MasterChef's Stephanie De Sousa shares pantry stocking and cooking tips for self-isolated cooks

BE CREATIVE: Stephanie De Sousa gives us a look inside her pantry and shares her tips on what to cook - and how - while self-isolating. Picture: Peter Stoop

BE CREATIVE: Stephanie De Sousa gives us a look inside her pantry and shares her tips on what to cook - and how - while self-isolating. Picture: Peter Stoop

Talented home cook Stephanie De Sousa made it to the top 12 on MasterChef Australia last year but right now is in the same predicament as most of us.

She's self-isolating as much as possible, venturing out from her Warners Bay home to gather ingredients to feed her family - and often coming back empty-handed.

It's Lord of the Flies revisited at supermarkets, as we know.

So, what is she cooking, what is she stocking in her pantry and what should we have in ours in order to keep putting nutritious meals on the table?

"In my pantry I have the basics. Rice, lentils, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, flour, sugar and oats," she told Food & Wine.

"My priorities at the moment when preparing a meal are flavour, health and no waste.

"I have started measuring things like rice and lentils rather than my usual shake method.

"I am aiming to cook enough rather than having leftovers that get thrown out."

In her rare outings to the supermarket, she has noticed one trend in particular. Tinned and packaged goods are "running out the door".

It's a good excuse to experiment and make food from scratch.

"It seems that there is still fresh fruit and vegetables and some meat available but they are not the commonly eaten ones," she explained.

"There has been eggplants, squash, sweet potatoes, red onion, spinach, limes, pineapple and more left to buy.

"Now is a great time to try new things and that is also great news for your health. The more variety you have in your diet, the more varied the vitamins and minerals you are eating."

She says now is "a great time to get back to good old-fashioned cooking from scratch".

"Make your own sauces, curry paste and so on. Google is your friend when it comes to recipes; so are those recipe books you have that are collecting dust.

"Every meal I cook has herbs and spices and salt. Everyone has those jars of spices hiding in the back of their pantry.

"Now is the time to break them out.

"To freshen them up, simply put them in a dry pan on a medium heat and toast them until you start to smell their beautiful aroma.

"And there are still herbs in the shops, so try something new.

"Swap in and out. Mince is hard to get at the moment, but you can get beef and pork in larger pieces. Just chop it up finely.

"If you can't get chicken breast, use thigh or maybe turkey. Even better, learn how to break down a whole chicken. I taught myself from YouTube videos. Then use the carcass to make the most delicious stock for soup or risotto.

"Use the whole vegetable. Just give those potatoes and carrots a good wash and use the skins. They have great fibre and nutrients.

"Keep all the off-cuts and skins to throw into the stock pot with your chicken carcass. Yes, even your onion skins. It all has flavour.

"Lastly and most importantly, as I mentioned before, use salt. Salt equals flavour. It can make a boring dish dance."