Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Using it Up

A mixture of recipes today - all based on either low-cost ingredients, free ingredients, or odds and ends in the cupboard or fridge. Often the last bit of set honey in a jar gets left, so just add a tablespoon of water, give it a swirl then pop it into the microwave (without the lid) and let it blend together. Stir well, reseal and add as part of the liquid to cakes and biscuits, or poured over muesli or steamed puddings.

This first suggestion uses a pasta shape that will hold a dressing such as fusilli or shells. We must remember that today, everything is metric. So a 500g pack is expected to be enough to feed four - twice. In the past 8oz (225g) would have been (and still is) adequate. When we stick closely to the imperial weights then anything packed in metric will end up with bits left over. Don't add the extra to a pasta dish just for the sake of using them up. Instead, put them in a jar with other 'oddments' of pasta (but keep the quick-cook pasta in a separate jar to the pasta that cooks longer, remembering to label), for they soon add up (keep ages anyway) and it doesn't matter what shape the pasta is (pasta is pasta more or less, spaghetti can be broken into small pieces). Then when there is enough, say 8 oz (225g) it can be used as in any recipe requiring that amount of pasta. Different shapes can make a dish far more interesting in my opinion. By the way, chopped fresh herbs could be added to the dressing if you wish.
Lunchbox Pasta: serves 4
8 oz (225g) pasta shapes
2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
half cucumber (peeled - or not), chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
4 oz (100g) dried apricots, chopped
1 - 2 tblsp sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds or both
3 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp runny honey
juice of half a lemon
Cook the pasta as per packet directions. Drain and set aside to cool. Add the vegetables, apricots and seeds. Put the oil, honey and lemon juice into a jar, screw on lid and give a good few shakes. Pour over the salad and mix everything well together.

Next we have a medley of green vegetables, and these again can be seasonal, or some taken from the freezer, or again the recipe adapted to what you have. With eggs included, and served with a choice of a garlic and oil dressing, or a spicy tomato chilli based sauce, plus crusty bread - a great meal for little cost (when you grow your own). Please note, the oil is used as a seasoning in this dish, so use a good one. Better to use a little less oil, than ruin the dish for the sake of a spoonful. The name of the dish I understand to be Spanish for 'boiled dinner' - and there was me thinking it had something to do with Matadors!
El Bullit: serves 4 (V)
1 large onion, chopped
2 - 3 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 lb (450g) small new potatoes
12 oz (350g) spinach
8 oz (225g) courgettes, thickly sliced
8 oz (225g) broad beans, double podded
1 pint (600ml) water
half tsp salt
2 - 3 tblsp olive oil (pref extra virgin)
8 oz (225g) frozen peas
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 tblsp wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
Put the first seven vegetables into a large saucepan with the water and salt. Bring to the boil, and stir in the oil. Cover and leave to simmer for 15 or so minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the peas and garlic. Simmer for 2 minutes then add the parsley and vinegar, seasoning with the pepper to taste. If necessary add a little more boiling water - the consistency of the dish should be halfway between a soup and a stew. Press four hollows into the vegetables (use a ladle or soup spoon) and into each break one egg. Cover and cook for 1 minute, then remove lid and baste the eggs with the hot liquid until the whites have set.
Serve in individual bowls, one egg per person, and serve the sauces (recipes below)and bread separately

This next dish is cooked in one pan on the hob. Again you have a choice as to whether to use basmati or long-grain rice; choose also the strength of curry paste you desire. The nuts can be cashew or peanuts, or even use pumpkin or sunflower seeds - whatever is there is just for the crunch. Chickpeas are traditional as are the raisins, but don't let that stop you using butter beans and sultanas - or even chopped dried (no-soak) apricots or even dates. Go with your personal favourites, but allow yourself the pleasure of trying something new.
Hob-top Spicy Rice: serves 4 (V)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 - 2 tblsp chosen strength curry paste
8 oz (225g) basmati or long-grain rice, rinsed
15fl.oz (425ml) vegetable stock or water
1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 - 2 tblsp raisins
6 oz (175g) cooked spinach (frozen/thawed is ideal)
handful of cashew nuts
natural yogurt
Put the oil in a pan over medium heat and stir in the garlic and curry paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the rice to the pan and stir until coated with the oil, then add the stock, chickpeas and raisins. Cover and bring to the simmer. Cook for 15 or so minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed.
Heat the spinach and press through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Stir two tblsp of the reserved hot liquid into the rice, followed by the spinach and cashew nuts. Fork these through the rice and serve in bowls, spooning over a little yogurt.