeast, sugar, salt – allow to foam for approx 7-10 minutes (if water is too hot, it will kill the yeast). Add in the flour and oil and mix with your hands/spoon until a dough form (you can use a standmixer for this with a dough hook if you have one!!)
  3. After dough has formed a bowl, knead for approx 8 minutes until it is smooth (if you are using a standmixer with dough hook, you can let the hook do this part too)
  4. Drizzle a little oil over the dough in the bowl and cover with a tea towel – place in a warm spot to rest for 1-1.5 hours (until double in size) **If you have pre-heated your oven, turn it off now and keep the door slightly ajar with a spoon**
  5. Get a rectangular shaped baking tray that is about 30cm x 20cm; spray baking tray with oil, line with baking paper. Get proved dough and punch it down, allow it to rest for another 10 minutes. Shape the dough into the rectangular baking tray, rest for another 30 minutes 
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
  7. Thinly slice your tomatoes so that they are evenly sized. Place tomatoes in a bowl and cover with your herbs and mix well, add some pepper if you wish . With your fingers, make dimples across the entire bread to make the classic Foccacia look. place the tomatoes on the bread, evenly space them and sprinkle/cover with cheese if you are adding cheese 
  8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the dough is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack 

You can freeze these if you slice them into squares/rectangles/strips and re-heat in the oven at a later date. You can enjoy the Foccacia bread on its own or have it with your favourite soup or pasta!

Simple Braised Legumes- Bella Hartley


  • 500gm of dried legumes soaked in cold water overnight (I like to use a mix for extra nutrients – kidney beans, chickpeas, borlotti beans, essentially any dried beans in your cupboard)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 onions (If I have red and brown I use one of each to mix it up)
  • 5 garlic cloves (or more if you love garlic, quarantine means it doesn’t matter if we have garlic breath!)
  • 750ml vege stock or chicken stock (I always try and have at least a L of homemade chicken stock in the freezer for times when I haven’t been grocery shopping)
  • 2 x 400g Italian crushed tomatoes (or whatever canned tomatoes you have in the cupboard)
  • 1 x chilli (or to your tasting)
  • Either – smoked paprika around 1tsp or you can use 50g pancetta, both will give you a smoky style flavour, use smoked paprika if you don’t have pancetta or are vegetarian
  • Optional: eggplant or capsicum or zucchini or I essentially add any leftover vegetables in my fridge.
  • Optional: Italian cabbage (calvolo nero) or silver beet or frozen spinach (again, I always have frozen spinach in the freezer just in case).


Pre-heat oven to 160C. In a pot cover legumes with cold water generously (do not salt) bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for around 30min or until beans are starting to become tender. Drain. Heat half the oil in an oven safe casserole dish and add the chilli, onion, garlic, pancetta/paprika and on a low heat simmer stirring occasionally until soft. Add the stock, other vegetables, legumes and braise in the oven for around 1.5 hours or until the beans are soft. Add in the frozen spinach or calvolo nero and braise for another 30 min. Season to taste and enjoy on its own or with some pasta or rice or mashed potato or whatever else you have floating around in your cupboards.

Vegetarian Bean Chili

Vegetarian Bean Chilli – Sara Dingle


  • Oil of your choice
  • Diced onion
  • Garlic
  • Chilli
  • Mixed vegetables (dealers choice)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans beans (any will work)


In a large frying pan or sauté pan, heat some oil of your choice. Add in diced onion (red or brown both work well), garlic and chilli if desired and sauté until translucent and fragrant. If you have any other veggies that need using up chop those into small pieces and pop in and continue to cook, stirring occasionally – for this recipe additions that work well are things like capsicum, zucchini, carrots and sweet potato. Whilst the veggies are cooking add in 1 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Add in 1 can of crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water and 2 cans beans (pretty much any type works – black beans, kidney beans or four bean mix are my favourites). Simmer on a medium heat for at least another 10-15 minutes.

We often serve with rice but it’s also great on its own or served with some corn chips or topped with a sprinkle of cheese or a dollop of Greek yoghurt or sour cream. You can also use this mix as a base to make your own burritos or enchiladas.

Vegetable soup – Fiona Dangerfield


  • 1 brown onion, chopped,
  • 2 x 400g canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbs olive oil


In a large saucepan brown onion in oil until soft. Add all other ingredients and simmer slowly until lentils are soft. Blitz to a smooth consistency and serve with condiments of choice.

Brazillian Vinagrette- Barbara Vitorino Alencar Brayner


  • 2 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


This is a Brazilian sauce recipe that is quick, easy and goes nicely with almost everything. It’s similar to a Pico de Gallo sauce. Finely chop the onions, tomatoes and green bell pepper. Then transfer them into a bowl and add the other ingredients. Mix everything and leave it for 15 minutes. After this it is ready to serve! Tip: you can also skip the sugar, but it makes the sauce less acid. You can add this to your chicken, fish or even on top of a big bowl of rice, beans and veggies!


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