pack backers: do you overlook this wonderful source of recipes?
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]

cabbage noodle salad-3 cabbage noodle salad-2

When I was writing ‘And the love is free – mum, a life with recipes’, one of my favourite things was digging through Mum’s little recipe book. There were all sorts of recipes in there, but most of my favourites were things that had come from the back of a packet of something or other. There was the prize-winning sponge cake that came from the back of a packet of corn flour, or her signature dish lemon meringue pie that was inspired by a can of sweetened condensed milk, just to name a few.

With so many cookbooks and magazines, not to mention the internet and wonderful world of food blogs, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by all the sources of recipes out there. So I guess, I’m not often looking out for new things to try when I pick up a packet of sugar or flour. But recently I was reminded just how useful recipes from the back of a packet can be.

A few weeks ago my Irishman came home from work saying they’d had a pretty standard barbeque for lunch. The highlight had been the most amazing salad made by his colleague Alice. The salad was an unusual combination of raw cabbage and some sort of fried noodle with a lovely dressing. I’m always on the lookout for good Asian salads so I suggested we see if Alice would share her recipe.

The next day I got an email with a link to the website of Mr Chang, manufacturer of a wide range of Asian ingredients. There it was, the exotic sounding ‘oriental fried noodle salad’. I made a mental note to pickup some cabbage and fried noodles and the rest is history really.

Do you ever make use of recipes featured on the packaging? If you do, I’d love to hear of any of your tried and true recipes that came to you from the back of a packet. Please feel free to share in the comments.

cabbage noodle salad

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
cabbage & crispy noodle salad

serves 2

Inspired by the recipe on the back of Mr Chang’s fried noodles.

Feel free to experiment with this. Mr Chang uses green onions (scallions) and almonds in his version.

If the thought of using fried noodles in a salad doesn’t appeal, why not replace the noodles with some cooked brown rice for a more healthy option. Or even go for a handful of slivered almonds to keep the nutty crunch factor.

I prefer this when the noodles are lovely and crisp, so best to wait until you’re ready to serve before proceeding with step 3.

1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice or sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 white cabbage
1/2 packet (about 50g or 2oz) fried noodles

1. Combine soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Taste and season with a little more soy or sugar if you thing it needs it.

2. Slice cabbage as finely as possible, discarding any stalky bits.

3. Toss cabbage and noodles in the dressing.

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For today’s video component, I’ve created a little welcome to stonesoup clip:

stonesoup welcome video from jules clancy on vimeo.

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{ 38 comments }

Wei-Wei September 6, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Strange, I’ve always dismissed them, but I guess they can be inspirations as well? What about those brownie “ideas” on the back of brownie mixes? Hmm. I wonder…

Kath September 7, 2010 at 12:37 am

My favorite recipe for an all-American chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting is on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box! It’s easy and delicious. It’s perfect for a chocolate birthday cake!

Kath September 7, 2010 at 12:38 am

Forgot to mention – very nice welcome video! Well done!

Cally September 7, 2010 at 3:14 am

Oh I love trying the recipes on the backs of packets, and some have even made their way into my treasured collection – like the cinnamon streusel cake from the American “Chex” cereal packet, which back home in the UK I make with Shreddies. I guess it wouldn’t count as minimalist, but it is simple to make and everyone loves it!

Spotted an annoying thing on the inside of a dark chocolate packet the other day, though: a recipe to be made with white chocolate. Wonder what you get inside the white chocolate packet?

WP September 7, 2010 at 3:15 am

Mine came not from the back of a packet, but from the back of a label for canned tuna. It was for a tuna-filled omelette…I can’t remember the exact recipe (it was actually my mother who made it, I was too young to cook so I just showed her the recipe :P ), but now I mix the tuna with sliced onions and red chilli, and season with salt and pepper.

I always look at the recipes on labels/packets (if I notice them :P )…but most of the time I don’t bother making them because they’re too complicated (I’m a lazy cook :P ) or because it looks like something I already make.

Alyssa September 7, 2010 at 4:42 am

Libby’s pumpkin pie! Some might think of TollHouse cookies, but I’m not a fan of their recipe. Or using cake mix as the starter for cookies. People have been hired explicitly to find reasons to use their product, so you can trust their work to a certain extent–especially for an atypical food item.

sarah k. September 7, 2010 at 7:05 am

I kept thinking “what do back-packers have to do with this post?” until I re-read the title! I think I may be a little dyslexic. One of my new favorite package recipes is on a sugar bag. It’s peanut butter cookies with only 4 ingredients, and I’m here to tell you, it really works, and they’re chewy and delicious.

1 Cup peanut butter (I like natural, crunchy, and have even subbed in some almond butter)
1 Cup sugar (some people use as little as 1/2 cup, with tolerable results)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla (sort of optional, I guess)

bake at 350 F for 10 minutes

I’ve seen some complaints that the cookies are too crumbly (obviously overcooked), and people add a teaspoon of baking soda, but I don’t think it needs it. They puff up a little when they’re ready, then settle back down as they cool. Bonus, they’re gluten free, if you’ve got a celiac in your midst.

Elizabeth September 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

This has to be one of my favourite salads….we eat it often. I always check for recipes on packets and have found some great ideas which have remained favourites.

Stephanie September 7, 2010 at 10:31 am

I definitely check out the recipes on the backs. My favorite is a Black Bean Pepper Salad recipe from the back of a can of black beans. It’s really simple: 3 diced different colored bell peppers, a diced red onion, a can of corn, and a can of rinsed black beans. To that you add a clove or two of crushed garlic, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp oil, and (my own measurement) 1/4 c. of apple cider vinegar. It’s wonderful and fresh either on its own or we really like to put it on top of salads. Leftovers are good as filler for soup!

AmandaLP September 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

I had several professional cake decorators recommend the Hershey chocolate cake from the box, and it is my go to chocolate cake recipe (doctored up a bit, it becomes my “Awesome Orange Chocolate cupcakes). Companies want to make sure that their products are used, and thus typically the recipes on the box are tested hundreds of time to make sure they work under a variety of conditions.

Kristen September 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

When I was growing up in Melbourne in the 1980′s my mother would often cook ‘Soyroni’ from the back of a packet of what I guess were soy noodles. It was a family favourite and I think had a mix of veggies and egg done in the wok. Mum didn’t write the recipe down as she always just referred to the label. We can’t find the product to check the label these days, although there are other soy noodles around, so the recipe is lost. If anyone knows it, please let me know…..

Also on high rotation inthose days was ‘Bami’ from the back of a packet of dried Asian noodles. Same idea – cabbage, beef mince and egg with chilli sauce etc done in the wok. Mum hand-wrote this one into a notebook of everyday family recipes when I left home in 1990 and I made it the other day for the first time in 20 years out of interest. Of course it was not nearly as good as I remembered, but it was absolutely fine – cheap, easy, healthy family food. And I guess that is where the back of the label recipe really comes into its own.

(Loved the video, Jules, BTW)

Charlotte September 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

I know and love that Chang’s salad, a friend put me on to it, and it always gets lots of comments. I usually use red cabbage and/or a bit of red onion to give it a bit more colour, and it is foolproof!
A quick and tasty chicken and couscous meal I make came off the back of the moroccan seasoning jar – it is a pretty obvious combo but it is easy to get into a week-night rut so I am always keen for variations on a theme. Dice up pumpkin into bite sized cubes and bake until soft and ideally a bit crispy/caramelised on the edges. At the same time, bake boneless chicken fillets (I prefer thighs but breasts are fine too) rubbed with olive oil and some kind of spice rub of your choice till cooked through. Prepare couscous to packet directions, then stir through chopped coriander, feta, lemon zest and juice (I also sometimes add sultanas plumped up by soaking for 5 mins in boiling water). Combine the cooked pumpkin with the couscous mixture, slice the chicken fillets and serve together.
I find good inspiration for quick and easy options often comes from “meals in minute” type sidebars in the paper/Mx type things.

ellmarlew September 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I am so enjoying your blog! It’s very inspiring. And this is a fun post.

One of my favorite back of the package recipes is for Artichoke Dip. Easy, just a few ingredients, and people love it.

ARTICHOKE DIP

Makes: 2-1/2 cups dip
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients:
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (or two little jars)
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 oz.)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then spoon into a smallish casserole dish. (I actually like to split it between two of my shallow, oval french white Corningware dishes.) Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until heated through. Serve with baguette or crackers, hot or cold.

Lucy September 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

This is very encouraging!

(I spend a fair bit of my working time writing some of those recipes on the back of packs, so big yay, Jules.)

KT September 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Yep, I’m a back-of-the-pack fan. I’ve been using that Chang’s salad recipe for years – so easy to make, and always a big hit.

My most recent effort was a recipe off the back of a pack of pearl couscous (a Gabriel Gaté recipe, from memory).

Hannah September 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I have to admit, I love *looking* at the recipes on the back of packets, but I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever made one! Even the recipe on the back of the custard packet, I don’t follow… But they make for mighty entertaining reading! :)

Phuong September 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm

The chicken and asparagus risotto recipe on the back of the sunrice aborio rice packet is gold!

Fi September 7, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Changs crispy noodle salad has become a family favourite. It’s rare that there is any left over but if there is my advice is turf it. I’ve tried it the next day and sadly it’s horrible – soggy and mushy. You might be interested to know, Jules, it was recommended to me by the same friend that recommended your blog. I love both.

Marie (a.k.a. gardenfreshtomatoes) September 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

The first two things I ever cooked as a teenager were packet-back recipes. One was spaghetti sauce made with ground beef, the other good old Toll House cookies. They were the ONLY things I knew how to cook when I got married at 19! My next attempt was a paella on the back of the Minute Rice box… I thought it was good, but in the process discovered I had married a man who hated spicy food. My cooking didn’t improve much until after my divorce… :P

I like the video – you seem more comfortable in this one than the first. Watch your camera angles, though. You’ve cut off the top inch of your head…

Alex September 7, 2010 at 11:10 pm

First scones I ever baked came from the back of a plain flour packet! Same with first caramels, cornflake biscuits and chocolate crackles on the back of a copha wrapper…. Healthy childhood, I know…..

Susan September 8, 2010 at 1:29 am

Great post! I also did a double-take on the title. I love it when you get a little something extra with your purchase (ie a free recipe).

Lynn September 8, 2010 at 3:03 am

In the U.S., ‘ramen salad’ has become a standard cook-out dish (picnic, potluck, backyard bbq, whatever you’d like to call it). The basic recipe is the same as yours above, but you can also add a little oil (I don’t put much in) and sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, and green onions (scallions). And if the ramen noodles come with a seasoning packet, you put that in the dressing as well.

Here are some of the recipes:
http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1743,134177-244192,00.html
http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1843,155185-235199,00.html

Dylan September 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I… I have a thing for these recipes. I have printed cookbooks full of them. I love them to death… And would likely never make any:P

Katherine September 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I have to second “Libby’s pumpkin pie!” It’s always excellent, although I up the spice a bit.

lili - pikelet and pie September 8, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I don’t normally buy things in packets, and when I do here the recipes are all in Vietnamese, so I can’t make them! My Grandma loves to make this salad, I’ve eaten it often. The other good one with those noodles is ‘spiders’. Mix the noodles with melted dark chocolate and peanut butter. They set into little sweet salty clusters of delicious childhood memories :)

Emma September 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm

One of my favourite salads came on the back of a can of Greenseas tuna in olive oil – tuna, roasted baby potatoes, feta cheese and salad leaves in a lemon and olive oil dressing – I add avocado to it as well.

If I buy a packet mix cake on the odd occasion, I will look at the recipe on the back for more interesting ideas as well.

Sheena September 9, 2010 at 12:51 am

I absolutely LOVE the Baker’s One Bowl Brownies that used to be on the back of the Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate box. It’s not there anymore, but I cut it out one time so I still have it – thank goodness!

Dan T September 9, 2010 at 7:37 am

As an Irishman myself, I would say that you have a lucky Irishman there.

A very enjoyable blog.

Karen September 9, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I love the fruitcake recipe on the back of the sunbeam mixed fruit packet. I substitute some liqueur tokay for the sherry, and its divine.

vivzilla September 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Actually, I’m a fan of the other recipe on the back of Chang’s noodles, chocolate hedgehogs/spiders.

Melt a block of chocolate, add a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, add a packet of noodles and make them into balls and chill. BAM! deliciousness.

Karinny Cezar September 10, 2010 at 3:59 am

Hi Jules, nice to meet you! Loved the video, very personal and charismatic.
Thanks for coming out to say hi!

Jason Bartholme September 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

Sounds delicious, I’ll make that this weekend. We have a deli in town that uses Ramen in their broccoli salad. From what I can identify, it’s Ramen, broccoli, carrots, sunflower seeds, sugar, vinegar, and pepper. I’ll see if I can coax a recipe from them and post it. The sweetness with a crunch is excellent.

Kim Price September 12, 2010 at 6:50 am

Yum!! I am anxious to try this version. I make one similar though, but always using (and loving) the green onions and sometimes adding almonds and/or chicken and I usually make a vinaigrette using rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and the seasoning packet that comes with whatever noodles I am using (typically a good ramen for and Asian market). I know that is more than 5 ingredients, but typically, I only use the extras if they are left over and only require removing from the fridge and dumping into the bowl.

I love the idea of package recipes, as you can imagine they must be well tested and well loved or the food manufacturer would not share them. They also frequently get them though contests they hold, thereby choosing them from many options from many cooks.

My favorite is sloppy joes from the Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo Soup can from many years ago.

1 pound ground beef – browned and separated from fat.
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup) – browned with ground beef
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Chicken Gumbo Soup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, heat and serve on 6 hamburger buns or white rolls with Sesame Seeds, split and toasted. I frequently use a little more mustard and some salt. The bad thing though is that I think Campbell’s may have altered the soup into a light version and if that is all that is available, it is not the same. If this is true, I am going to have to do some experimenting, as this is one of my favorite childhood comfort foods and is always a crowd pleaser and keeps well in a slow cooker.

Anne September 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I can also vouch for the Hershey’s Cocoa chocolate cake recipe, and the peanut butter cookie recipe mentioned above, which is astoundingly good. (1/2 cup of sugar is fine, by the way, and it might also be interesting to try brown sugar, and/or stir in some chocolate chips).

I can recommend the pudding cake recipe on the back of King Arthur Flour. I’ve had good luck with other King Arthur recipes I’ve tried as well, and I see you can now find “Flour Bag Favorites” on their web site. Here’s a link to the pudding cake recipe:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/deep-dark-chocolate-pudding-cake-recipe

There used to be a vanilla version on the bag as well, but it unfortunately doesn’t seem to be on the web site.

Judy September 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

Awesome blog entry Jules. I’m scrambling to get some of these recipes copied!

Joris November 11, 2010 at 5:28 am

Funny, here in the Netherlands we have a brand of Surinamese foodproducts called ‘Chan’s’. On the back of their “hindustani masala” they printed a very tasty and easy ‘masaladish’:
- 500 gr. chicken
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 clove of garlic (I prefer to use more)
- 2 tbsp masala (I actually never measured it, I guess I use a little more)
- Sliced tomatoes (it isnt indicated how much; I use 2 or 3)
(- Soy Sauce)

Rub the chicken with the masala, leave it for min. 15 minutes. Sauté the chopped onion and the garlic. Add the chicken and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, (soy sauce), some salt and pepper and let simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes.

Thanks for the amazing blog, greetings from Utrecht and excuses for my poor English :)

Penny June 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

After years of trying bread recipes, buying books on bread and surfing the internet I finally found the one that worked for me on a packet of bread flour. Five ingredients, and only about 10 minutes real work. 1 kg flour, 15ml salt, 10 ml sugar, 10 grms (or less – more time rising, less yeast tastes better) and 625 mls tepid water. Usual method. Dead simple, fail proof! It makes loaves, rolls, foccaccia – white of brown what ever.

Gill June 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm

My Mum found this recipe on the back of a packet years ago, I’m guessing it was a Kellogg’s All Bran box, its something we have made over and over again. It fits in with your 5 ingredient philosophy but takes longer than 10 min to cook – but very little effort

5 cup Fruit and Nut Loaf
1 cup (coffee mugs work best) Kellogg’s All Bran
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 cup Milk
soak above ingredients till soft and mooshy (about an hour) then add:
1 cup mixed dried fruit & nut (i like currents, apricots & walnuts – mum uses a generic fruit and nut mix)
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour (or white or a mix depending how heavy you want the loaf)
Combine and poor into a pre-pepared loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven aprox 45min

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