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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Left Over but not Left Behind

 In these Austere and Dire financial times, there has been the swing back to the good ol’ days of making like the Oldies did. From knitting circles to slow cookers (for those cheaper cuts of meat), everyone seems to be following the ol’ Waste No Want Not mantra.
I have always been a fan of this way of thinking. Whether it was being brought up in the We Are The World era (“eat your dinner – there are children starving in Africa!”), or grandparents who lived through the Depression (and would still buy the largest size of everything “because it’s better value” even when there was only the two of them that would take 5 years to get through a catering sized tin of coffee), I’ve always been one to look at the weekly supermarket specials before deciding what we’re going to eat that week. The Buy in Bulk and Save option also appeals, but I haven’t succumbed to the allure of Costco yet (not enough storage room for 50 rolls of toilet paper). But this Popping it Aside for Later can backfire a little; especially when you do a freezer clean out and find 8 chicken fillets and not the mince you were relying on for dinner.  Also, being a family with 2 grown-ups and two kiddies (of intermittent fickle eating habits), I rarely cook a full recipe’s worth as most feed 6-8. So I find my freezer accumulates things like half a can of chopped tomatoes, or 250g pkts of mince and 350mls stock. So I do try to periodically Cook From the Freezer; get rid of all these odds and ends before I buy another  “oooh, but that’s good value for ……”.

 One other frugal way of cooking I have embraced in the last few weeks is the area of Left Overs. By this I don’t mean using roast veges for Bubble and Squeak (whatever that is exactly – seems like such an old English dish. And then I saw that you could buy it from the freezer section of the supermarket, which (from what I understand) is the exact opposite of what it should be), or Christmas ham in a thousand different ways over the summer holidays; but the little bits and pieces that you buy specifically for a recipe but don’t always use it all. It can lead you in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, and becomes almost like a family tree (Abraham begat Isaac. Isaac begat Jacob. Jacob begat Judah etc).
 Let me use last weeks’ menu to demonstrate.

 At the weekend we had a dozen eggs (the wonderful side benefit from having lovely chickens) so I made a Frittata (Vineyard Cookbook – Josef Chromy Vineyard inTas), which gave me left over….
  • Zucchini, which combined with some leftover mince from the freezer made Porcupine Meatballs (PMWU Cookbook, which I’m sure would have a Bubble and Squeak recipe)
  • Cream and mushrooms, which led to an amped up Chicken and Porcini papardelle (Donna Hay “Simple Dinners” – and I actually used penne as I had an open half packet in the pantry – score!)

  •   Pesto, which I will use at the weekend for Chicken and Pesto Risotto (called “Hulk-sotto” in our house because it’s all green)

  • Red capsicum, who joined the green capsicum already in the fridge to make Quesadillas (“Jamies Dinner” Jamie Oliver) – which gave me left over roast chicken for some delicious sandwiches, as well as spring onions (I always have left over spring onions – why can’t you buy them individually?? I even looked at planting some in my garden. Though I did read somewhere that you can plant store-bought ones in the garden and that keeps them fresh for longer. Thankfully my Tupperware keeps them slime-free for a good few weeks)

 I then cooked (from scratch, no leftovers were involed in the cooking of this dish) Beef in Guinness with Dumplings (Vineyard Cookbook, Skillogalee Winery in SA)) on Saturday night for some friends who came over for dinner.  The recipe made a mountain of savoury dumplings (which was my first use of Suet!), meaning I was on the lookout for a beef dish with gravy/sauce to make use of the 40 odd I had left over. I settled on Southern Sausage Stew (“Jamie’s America” Jamie Oliver) and used the dumplings instead of the boiled rice that the dish called for. Which went brilliantly well, but (you guessed it) gave me left over green, red, yellow capsicum and celery; which I am happily going to use to make Gumbo (again “Jamie’s America) this weekend, as it will also use chorizo and bacon and clear up more freezer space!

 Now the jury is probably out on whether all of this Using Left Overs is really saving money as I usually need to pick up and ingredient or two, which, like yesterday at the Farmer’s Market can lead to it being three or four or nine (The Smoked Bacon man was there- I had to pick some up!!). But is certainly gets your brain thinking in different ways and cooking meals you may not have. Which, is never a bad thing.

  And as I am not one of those cooks who can stand at the fridge/pantry and conjure up a meal from random bits and pieces, I must say how much I love the trend in cook books to list recipes by ingredients (thankyou Delicious, Donna Hay and Jamie Oliver). In fact I have taken this even further and have created my own “What to Do With Extra….” Notebook (nerd alert!), where I list ingredients and recipes that can use them. So I know that when I have left-over roast chicken from a lunch date, that I can look forward to Mulligatawny Soup, or an Asian Omelette.

 Or perhaps just pop it in the freezer for Next Time.

PS – made another “Street Food” recipe at the weekend: Zapiekanka, which is a Polish open baguette sandwich with sautéed mushrooms, ham and cheese which is then grilled. Needless to say, it was awesome, even before slathering on ketchup and mayonnaise.
 Na zdrowie!! (or not – if you ate them every day J)

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