Monday, February 15, 2010

Extreme Cuisine

My problem, when trying to devise a dish that cost only 50p, although - as said earlier- easy enough if a single portion, this can be much more difficult if it has to feed a family. Although it is possible to put together a really cheap meal, we could be in danger of not getting all the nutrition we should be having. Much depends upon other meals served during the day. As long as these provide the missing pieces of the jigsaw then there is no problem.

On the other hand, how many people these days bother with nutrition at all? Many youngsters and even older ones seem to live quite healthily on a bags of crisps, chips, and burgers. Some people of all ages have never eaten vegetables (other than perhaps potatoes). Eating home-cooked meals that use cheap (but still good) ingredients, however limiting, would be far better for us than a life of eating nothing but junk food.

With low-cost meals still firmly in my mind, today am offering an inexpensive recipe that at least has enough attitude to be worth serving as dinner party 'starter' (also good served as a side dish with fish). But think on, for this dish can be the very thrifty side of 'extreme cuisine' when we grow our own courgettes and herbs. We can even grow our own beans for drying, to soak and cook later. Consider also owning a container-grown lemon tree (get someone to buy you this for a present), and when kept in a sunny sheltered spot these do bear fruit. All we need then to make the dish is the oil and seasoning, and now that we can also buy small olive trees to grow in pots (another present?) we could even press our own oil. Perhaps this could lead to a further programme called 'extreme kitchen gardening'!

Ribbons and Beans: serves 4
4 courgettes
zest and juice of 1 lemon (pref unwaxed)
1 x 400g can (14oz) cannellini beans, drained
2 tblsp chopped chives
1 tbslp flat-leaved parsley
salt and pepper
2 tblsp olive oil (pref. extra virgin)
Using a 'Y' shaped vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons from the courgettes, then blanch thee in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and refresh under cold running water, then drain well again.
Place the ribbons into a large dish and add the lemon zest and juice. Then stir in the beans and herbs and add seasoning to taste. Pour in the oil and toss together.
Leave to marinate for a few minutes before serving at room temperature.

Not that many of you will be interested, but if the idea of 'gourmet' appeals, then the following might be useful (printed out and given to me by a professional chef) - starting with (say) carrots that have been peeled and the sides removed, and then cut to make even sized long 'slabs' which are then cut into different sized 'batons'.

basic cuts of vegetables:

Jardiniere: a short (possibly finger length) baton of 5mm width and depth, used to accompany mains. When these batons are diced (all sides being equal length), these cubes are then called macedoine and used for soups.

Julienne: thin strips of 2mm width used as garnish. When these are diced they are given the name of brunoise, and used for garnish.

Paysanne: is the name given to 1 cm 'flat cuts' cut from geometrical shaped strips of vegetables (triangular, round, square, hexagonal).

Miripoix: is the name given to 'rough cuts' which are more often bits left over after preparing vegetables and of no particular size. These are used when making stock.