Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Waste Not, Want Not

These days we are all urged not to waste anything, and very few can afford to waste food, yet so many still throw out foods still edible (mainly because of the craze for sticking to the 'use-by' dates) not realising the old method of giving whatever it is a sniff and a wee taste is still the best way to tell if food can still be eaten. I have even heard well known cooks on TV suggest that 'use-by' dates are more to protect the shop and most, if not all, have several more days of life before they need be discarded. They also suggest the 'sniff and taste' approach.
Catching the end of 'Food Poker' yesterday, I was intrigued by the way cooks made use of their ingredients, one using melted chocolate with creme fraiche, and I think diced stem ginger and also making a mint syrup to either add in or pour over. I have yet to add an ounce or two of dark chocolate to my next batch of spag.bol meat sauce, but I understand that does wonderful things to the flavour. As they say 'watch and learn, watch and learn'. Then try.

The Italians have a saying: wash your hands but never the rice. To wash rice removes starch which needs removing if you are aiming for 'free-flow' (as usual with Indian dishes). But with Italian risotto rice, the starch is needed to make a creamier dish.
Green Rice: serves 2
1 1/2 pints hot chicken stock
2 tblsp butter
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1/2 pint measure Arborio rice
1/2 pint measure spinach leaves
6 sprigs parsley inc. stems
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the stock first and keep it simmering at the side of the hob. Remove the parsley stems and put them into the stock to add flavour. Put the butter into a frying pan and add the shallot and saute for a few minutes until transparent but not browned. Stir in the rice until glistening with butter, then add a ladleful of hot stock and cook for a few minutes until absorbed. Repeat with a further ladle. Chop the spinach leaves and the parsley sprigs and stir these into the rice. Add more stock until the rice is tender but still firmish inside. It should not be overcooked. Once the liquid has been absorbed, place over a lid or plate. Turn out the heat and leave to stand for 3 minutes. Then remove cover, scatter over the cheese, and serve at once.

The following recipe makes use of chicken wings which in an earlier posting I suggested be collected, to be frozen until a suitable recipe is found (see also Spicy Buffalo Wings 11/11/06). This recipe also gives an easy way to make a type of Chinese Plum Sauce.
Chicken Wings and Plum Sauce: serves 2
approx 1 lb (450g) chicken wings
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
4 fl. oz measure plum jam
1 small piece fresh root ginger, grated
..OR 1 tsp ground ginger
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of one orange
If using fresh chicken wings, remove wing tips (this should be done before freezing anyway as they go into the stock pot), and lay the wings in an oven dish.
Into a blender or processor put the shallot, ginger, jam, soy sauce and mustard and blitz for a few seconds. Add the orange juice and blitz again. Pour this marinade over the chicken, turning the pieces so they are coated on all sides. Place in a really hot oven and bake for 10 minutes (240C, 475F, gas 9). Serve with boiled rice.

Shelled nuts have a fairly short shelf life once opened. But keep far longer in the freezer. If, however, you have some almonds you have had around too long, then turn them into praline.
1 measure granulated sugar
1 measure blanched almonds
Put the sugar into a dry frying pan, place over medium to low heat and stir gently until the sugar has melted. Add almonds, and keep stirring until the mixture is golden brown - this takes about 3 - 4 minutes. Pour into a buttered baking tray and leave to cool and harden. Lay over a piece of parchment paper and give the 'toffee' a good tap here and there to crack into large pieces. Either put the pieces into a bag and crush with a rolling pin, or put into a food processor/blender and blitz until crushed. Store in an airtight jar and use as an ingredient or as a topping for desserts.