Monday, June 02, 2008

Changing Direction

We can save money in various ways - maybe making a fat-less sponge, or an eggless fruit cake. Have yet to discover whether there is such a thing as a fat-less egg-less cake - maybe that is pushing things too far - think it might turn out like sweet bread. Now there's a thought. Omelettes I understand, can be made using just egg whites, the yolks being used for other purposes. The thing to remember is that many foods have a 'double-purpose' and with care can go twice as far (my name for this is 'jig-saw cookery'). Here are some suggestions worth thinking about:

vegetable peelings: can be used to make vegetable stock
cauliflower stalk, leaves: can make soup
beetroot water: if deep red, use to colour home-made red wine, or use as a food colouring.
egg whites: make meringues, ice-cream, cakes, souffles etc
egg yolks: make lemon curd, quiches, pancakes, mayonnaise etc
chicken carcase: make stock, fat saved for frying
pearl barley: grains make barley water, the grains then go into a casserole or served instead of rice
orange and lemon peel: can be used to make marmalade, also grated and frozen to use as flavouring, Can also be candied.
grapefruit shells: can also be used in mixed fruit marmalade. Freeze empty to use later as 'serving dishes' for dips, pates etc. Sardine pate is lovely served in lemon shells. Jelly wedges made in orange shells.
lemon shells: put lemon shells in water and boil up in the microwave for a minute. This makes it very easy to clean the inside of the microwave if it is wiped down immediately. Sit at a table with your elbows stuck in empty lemon shells for as long as you can - this softens and lightens the hard skin. Fill a lemon shell with salt and use this to scour a wooden kitchen table.
herb stalks: will add as much flavour as the green tops. Tie in bundles to add to casseroles, soups and remove before serving. Cleaned coriander roots are especially good for adding flavour.
watercress stems and leaves: remove most of the tips/leaves to add to a salad, use the stems and remaining leaves to make soup.
asparagus stems: cook the uneaten part of the asparagus stem until soft, then blitz to use to flavour soups, quiches and souffles.
mushroom stalks and peelings: fry with a little shallot until almost a paste to make 'duxelles'.
fish skins: grill until crisp and eat as a nibble or serve with a fish dish.
prawn heads and shells: use to make a fish stock.
stale bread: make up into soft breadcrumbs, and freeze. Dry out in a low oven to make croutons or crushed dried breadcrumbs. These can be stored in air-tight containers. Also use slices of stale bread for bread puddings and 'eggy bread'.
avocado skins and stones: after removing the flesh, rub the flesh on your own skin as a conditioner. The oil helps soften the skin. Push just the base of an avocado stone into damp soil, put in a plastic bag in a warm spot and about five weeks later the stone will have split and a shoot appear. This will grow into a sizable house plant.
pineapple skins: these can make good wine.
sprouting potatoes: plant these to grow new ones, even just the sprouting part cut from a potato (leaving a little potato intact) should grow.
sprouting onions: stand just the base in water and let them grow on. Cut the green stems as a flavour substitute for chives, or spring onions.
onions skins: the outer brown papery onion skin can be left of if you wish for a brown stock, or removed when wishing to make a white stock. The papery skins can be boiled in water to colour and flavour the water - reduced down and use for soups, gravy etc.
vinegar: left-over vinegar from a jar of pickled onions can be used to sprinkle over your fish and chips or boil up and add to more vinegar if pickling your own onions.
left-over liquid in jars etc: some liquids left after contents have been removed, can be used to flavour other dishes - peppadew liquid makes a good base for a sweet chilli sauce (see recipe below). Pickled ginger juice can flavour stir-fries, or add to other savoury dishes. Even works added to ginger cakes.
left-over liquid in cans: fruits in syrup or natural juices can be used to make jellies, or added to fruit salads. Also freeze for later use.
oil in cans: the oil with canned fish can be used for frying if the fish is to be used in that dish.
bacon rind and fat: if removed before cooking the bacon, cook separately over low heat and store the fat in a little container in the fridge. Excellent for frying when you would like the flavour of bacon without having the expense of using bacon. Good for frying bread, frying liver, eggs, mushrooms etc.
left-over wine: add white vinegar to small amounts of wine (half and half) to make your own wine vinegar.
stale cheese: any mould on ordinary hard cheese, just scrape off - the rest is fine. Grate up ends of cheeses and freeze for various dishes. Oddments, even rinds of very hard cheese can be grated down to make mock Parmesan. Parmesan rind'can be added to soups etc as it will dissolve slightly and flavour, even if eventually being discarded. Use 'past-its-best-for-eating-raw' Stilton grated and added to the cheese sauce for a cauliflower cheese, or added to the soup made from cauliflower stalks and leaves.
wafer 'triangles: these are sold (in packs) for serving with desserts. Basically a circle of wafer, folded in half then folded again. This makes it easy to (carefully) separate with a knife and end up with four triangles that are actually nicer to eat than the whole thing.
broken meringues: just roughly crush up and serve on top of desserts, or fold into home-made ice-cream, or scatter over ice-cream. Can be added to the mixture for refrigerator biscuits. Crushed right down or blitzed it returns to (almost) sugar, and can be used when making cakes.

Non- foods, but associated with:
butter papers: keep these, use paper ones to line cake tins, the foil ones usually have a little butter on them and can be used for greasing cake tins.
sugar bags: unwrap and you should find more grains of sugar tucked in the folds.
almost empty ketchup, salad cream and brown sauce bottles: with the lid on, upturn into a large holder, and the contents drain down to the lid. Alternatively, when making a meat sauce (chilli or spag bol etc) put a little warm water into the bottle, give a good shake and empty into the pan to use as flavouring.
empty bottles: a plastic salad cream bottle (the type that squirts the dressing onto salads) can - after good cleaning incl. top - will hold something like a thick puree or soft icing, jam etc. to use like the bottles chefs use when making squiggles on a plate. The tall glass HP sauce type bottle (other sauces come in these bottles as well) make very good containers for holding home made herb vinegars and oils. Make good presents.
empty jars: save these and their lids for holding home-made jams and marmalades. Keep the ones with vinegar proof lids to use for chutneys and pickles. Keep the largest for storing pickled eggs, pickled beetroot and pickled onions.
empty cans: there are many attractive cans: golden syrup, black treacle etc. When cleaned these make very good holders for small pot plants, or just holding a stack of pens. Some cans (such as tuna) can have the top and base removed and when thoroughly cleaned can be used for 'tower' presentation. Or leave the base on and use as a small container (lined with cling-film) for individual mousses etc.
old rusted loaf tins: can be painted on the exterior and used to hold several pots of herbs on a windowsill.
empty boxes: boxes with white interiors, such as cereals etc., can be cut up to use for shopping lists.
large and small crisp packets: these now always seem to have metallic lining to the packs. Opened up and cut (in a special way - details in Have a Goode Year), these make excellent Christmas decorations.
newspaper: soak and compress to make 'logs' for long-life burning. Use crumpled sheets of paper to tuck into wet shoes to soak up any moisture. Use crumpled sheets for cleaning windows. Use newspaper to practice folding - things such as samosas etc. Use newspaper to cut out paper patterns for clothes, toys etc.
Take the 'green' approach and use newspaper for wrapping up presents.
brown paper: sometimes comes crumpled up as 'padding' around an order (Lakeland do this). Iron out the sheets and use for wrapping presents, or even making your own envelopes (Lakeland also sell an 'envelope' glue - spread it on, let it dry, then moisten it to stick).
old envelopes: open carefully, then - using a label - can often be used again. Good use for those envelopes that come with the junk mail.
used postage stamps: foreign stamps can be given to charity shops - many children like to save these.
small containers/bottles: if they have airtight lids, can hold home-dried crushed herbs or ground spices. Make sure they are labelled correctly.
large containers: such as coffee tins, can be used to store dry goods such as grains, pulses, meringues, tea-bags etc. Make sure they are labelled.
large coffee jars: after removing the label, matching jars make good storage jars.
kitchen paper: some of the more expensive brands are made by bonding together two sheets of paper. It is fairly easy to separate these, and to use one where before we would use a complete sheet (or more). Makes it go much further.
greaseproof paper/baking parchment: Instead of lining the base and sides of a baking tin, just cut a large square and fit this into the tin. The pointed corners will go up part of the sides and this should be enough to give a cake good release, without having any wasted paper when cutting circles or using more to fit round the sides.

For gardeners:
cardboard centres from loo rolls/ kitchen paper: fill with compost and use to plant seeds. When wetted on the outside can be planted straight into the ground.
newspaper: similarly, wrap round a small tin, tuck ends under, tie with string or stick with glue (egg white makes a good glue), and use as above.
egg boxes: fill the hollows with compost and plant seeds, when growing, moisten the container and plant directly into the soil or flower pots.
broken flower pots: put at bottom of larger pot to prevent soil falling out but allowing drainage.
polystyrene packaging: use the deep boxes as containers in their own right, filling with soil, making drainage holes near the base. Break up smaller pieces of polystyrene and use at the bottom of plant pots to give good drainage.
washing up liquid bottles: fill the almost empty bottle with water and add a little of this to the watering can - this breaks up the surface tension of the water and very dry soil will soak it up rather than letting it drain away down the sides.
plastic lemonade/cola bottles: cut in half and upturn each over a plant pot or growing-in-the-ground baby plants for this works both as a mini-greenhouse and as a protection against slugs.
tin cans: punch holes in the bottom and use as metal plant pots. Good for growing herbs, pot marigolds etc.
plastic drain pipes: cut to depth required and use to grow leeks, carrots etc. Or cut into short lengths and use to hold/shape 'stacked' foods on a plate prior to serving. Chefs use these 'rings' a lot.