Monday, July 02, 2007

Making the Most of It

Every so often we have oddments of fresh and maybe leftover foods that we feel should be discarded. This is something I urge everyone not to do because if it's been paid for, then that is money literally thrown away. The only way to cut costs is to seek out recipes that will make the most of small amounts, something from the storecupboard, or even something that has gone past its best. Here are some recipes and suggestions:

Wilting Celery Soup: serves 4
1 or part head of 'past its best' celery
1 - 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
1 pint (600ml) milk
1 pint (600ml) stock
salt, pepper and pinch of nutmeg to taste.
Wash the celery, chop finely, including any leaves. Melt the butter and gently saute the vegetables for around five minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 45 mins or until the celery is very tender. Liquidise and sieve then add the milk, reheat gently, seasoning to taste.

Oriental Beef with Cabbage: serves 4
8 oz (250g) lean tender beef
1 small white cabbage. or part of
1 onion, finely chopped
small piece of preserved ginger, finely chopped
4 oz (125g) mushrooms, sliced
2 tblsp soy sauce
dash vinegar
cooked rice or noodles
Cut the beef into very small strips (like matchsticks). Shred the cabbage as finely as possible, grate the stalk and include that also. Heat a little oil in a deep frying pan (or wok) and fry the onion and ginger, add the beef and continue stirring until the beef has browned. Add the cabbage and stir for about 4 minutes. Blend the cornflour with a little warm water, the soy sauce and the vinegar and add to the pan, stirring until it starts to thicken. Stir in the mushrooms. If too dry, add a little more hot water. Serve on a bed of rice or noodles.
Note: This could be made with oddments of chicken - perhaps using the meat taken off the winglets, or those fillets which can be pulled from chicken breasts. If you like a sweeter sauce, add a little tomato puree and honey to the soy sauce/vinegar/water/cornflour blend. Instead of using all cabbage, and a way to use less meat is to stir in some matchstick carrots and thinly sliced onions which will bulk up the servings.

Chicken Pilaff: serves 3 - 4
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 oz (180g) long grain rice
3/4 pint (450ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
pinch mixed dried herbs
2 0z (50g) raisins
1 tblsp chopped cucumber or courgette
12 oz (360g) cooked chicken, chopped
1 tomato or half a red pepper for garnish (opt).
Fry the onion in a little oil until transparent. Rinse the rice, drain well and stir this into the onion Fry gently for five minutes, keeping stirring, then add the stock, herbs, raisins, cucumber or courgette, and seasoning to taste. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed. Check and stir from time to time. Add the chicken pieces, heat through adding more seasoning if needed. Serve garnished with tomato or pepper strips.
Note: This is a good way to use up those scraps of chicken which can be picked from the carcase after boiling up for stock. A tblsp of fresh herbs could be used instead of the dried. If you prefer a spicier pilaff add a little curry powder or paste when frying the onions.

The Variable Croquette:
For this use either cooked turkey or chicken (or cooked beef or lamb if you prefer). Don't feel bound to using the exact amounts of meat, use more or less according to what you have. Make up the bulk with a beaten egg yolk, a few breadcrumbs, extra seasoning etc.
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) flour
1/2 pint (300ml) stock
salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
4 oz (110g) cooked turkey or chicken, minced
2 oz (50g) minced ham
1 -2 oz (25-50g) minced mushrooms
1 tsp thin cream or milk
egg/breadcrumbs/ for coating
Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for one minute then gradually stir in enough stock to make a thick sauce. Bring to the boil, season well and stir in the lemon juice. Fold in the minced meats, mushrooms and cream. Leave the mixture to cool. Form into sausage shapes (or flat patties if you prefer), brush with beaten egg, coat with breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.
Note: These will be easier to handle if chilled before coating with egg/crumbs. they will be even crispier if coated twice before frying. Give them a more tangy flavour by adding a dash of Worcestershire or brown sauce. Or add herbs for extra flavour. Never be afraid of experimenting.

Green Beans with Pasta: serves 2
This is a good way to use up any broken bits of pasta you may have.
8 oz (250g) young runner beans (fresh or frosen)
4 oz (110g) spaghetti, broken into pieces
2 oz (5og) butter
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
salt and pepper
Slice the beans and boil until tender. In another pan, full of boiling salted water, cook the broken pieces of spaghetti until cooked. Drain, return to the pan and stir in half the butter. Add the cheese to the pasta, season to taste. Drain the beans, add the butter and more seasoning if necessary. Either pile the beans in the centre of a hot dish with the spaghetti around the sides, or mix the lot together.

Mock Capers:
Both the leaves and flowers of the nasturtium can be used in salads, but don't forget the value of their seeds. Gather these while young, on a dry day, put into small clean sterilised jars and cover with vinegar which has been boiled with 1 dessp salt and 6 peppercorns to each pint/300ml of vinegar. Place on lids and keep for at least 2 months before using.

Green Pea Souffle: Posh Nosh using basic ingredients
1/2 pint (300ml) measure fresh or frozen petit pois
2 eggs, separated
pinch salt
1/2 pint (300ml) water
1 oz (25g) butter
If using fresh peas simmer the peas, uncovered, in the water together with the butter, salt and a sprig of mint for up to half an hour. Frozen peas will take less time and need only half the amount of water. The peas need to be soft. Drain the peas, reserving the liquid. Mash the peas with a little of the liquid and allow the peas to cool. Well grease a souffle dish with butter . Beat the egg yolks and stir into the peas. Whisk the whites stiffly, fold a little into the pea mixture to slacken, then fold in the rest. pour into the souffle dish, and bake for about 20 minutes at 220c, 425F, gas 7 until well risen. Serve immediately.

Quick and Easy Tuna Bake:
3/4 pint (450 ml white sauce
2 oz (50g) chopped mushrooms
1 x 200g can tuna, drained and flaked
1 x 360g can sweetcorn, drained
grated cheese and breadcrumbs
Mix the first four ingredients together and put into a shallow greased casserole dish. and sprinkle over a topping of grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 mins in a hot oven (see above recipe) for 15 minutes then finish off under a hot grill.

Lentil and Parsnip Roast:
8 oz (250g) red lentils
1/2 pint (300ml) water
12 oz (360g) parsnip, peeled and grated
4 oz (120g) wholemeal bread, crumbled
1 egg
2 oz (50g) butter
handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
Cook the lentils in the water until they are soft and the water has been absorbed. Stir in the butter and the mint and when well mixed, fold in the parsnip and the breadcrumbs. Bind together with the beaten egg. Put into a greased pie dish or loaf tin and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour.
Tip: Instead of the parsnip, use grated young turnips or courgettes.