Thursday, January 29, 2009

Use not Abuse

The very term 'left-overs' sounds a dirty word. Left-overs used to be given to the dog, or possibly form the main part of supper for the servants below stairs. In war-time there were no left-overs, as everything on the plate had to be eaten up. People were even fined if stale bread ended up in their dustbins. Other scraps used to go in bins to be collected to feed the pigs.
Considering the amount of food that people seem to be able to consume today, would doubt that much is left on plates, but when cost-cutting, it does help to 'plan' for leftovers, maybe cooking more than is necessary on one day, so that the surplus could be used in another dish the next. This saves both time and fuel.

But there are other edibles that we throw away without giving a thought. Mainly because we have always done so. Why keep the outer leaves of cabbage and lettuce, when the inside is more tender and tasty? Why keep the core of cabbage and cauliflower and the stalks of broccoli? They were never meant to be eaten - were they?
Why keep the stumps of celery and the peelings of carrots, parsnips and onions, and what about potato peel?
All the above can be used in one way or another. Several recipes have already been given that use lettuce leaves (soups etc) and cabbage leaves (for 'dolmas'). The cores of the cabbage etc can be thinly cut into matchsticks and added to a stir fries, or grated to add to a coleslaw. even sliced to dunk into dips.
Potato skins (after peeling) - never to be eaten raw, but can be sprayed with a little oil and 'roasted' off in the oven or under a low grill. Best to peel as thinly as possible and the peel then discarded, but even better never peel at all and eat them skins and all. It is the fibre in the skins and the vitamins just below the skins that our body needs - same with the outer leaves of green veggies, they hold the most vitamins, yet again we often throw the best away.
When peeling onions, try to remove only the dry outer brown skin, for so often we remove the first white layer as well, and this is perfectly edible, although may be slightly tinged with brown. If we prefer to take away the top layer of onion, keep/freeze it (with or without the brown papery skin) to flavour stocks. Adding the brown skins deepens the colour of stock, so by just boiling brown skins in water extracts the colour and this water can then go into casseroles to help make a dark, slightly onion flavoured gravy - useful in vegetarian dishes - or use as the liquid when making some in soups.
Have never done this, but am now wondering if a large amount of dry onion skins were ground up, the powder could be stored in jars to use both as a flavouring and a colouring?

Most root vegetable peelings, and also the outer (fleshy) layer of onions and their skins, plus the stump of celery can be covered in water and simmered for an hour to extract all their flavour, and the resulting liquid strained off and used as vegetable stock. If wishing to keep more than a few days in the fridge, it is best frozen.

Fresh beetroot and radish leaves can be chopped and added to salads, the radish leaves being as spicy as watercress. Brussels sprout leaves can also be cooked like cabbage, and probably the stem/leaves could be chopped and cooked to make a soup. If it works with cauliflower, why not cabbage and other brassicas?

Citrus peel can be dried and used in many ways - as 'fire-lighters', giving extra fragrance to pot-pourri, to dry (especially tangerines) and pop into a beef casserole to give extra flavour. Fresh peel can be grated and frozen or dried to add flavour to cakes and biscuits. Orange and lemon peel can make a good economy marmalade.
Even the inside of banana skins, when rubbed over leather (or maybe even plastic) makes a 'polish' that will buff up to a good shine. One of the reasons why it is so easy to slip when treading on a banana skin.

Fish heads, fish skins and bones, and prawn shells, all simmed together with the usual carrot, celery, onion,make a wonderful fish stock. Again one to be frozen once strained. Even before making the stock, collect up the small amounts of fish 'discards' (remove any eyes from the heads - these can be thrown away unless someone has a sensible suggestion for using them) bag up and freeze, then make the stock when there is enough.
The same goes for any bones left over from chicken portions that might be cooked (not the whole bird), collect and freeze these too, then add to chicken skin, chicken winglets (which might also have been left-over and frozen), break up the bones, put the lot in a pot with a carrot, onion, and piece of celery, plus a bay leaf cover with water (or if you wish depending upon the amount of winglest) and simmer very gently for a couple of hours. That's your next batch of chicken stock made. Strain, leave overnight in the fridge (makes it easier to remove any fat from the top) and freeze away.

Don't throw out the vinegar left in the jar after the pickled onions have been eaten. Keep it to sprinkle over fish and chips, or boil it up with more vinegar and use to pickle your next batch of onions.
If making a dish using canned tuna (in oil) that requires oil for frying (say a tuna risotto), then use the oil from the can instead of using olive or other vegetable oil.

No need to peel or remove stems from mushrooms when cooking. Just wipe clean with a damp cloth then cut or slice as needed. In restaurants, 'duxelles' (very finely chopped mushrooms, fried with a little chopped shallot and a smidgin of oil, then cooked down for about an hour until all the liquid has gone) are made from just the mushroom stalks and the skin peeled from the caps. But then they go through boxes and boxes of mushrooms in any one day. But it proves that chefs make use of what others might throw away.
Always remember that when we throw away any part of foods bought from the store, whether it be the boxes they are packed in, or just the peel and leaves from the produce, everything that goes into the bin has been paid for, and it is our money that we are throwing away. Use and recycle as much as we can.

Remembering a past query about uses for semolina, have found an interesting recipe for a dessert using said grain that - as it cooks - forms into layers. As it can be served hot or cold, file this recipes as a dish useful to bake when the oven is on for something else.
Layered Lemon Bake: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
3 tblsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs, separated
2 oz (50g) semolina
15 fl.oz (450ml) milk
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Remove from heat, then beat in the egg yolks and semolina. Add the milk, stirring until it has formed a smooth mixture. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then - using a metal spoon - gently fold them into the semolina mix. Pour into a greased ovenproof dish placed in a roasting tin, and pour water into the tin to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold.