Monday, November 21, 2011

'Scrap-heap' Cooking.

Those raised beds of yours sounded as though they worked well Aileen. Beetroot seems the 'flavour' of the month - all the TV chefs at the moment seem to be cooking both sweet and savoury dishes using this veg.

Myself prefer electric ovens to gas Alison, but not the 'complete works' the hob has to be gas, because the heat is so easily controlled, although the latest 'leccy' models I believe are much easier to raise and lower the heat almost instantly. One advantage with electric ovens is they hold the heat once switched off, so quite a lot of dishes can continue cookng in the residual heat (or it can be used to dry meringues, breadcrumbs etc), and this means a hot oven can we switched off up to 15 minutes sooner (saving fuel). Much depends upon what is being cooked of course, something like puff pastry needs the oven on full blast to get the best results. If the oven is 'fan controlled' then the heat should be reduced slightly.

Thanks to Sairy and Eileen for their suggestions for using butter beans. At the moment the ones I cooked have been put into small(ish) containers and then in the freezer.

Title of the posting today relates to using up what I call 'kitchen scraps' that often can pile up, but then practically all parts of fresh produce can be used - with rarely any 'left-overs' or 'discards'. Thing is, do we make the most of them?

When peeling vegetables (other than the leafy cabbage etc), the peelings can be collected, put into a bag and kept in the fridge for a few days, then cooked in water to make a vegetable 'stock' that can then be frozen. Outer, dark leaves of leafy veg (such as cabbage) can be blanched and used as 'wraps' round a chosen filling, then cooked in a (tomato?) sauce. Even the stalks and core of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower etc can be grated and either made into a coleslaw or finely sliced and added to a stir-fry. All have so much flavour it is criminal to discard them.

First recipe today uses several 'oddments'. Chicken pieces used are the scraps peeled from a carcase after making stock. Lemon zest would be grated from discarded lemons after they have been squeezed then frozen the zest in ice-cube trays with a smidgin of lemon juice. The mushrooms (doesn't matter if you don't have the full weight) can be the last few in the box that are beginning to wither (they will weigh less anyway when drying out). Puff pastry will almost certainly be part of a pack you or I started some weeks ago and then re-wrapped and put back in the fridge or freezer until we found a use for it.

The original recipe used creme fraiche, but I would normally use the last bit of cream cheese in the pack, diluted slightly with milk (even better with cream. When you next pour the last double cream from the tub, rinse it out with a little milk, giving the tub a good stir so that all the cream that clings to the inside is worked into the milk).

Chicken and Mushroom Pie: serves 2 - 3
1 oz (25g) butter (for frying)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, finely chopped (see above)
zest of 1 or 2 lemons (to taste)
8 oz (225g) plus cooked chicken, pulled into shreds
salt and pepper
3 tblsp creme fraiche OR...
...2 tblsp cream cheese plus a little milk/cream
half a pack of puff pastry (approx 6 oz/175g)
Melt the butter in a frying pan, then fry the onions for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the mushrooms and continue frying for a few more minutes until the mushrooms are browning. Add the lemon zest, chicken, seasoning to taste. Remove from heat, stir in the creme fraiche and spoon the lot into a pie dish.
Roll out the pastry to about an inch larger than the top of the pie. Cut a narrow strip from around the pasty then press this onto the rim of the dish. Brush with water and lay the remaining pastry on top, pressing the edges together with a fork to seal. Trim away any excess pastry (you can use this to decorate the pie if you wish). Brush the lid with a little milk then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 - 30 minutes or until the pastry has risen and coloured a deep gold.
The pie can be served on its own or with green veg, carrots etc. No need to serve spuds as the pastry provides the carbs.

Next recipe is not quite a 'scrap-heap' dish, but will make use of chicken legs/joints that we may have collected in our freezer. Suppose chunky chicken wings could be used instead or as well as. Am including this dish because it uses butter beans (hurray!!).
Although - strictly speaking - the tomatoes should be canned 'cherry' tomatoes, myself would use either fresh cherry tomatoes or canned chopped or plum tomatoes. Whatever is the cheapest. Could be that some readers have frozen some whole cherry tomatoes they grew themselves. These would be perfect.
The red wine I am assuming will come from the freezer as you will have been freezing some in ice-cube trays each time a bottle has been opened. If not why not? If none, use red wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar (the two together make a good substitute for red wine in a savoury dish).
Herbs we should have growing in the garden or on our windowsills, the remaining ingredients we MAY be needing to use up.

Butter Beans with Chicken and Bacon: serves 4
1 tblsp light olive oil
4 chicken joints (drumsticks, thighs etc) skin on
4 rasher streaky bacon, chopped
2 large red (or white) onions, cut into wedges
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sprigs rosemary (finely chop leaves from one)
6 fl oz (175ml) red wine
8 fl oz (225ml) chicken stock
1 x 400g can cherry tomatoes (see above)
2 x 400g cans butter beans (or home-cooked)
2 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large roasting tin (placed over the hob) and fry the chicken joints until the skin is golden on all sides. Remove from tin and set aside.
Using the same tin, fry the bacon until just beginning to crisp, then add the onions and continue frying for a few minutes longer. Stir in the garlic and the chopped rosemary, fry a minute longer, then add the wine and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid, then add the remaining whole sprig of rosemary and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil, then sit the chicken joints on top, then oven-bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is very crispy. The sauce should have reduced and thickened. Remove the bay leaves and sprig of rosemary,
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Lightly cooked/steamed green veg make a good accompaniment.

Next dish has leanings towards the Orient. Very economical to make, and also speedy to cook. Hopefully you have the (Tesco) cheapo egg noodles (10p/11p pack), cooked chicken scraps from the carcase, broccoli or cauliflower stems, and the Chinese 'flavourings'. Other 'stir-fry' veggies could be included: sliced mushroom, sugar snap peas, short pieces of (frozen) string beans, spoonful of sweetcorn kernels, strips of colourful bell pepper(s). The more we can add the more people this dish will serve.
Sticky Stir-Fry: serves 3 - 4
2 packs egg noodles (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
half pint (more or less) cooked chicken scraps
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 onion, halved and sliced
3 tblsp runny honey
2 tblsp soy sauce
juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
3 tblsp toasted sesame seeds
Cook the noodles as per packet instructions, then drain and toss with half the oil to prevent them sticking together. Set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan or wok, and when hot - add the carrot and onion and stir-fry for 4 minutes, then stir in the chicken. Cook for a further 3 minutes then stir in the honey, soy sauce and lime/lemon juice. Bubble away for a minute or until the contents of the pan are coated with a sticky sauce, then sprinkle over the sesame seeds, add the noodles, give a final toss, then serve immediately.

A 'tagine' is a Moroccan 'stew' normally made with lamb and - common in that part of the world -fruit is also included. Traditionally served with couscous, it's the spices that give the flavour, and because of this a vegetarian version is just as tasty (recipe below). Only four veggies have been suggested here (traditionally should be seven), so we could reduce the amount given and add extra veg (such as chunks of butternut squash or pumpkin, courgettes, aubergine, diced baby turnips, Jerusalem artichokes.... Instead of apricots, use dates (or even prunes). If we prefer to be more 'British' this dish is good served with oven-baked 'jjacket' potatotes (because oven baking gives a much better flavour than if the spuds are microwaved, and the oven is on anyway so why not bake them this way?). If you prefer to be more traditional, then serve the tagine with couscous - myself prefering this traditional grain because it soaks up the sauce so well.
tip: to speed up the cooking time of oven-baked spuds, par-boil the whole potatoes (still with skins on) for 10 minutes before finishing them off in the oven. This should reduce cooking time by half an hour.

Moroccan-style Veggie Tagine: serves 4
3 large carrots, sliced or cut into strips
3 large parsnips, cut into chunks
3 (pref red) onions, cut into wedges
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp each: gr.cumin, paprika,cinnamon, chilli powder
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
12 no-soak apricots, halved
2 tsp runny honey
salt and pepper (opt)
couscous or jacket potatoes to serve
Put the prepared vegetables in a bowl and add half the oil. Toss with the hands so the veggies are coated in the oil, then spread them over one or two baking sheets and roast for half an hour at 200C, 400F, gas 6.
Meanwhile put the remaining oil into a frying pan, and when hat, stir in the spices and cook for one minute until sizzling, then tip in the tomatoes (straight from the can), half fill the can with water, swirl to rinse then add this to the pan. Stir in the apricots and honey. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken the sauce (and plump up the apricots). Remove the vegetables from the oven and add these to the pan with extra seasoning if needed. Keep hot until the spuds (or couscous) are ready, then either heap the couscous on a warmed serving platter and pile the veggies and sauce on top, or serve the 'tagine' separately in its own warmed dish with a bowl of 'jackets' for everyone to help themselves.

Final recipe is a way to use up those over-ripe bananas - a cross between a cake and a crumble dessert, so can be eaten hot or cold. Just as well really as it serves TEN!.
Using almost the same ingredients for making a sponge cake except less fat is used, this being replaced by the oil. The nuts used can be either 'chopped mixed' (as sold in supermarkets), or use what you have and chop them yourself. When it comes to the mixing, it is almost identical to making American muffins.

Banana Crumble Cake: serves 10
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) pecan, walnuts, hazelnuts etc, chopped
1 oz (25g) butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten PLUS...
...2 egg whites
3 large or 4 small ripe bananas, mashed
5 fl oz (150ml) sunflower oil
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
First make the crumble topping by mixing together 2 tblsp each of the sugar, flour and nuts, then rub in the butter. Set aside.
Mix the whole eggs with the bananas, oil and milk (this is the 'wet' mix). In another (large) bowl mix the remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and nuts (this is the 'dry' mix). Whisk the egg whites until just stiff, then tip the 'wet' into the 'dry', and rapidly fold together, then fold in the whisked whites and pour into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) deep cake tin and scatter the crumble mix on top.
Bake for one hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Check after 4o or so minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, cover with a ten of foil (shiny side up to reflect away the heat).
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then place on a cake airer. Serve immediately - whilst still warm - either serve warm slices with custard, cream or ice-cream as a dessert, or leave on a cake airer to cool completely and eat as 'cake'.

Food served from the Goode kitchen yesterday, was varied . For my lunch cooked some of the recently purchased (cafe) bacon to make myself a bacon sarnie (using home-made bread- yummy!). Beloved got his own 'brunch' not sure what. For supper he had four sausages, most of a can of baked beans, several sliced of home-cooked ham, 2 fried eggs and a plate of oven-chips (no wonder he can't lose weight), and myself later ate a 'salad' made with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced cucumber, a few golden Peppadew, the last of the cooked ham and the remaining spoonfuls of baked beans. Plus a dash of brown sauce. All mixed together. Truly a 'scrap-heap' salad, but it seemed to work as I enjoyed eating it. But then I'm not that fussy. Just as long as I can use up food rather than bin it.

Today will probably be serving B liver and bacon as wish to use up a pack of ox liver I have in the freezer. It's much stronger than lamb's liver, but if I soak it in some milk for a few hours, think that Beloved will find it acceptable, especially if he has extra bacon (plus the last of the cabbage, steamed and then tossed in bacon fat, plus 'new' potatoes finished off in the pan the liver was fried in).

Looks like being another lovely day again. If I can find time, really will try and get out for an hour with Norris, if only to get a breath of fresh air. Could do with some florist's wire, plus some cash from the cashpoint (to pay Norma et al), so a good reason to scoot down to the 'village' shops.
First MUST weigh out all the ingredients ready to make my Christmas cake this afternoon (or late morning), then that will get it done and dusted. If I put it off any longer might as well not make it at all and (shock, horror) buy one instead. Or do without. Mind you, once made B will be drooling over it pleading for a slice (he likes to eat it with a slice of cheese), then another slice, so by the end of this month all the cake will be eaten and I'll have to make another one (or two, or three).

To allow myself time to do all I wish today, am now signing off to roll up my sleeves and start weighing out ingredients (the 'prep'), line the tin, then bring Norris out of his 'stable', sit on his back and trot off to the shops. Back home, make and bake the cake, sort out lunch, sit and watch the TV (news and Doctors) then back into the kitchen to prepare supper. Back again to watch more cookery progs (during the ads keep doing bits and bobs towards B's supper), and hopefully my 'cooking day' ends up as it should. The evening will be spent watching more TV. Well, I am old, need to 'rest' as much as possible, and lolling in my chair in front of the TV sort of makes sense don't you think? The 'Frozen Planet' (repeat) last night was VERY educational. As is 'Eggheads'.
Don't know if anyone who watches 'Strictly....' agrees with me, but found the Wembley venue a DIS-AH-STER (sorry Craig) this week. It was SO noisy had to keep turning the sound down, and even when the sound was up the voices of the presenters/judges kept echoing. The flashing lights make it almost impossible to see the dancers steps. Was I glad when it finished. Pity 'The Grant' had to go, but as only great dancers were left, these HAD to stay. Although Anita Dobson will never get to the end, so she could have gone and Russell could have stayed one more week.

Stop it Shirley! You are rambling again. Get some self-control. If you intend signing off, then SIGN OFF. Yes Miss!
Hope all readers enjoy their day and will join me again tomorrow. If so - see you then. Yes, Shirley, I AM now publishing. Stop nagging me!!!