Saturday, 26 May 2012

Chicken Divan and other comfy ways with chicken

I eavesdrop.

 I don't mean to- but I do.

 The older you get, as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple discovered to her advantage, the more invisible you become- and people talk around me, over me and past me as if I wasn't there.

Most of the conversations I overhear are banal, some are amusing and others, like the one I will recount for you below are downright shocking:
Whilst getting changed for swimming last Sunday, two young women talked over me as they had lockers to either side of mine.

Girl 1: 'I don't know what to cook for dinner tonight' she moaned, 'Mick insists on a Sunday roast but there's only the two of us and half of it gets thrown in the bin.' (My attention was immediately grabbed!)
'Why not do lamb chops with all the trimmings instead?' suggested Girl 2 helpfully.
'He wouldn't accept that!' wailed Girl 1, as if she was cooking for Louis XIV and not the stolid Mick 'And anyway, there's just as much veg and rubbish to throw away at the end of that too!'

Reader, I was shocked!
Is there a whole generation out there who live in terror of keeping anything overnight in the fridge- lest it should plot to poison them if left to its own devices?
Or is it lack of skill? Or imagination?

Here's what I did with this Sunday's roast:

First of all, of course, roast chicken, gravy, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and broccoli.

After we'd had our fill, this is how much chicken was left on the bird for further meals:

Nearly 400 grams!

This made a Chow Phan ( see February blog post for the recipe) and a Chicken Divan ( a dish from the Seventies): place a layer of cooked broccoli and a layer of  cooked chicken in a gratin dish. Add a can of chicken soup mixed with a little cream and a pinch of curry powder. Cover with a layer of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan or strong cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of toasted almonds (optional). Bake in a hot oven until the breadcrumbs and cheese are crispy and the sauce is bubbling - take care not to burn the almonds. 

Then I made stock from the carcass in the slow cooker ( see March blog for method).

Once cooled, there was yet more meat to be taken from the carcass along with the delicious stock: this made a lovely chicken noodle soup with spring onions, sweetcorn, soy sauce, spinach and noodles added and brought to a gentle simmer. ( See March blog post for a picture).

One last thought- don't forget the parsnips and leftover veg. 

I made a potato and parsnip gratin with the leftover roastie veg: Roughly chop the veg, mix with a savoury white sauce or cream, top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in a hot oven until brown and bubbling. 

Nice with fish or on its own as a vegetarian main dish.

Right - I'm off for another swim.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The best of the rest

The trouble with blogs is that each new entry appears above rather than below the last. So , you're reading this before you've read the previous entry. Scroll down and read that one first!

Now for the last of this batch of storecupboard recipes - we had the sausages and mash and the sweetcorn fritters (see below for the fritters)

These ones had a little spring onion mixed in with the batter.

Then we had simple fish cakes (I did use leftover mashed potato rather than instant mash)  mixed with tuna or salmon, spring onion, some chilli flakes and seasoning. Fry them in oil until crispy- and garnish (either with chili sauce as I suggested) or with a soft poached egg as illustrated here:

Last dish from the storecupboard is a pasta marinara al forno.( I made that title up, but it does sound more impressive than a tuna pasta bake)
Make a ragout with , chopped onion softened in olive oil , a tin of tuna,  a tin of chopped tomatoes, a glass of red wine and some herbes de provence, mix with cooked pasta (these are gigli), dot with black olives, top with grated cheese and fresh breadcrumbs (I always keep a tub of these in the freezer and add to it whenever I have leftover bread).

Bake in the oven until the cheese is browned and the top is crispy.Serve with a green veg (like spinach) or a salad.

So, my cupboards are practically empty- time to restock. What did you manage to make from your shelves?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Storecupboard sweep!

Having returned from a busy few days away, I came home to an almost bare fridge and a not very well stocked larder. What could I make out of the seemingly miserable array of packets and tins, a  2 centimetre cube of cheese, a few potatoes and a bit of  of salad?

It felt a bit like ' Ready Steady Cook' when James Martin opened the bag to find a Mars Bar, a Pot Noodle and a bottle of beer. He rustled it ll together to make a beer battered deep fried Mars Bar dessert (and threw the Pot Noodle away , I think!) A chef after my own heart- although I might have tried to find a use for the Pot Noodle!

Well, I baked the potatoes in their skins, scooped out the mash and mixed it with a little corned beef, put it back in the skins and topped with some grated cheese, popped them under the grill for a few minutes and hey presto! Twice Stuffed Potatoes with salad garnish:

This got me thinking about 'This Week's Challenge'- as requested by a blog follower. What else could I make from the tins and bits in the larder? After all, we all have stuff in there that really ought to be eaten up on a regular basis, to keep the stock rotating.

So, here's my cupboard bits that I intend to use up this week: tins of sweetcorn, tuna, tomatoes, butter beans, sardines, mixed vegetables and mushrooms , packets of dried mushrooms, spaghetti, instant mash, vegetable rice, arborio rice, vegetable stock cubes, olives and flour and bottles of mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce plus some part-baked bread, anchovy paste and some cream cheese and sausages from the fridge.

First meal is a mushroom risotto made from the arborio rice, dried and tinned mushrooms and cream cheese.

First, soak a tbsp. of  the dried mushrooms in two cups of boiling water for 10 mins.
Gently fry a chopped onion in some olive oil and add the tinned sliced mushrooms.
Strain the dried mushrooms (keeping the stock) and add them to the mixture.
Mix in a cupful of arborio rice and stir to coat the grains.
Add a glass of white wine and stir until absorbed.
Gradually add the warm mushroom liquor, stirring as it is absorbed.
Add a little more boiling water if the risotto is still too dry and chewy.
When it has reached a creamy and soft consistency, it is ready.
Stir in a tbsp of cream cheese (and serve with extra grated Parmesan if you like this.)

Any leftover risotto freezes well and can be used as a stuffing for peppers (see post from May 2).

Second meal is vegetable soup (from the tinned vegetables, cooked with a stock cube and blitzed), baked bread, sardine pate and salad including a rice salad made from the vegetable rice mix, sweetcorn and mayonnaise.

Sardine Pate- blitz cream cheese, seasoning, a spring onion, a squeeze of lemon and a tin of  sardines.

More meals to follow in the blog later in the week  but planned menus are: spaghetti marinara, fish cakes with sweet chili sauce, sausage and butter bean mash with sweetcorn fritters....mmmm!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

(Asparagus) tip of the week

Just quickly whilst that lovely photo of asparagus in Salon is up there. I'm reminded of some tasty ways to use every bit of asparagus whilst it's around..

In the UK, it's prime season but elsewhere the season is coming to an end. Either way, you shouldn't waste any of this beautiful vegetable- even if the ends are becoming a bit woody.

Asparagus is at its most delicious, simply steamed or boiled and served with butter, hollandaise, or mayonnaise (aioli). However, the steaming or cooking water is a gem in itself and do conserve it in a screw topped jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The asparagus tips will always make a lovely meal- accompanying meat or fish- or baked in a quiche (printanier style with spring onions).

As the season progresses, and the  stems become a little coarse- don't disregard them. Firstly, they yield a flavoursome stock and secondly, they can be made into a wonderful veloute or asparagus cream soup.

Cook your bundle of asparagus - steamed over boiling water or cooked in boiling water. Above all, keep this asparagus-scented water for your soup.

Cut off the tips to use as you wish. (So many ways to enjoy this delightful vegetable.)

Chop the leftover stalks and soften in olive oil with celery, onion and a handful of garden peas.

Add the leftover asparagus water and cook for 10 mins until all veg are soft.

Blitz the, soup - season and add a dash of milk.

A delicious asparagus soup from stuff that might otherwise be left on plates- all the more satisfying for that!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

16 (or more) fruit and veg a week? A challenge?

I've just been hearing on the TV that 'experts' recommend we eat at least 16 different fruit and veg a week to keep healthy. The TV panel seemed overwhelmed by the idea - how can anyone keep up with all this health advice, they moaned. 5 a day is hard enough- but 16 a week? (Hmmm...I may not be a mathematician but it's not 1973 and we aren't on a 3 day week, are we....yet?)

Anyway, snidiness apart- I wondered how many different fruit and veg I'd planned for this week's menus. I emptied the fridge and laid them all out: grapes, pineapple, mandarin segments, leftover broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, carrots, rocket leaves, onion, spring onion,  peas, mushrooms, haricot beans, butter beans, yellow pepper, red pepper and  parsnips (18 I reckon- plus lentils and leftover veg for soup).

What about you- dear blog reader? How many can you boast?

Well, here is how I used this trolley of delights:

Pot roast beef with all the trimmings (parsnips, peas, carrots and roast potatoes)
apple crumble
fruit salad
pineapple upside down cake ( see April)
vegetable stir fry (with leftover Sunday veg, mushrooms and spring onions) with poached chilli salmon

Sussex cassoulet (see February)
Quiche Lorraine- (also see February) with salad Day 1 and beans Day 2

Stuffed peppers with carrot and nut salad, tomatoes and green leaves

Then a chicken curry (with leftover salads and rice) and a lentil casserole with chipolatas- with the leftover lentils, veg and stock made into a thick soup to have with bread and cheese to finish the week.
If you need some inspiration to think fruit and veg then take a look at this pic of the market in Salon de Provence last week- a whole stall given over to fat white asparagus! And you can bet the stall holder had sold out by midday! Delicious!

Go on! Rise to the challenge!