Thursday, December 17, 2009

Making a Meal of It.

So many times we see recipes that we would like to try, but don't have all the ingredients, so it is shelved for another day, which probably never comes. Myself believe we should never dismiss a a recipe because of a missing ingredient, but should try to substitute something similar and make it anyway.
Practically all recipes have only one main ingredient, which would probably be meat, but even this doesn't always have to be the same type. Chicken could be substituted for pork, lamb for beef. Adjust cooking times as necessary. Sometimes there is a secondary 'main' (especially if a vegetarian dish), and often this gives more freedom to mix and match.
Always take a recipe as a guide as to preparation and cooking method, then feel free to chop and change the ingredients as much as you wish. This is how a 'new' recipe evolves. Always the same few recipes, just coming back again and again in different guises.

This 'rearranging' of ingredients works particularly well when aiming to use up all foods that might normally be thrown out. Also, when we keep plenty of food in store, we always have that little extra that will turn a boring dish into something special.

Yesterday mentioned how stocking up with plenty of provisions will lower our culinary costs. "But ingredients will eventually need replacing, so where is the saving?". We spend the money one way or the other, either before or after. And what happens if we can't afford to stock up in the first place?

Can see the point, but even I cannot afford to pay cash for the amount I had delivered this week. The orders are always paid by credit card, and as long as cleared within four or five weeks (depending upon the date) no interest is charged. It is the same as putting the normal shopping money away each week and saving it to pay the total later.
But even better than that, for if I purchased £200 of food at any one time, (an example only, as would rarely buy this amount in one go unless it included a large order of meat/fish), and expected this to this last at least one month (to feed two and more), it would be no different to paying £50 (or less) a week over the same period of time, with only part of that eaten, the rest stored in the larder. Being able to bring home/or delivered a wider variety of food than normal, more meals can be made from these, with the supplies going very much further. Don't ask me why, but it always does.

Having a wider range of 'dry' carbo foods and pulses to draw on (potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa, oats, pearl barley, couscous, red beans, butterbeans, haricot beans, lentils...) means very satisfying meals can be made that use less meat than a traditional British 'meat and two veg' , and also very nourishing and filling meatless meals can be served when we have a good assortment of vegetables to use.
Being able to plan more uses for food will help to fill our shelves and plates. We could make lemon curd, and use the zest of the lemons in another dish. Or use egg yolks in one dish, the whites in another. We can buy whole chickens and portion them ourselves and then end up with pints of gorgeous chicken stock to which we have added the cut the ends from carrots, the stump from a head of celery, the tops and tails from onions. We have stock, we then have the makings for soup.
The less we have to deal with, the more our hands are tied when it comes to making an interesting meal and so often we would find we end up having to serve something far more expensive than if we had a wider variety of cheaper foods to draw upon.

If a roast joint of (any) meat loses up to a quarter of its weight during the cooking, then we have to take this into account when costing out a serving (if cost we do). Far better to cook meat casserole fashion, where nothing is lost (it all goes into the gravy) and - taking this into account - we should be able to get away with using 25% less meat by using a different cooking method. The normal 4 oz (100g) serving of meat is always worked on the raw weight. Once cooked we can then reduced the amount to 3 oz.

Cost-cutting cooks always have to work out the economics. What we pay for is not necessarily the amount that ends up on our plate. Why peel vegetables if a lot has to end up in the bin? As what we 'throw out', has been paid for, we should make use of it. Make vegetable soup or stock with the discards. Or at least add them to the compost heap.
If meals are appetising and 'portion controlled' (as in restaurants), then there should be no leftovers.