Thursday, April 03, 2008

Making the Most Of...

Mentioning cauliflower and creme fraiche reminded me of some notes I made some years ago about what to do with 'bits and bobs' we might previously have felt like chucking in the waste bin. So here are a few suggestions, all recipes taken were said to 'serve 2', so make allowances if you wish to serve more. Along with the recipes, more hints and tips are included, so worth reading through, even if you are not inclined to make the dish.

This first can be eaten hot (but do not boil if using yogurt) as a creamed vegetable, and can also be eaten cold, perhaps thinned down slightly with milk, to make a chilled summer soup.
Creamed Cauliflower:
half a cauliflower, cooked
2 good tblsp creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put all ingredients except the paprika into a blender or food processor and blitz until pureed. Pour into a
bowl and serve, sprinkled with paprika.

Although a celery stump is always worth saving to add to the pot when making stock, or even to tuck under a roast to flavour the gravy, it can also be turned into an effective soup. So never discard the root end. Remember, that when using home-made stock, we always have control of the salt content, in fact complete control of any herbs, flavourings and seasonings we may wish to add, which is more than we can say about the ready-manufactured.
Celery and Almond Soup:
1 - 2 celery stumps
a good pint chicken stock
10 whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper*
Trim the stumps and shred as finely as possible. Heat the stock in a pan, and boil for 2 minutes before adding the celery, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Pour contents of the pan into a blender and blitz until creamy, season to taste,then pour into serving bowls and scatter over the nuts.
*Chicken stock cubes are always heavily salted, so always worth making and using home-made chicken stock, which can be stored in the freezer.

With asparagus soon coming into season, this is a way to use the stalks alone, perhaps just the pieces that will have been trimmed off. Too woody to eat on their own, they still contain plenty of flavour so turn them into this asparagus puree, which itself can then become the basis of a quiche, or a soup. If really stringy, cook the stalks until very soft and press through a sieve before continuing with the recipe (remembering to reserve the cooking liquid if making soup).
Pureed Asparagus:
10 asparagus stalks
8 fl.oz l (225ml) water
1 oz (25g) butter (pref unsalted)
2 fl.oz (50g) creme fraiche or double cream
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
Cut the asparagus into 2" (5cm) lengths. Heat the water in a pan and when boiling, add the stalks and simmer until tender. Drain and puree together with the butter and cream.
for a quiche filling: add two beaten eggs per half pint of puree
for soup: as main recipe but add the cooking liquid when pureeing.

Often there is a piece of Iceberg or one small Little Gem lettuce languishing in the fridge. Sad looking, maybe a bit brown around the edges where it has been cut with a metal knife. Not worth serving as salad, but tired lettuce can certainly be cooked with peas (they go together like strawberries and cream), to be eaten as a vegetable serving, or even pureed as a soup.
Lettuce and Peas:
2 oz (50g) butter
10 oz (275g) frozen peas. thawed
lettuce leaves (as many as you wish), shredded
4 fl.oz (125ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan and add the peas and lettuce, stir and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, simmer for five minutes, then season to taste and serve as-is, or puree to make a soup (in which case more stock may be needed before simmering for those five minutes. All stock needs re-boiling, NOT just heating up.)

Rice is another basic ingredient that we should be keeping in our cupboards, not just because it keeps for ages and ages (certainly basmati rice is best used after 10 years of age), but also as there are several different varieties. More often we use the long-grain, and a recommendation is we should always rinse it first to prevent it becoming sticky after cooking. However, with Arborio (or similar) risotto rices, there is an Italian saying "always wash your hands, but never wash the rice". This recipe makes use of a small amount of spinach, and apart from the rice, not a lot else - the variation however, adds a lot more 'oddments'.
Green Risotto Rice:
1 1/2 pts (850ml) vegetable or chicken stock
2 oz (100g) butter
1 shallot, chopped
half pint measure Arborio rice
half pint measure raw spinach leaves
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese
Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the simmer. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the shallot for 1 minute. Stir in the rice until well coated with the butter. Chop the spinach coarsely and add to the rice together with the parsley. Add 2 ladles (or one mug) hot stock and cook for a few minutes until absorbed. Keep adding a ladleful of stock as each is absorbed, or until the rice is tender, but still has a slight bite in the centre. When the rice is ready, it should be creamy and just about all liquid absorbed (but not over absorbed or this will make it dry), remove from the heat, season to taste, and stir in a handful of the cheese. Serve hot.
variation: add chopped vegetables (carrot, celery, green beans, courgette, peas, spinach leaves...) after the rice has been stirred into the butter. Chopped cooked ham could also be added towards the end of the cooking time.

This last recipe is a quickie, worth making when the oven is on for something else, and makes good use of the last of the dried fruits not used at Christmas. This has been converted from American cups to the imperial and metric weights (all three weights are given), although - to make sure of accuracy, if you have a set of American cups, use these.
Oaty Snacks:
3 oz (75g/one third cup) butter, melted
4 oz (100g/half cup) soft brown sugar
3 oz (75g/one cup) porridge oats
2 oz (50g/quarter cup) raisins
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Put into an oiled 6" (15cm) baking dish, smoothing the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 5 or so minutes until golden brown. Leave in the pan for five minutes before cutting into 12 squares.