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Gli Avanti or What Goes Forward.

Don’t you think ‘Leftovers’ is  a rubbish word? Looking at the word ‘leftovers’ as an English teacher, if i was analysing, it I would say it has very negative connotations. The word leftover suggests something that was not wanted or needed, or something discarded; in this context it is effective as it describes something that will probably lurk unloved in the fridge for a few days until it is guiltily, or not so guiltily, put in the rubbish bin. What follows are a series of meals that go forward; that follow on from the previous meal to the next. Often when I buy meat for the weekend I have a vague plan of how each day’s meals are going to use everything up.


At the weekend I slow roasted nearly 2kgs of pork shoulder with the intention of having some pulled pork on Sunday with Italian style mini roast potatoes and very British braised red cabbage; what remained was going to go forward to make a cornucopia of other porky delights. I just love pork in all its various guises. Luckily the rest of the family agree as two kilos of pork is a sizable hunk of meat.


My roots ready for roasting with the ever present dusting of chilli flakes and olive oil.

On Saturday night I rubbed the porcine shoulder with a a rub made of a couple tablespoons of sugar, salt and some kind of flavouring. Sometimes paprika; on Sunday I used a mix of garam marsala, ground coriander and ground cumin. I rubbed it all over the meat and let it sit covered in cling film overnight. It was loosely based on Tom Kerridge’s recipe with one or two swapsies for things I didn’t have. It went in the oven wrapped in tin foil with a cup of cider for nearly five hours at around 150°c. Once it was meltingly soft I removed the rind and crisped it up in a hot oven during the last twenty minutes the potatoes were cooking . I’m always hesitant about giving cooking times and temperatures as my oven, like me, is not so young and can be a little erratic most of the time.  Alas I didn’t take any photos, by seven thirty my batteries are beginning to run down.


pizze ready for throwing in the freezer: pie filled with pulled pork ragu and roasted roots ready for baking; stromboli on 2nd proofing and a cheesey plait ready for lunch.

That left us with a fair dod of pork to play with. First up was a pork stir fry with egg fried rice. This was loosely based on a recipe from; ‘The Woks of Life’. It was quick and tasty. As these meal ideas  were all based on what’s in my fridge at time there were no recipes to follow. The next meals involved some lots of baking. I tend to get up when Stephen gets up which is at four thirty. By 6am I had a big batch of pizza dough proving away in the kitchen.


This was destined to become enough Chicago style pulled pork pizza for six people. The final quarter or the dough I’d got earmarked for a stromboli, basically a rolled up pizza that is sliced and baked, to snack on. Just because they look pretty I baked them in a cake tin.


There was still oodles of pork left so I made a slow roasted pork ragu just using cooked meat instead of fresh and cooking it until it just about dissolved into the sauce. Some of this became six individual shepherds pies.


There was still some ragu to go forward and I wasn’t in a pasta mood; the weather had once again become cold, windy and frosty and there was a mountain of potatoes that needed to be dealt with soon. Ermm what to do? After a little, not a lot of thought I hit on the idea of making a pie. This was tasty but not photogenic as it sprang the odd leak. Therefore; on Tuesday night, using Delia’s quick flaky pastry, I made a pie. This involved no layering just grating a lot of frozen butter into the flour, mixing it into a dough. Once the chilled dough had been rolled out I used the pork ragu as a filling, adding some roasted root veg for a contrasting texture.  I made a little too much pastry, the little plait in the photo is a cheese, onion and bacon one. A yummy lunch for Joseph and I. Another lunch was a banh mi each, shredded pork with carrots, onions and cucumber lightly picked in sushi marinade. So quick, so easy and so tasty.


Is it my imagination, or has cooking using leftovers become more popular? I’ve got at least four books whose main focus are using up what remains to go forward to make different meals.

My mum probably wouldn’t buy such hefty hunks of meat as I do but I suppose what and how we cook has changed. I don’t think either of my onion and tomato avoiding brothers would have been delighted by a bowl of pasta and ragu; it is strange to think that certainly in the 1960s pasta was virtually unheard of in rural Britain. Monday was often cottage or shepherds pie or maybe a plate of food reheated over a pan of simmering water. I have some of Mum’s old cookery books, an  ancient one  has a section called Rechauffe which features such delights as jellied chicken, chicken mould , croquettes or blanketing meat in a thick sauce none of which really appeals. Nothing got wasted but there certainly wasn’t the variety in our meals that we now expect as a matter of course.


Time to put my feet up and admire the view, the boat has gone past so it is gin o’clock time. Fuzzy vision due to it being one of the evenings ferry leaves early. Opps! Good job dinner just has to be thrown in the oven.

What I’d like to hear a lot more about is how other people use the food that goes forward. Food shouldn’t and need not be wasted with a little bit of thought and forward planning . Using apps like Yummly it is simple to see meal ideas that could be adapted to suit what is skulking  in the larder. If only, I’d love a proper larder. So OK it’s the fridge, the veg rack, freezer and various cupboards really. Mum had a larder that had jars of wonderful pickles and preserves in. What wasn’t so hunky dory was the lack of fridge though. Oh the good old days!

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L’arte d’arrangiarsi. Or making the most of least.



The first time I heard that phrase was when watching the two greedy Italians. I just love the interaction between Antonio and Gennario,  the scenery, not forgetting the food or the sounds. At times I really miss living in Bella Italia, the markets, the restaurants. Oh, the weather too. Just now I’m sitting listening to the tail end of a storm, my weekly delivery of groceries became a click and collect. Luckily, for me, Stephen was at work. At least the power is back on, I spoke too soon, the lights are flickering on and off.

L’arte d’arrangiarsi, as a concept,  I was already very familiar with. My mum was a teenager in war torn Britain, being raised in a rural community did help, there was no real shortage of eggs, milk and butter, even so rationing meant that nothing could be wasted.  One of the most useful things that anyone, responsible for feeding a family, can pass on is the art of making something out of nearly nothing.


I find it fascinating, to take very little and turn it into something utterly mouthwatering. To do this you have to be able to cook, it helps if you actually like cooking. Which if you have read any of my blogs, or know me you may have guessed I rather like cooking. Everyone can cook though. One thing that really bugs me is the ‘chefification’ of food. I know it isn’t an actual word: it’s towers of food, squiggles and  smudges on plates, jenga stacks of chips and don’t get started on the noughts and crosses board arrangement of asparagus on a rissoto. Mama mia! The delicious asparagus should be flavouring the rice not decorating it. It really saddens me  people say they can’t cook; what they’re really saying is that they can’t make dishes that can pass for fine dining. That’s not what cooking is about.


Brenda being put to good use. A 400g haggis made into a ragu that will serve at least 8 people.

How many students, despite having passed through several years of doing Home Ec are clueless about how to cater for themselves? Why? Whoever designed the curriculum, i.e. the government, hasn’t a clue about what students really, really need. The day that Joseph gave up on cookery at school was when he had to poach pears and make a raspberry coulis . His personal tutor had told him the course would help him to cope with catering for himself. Several years later he still hasn’t poached another pear. He can make a really good ragu, is adept at making fresh pasta, has a wide  selection of Asian dishes he is confident at making and can make a selection of traybakes. I digress.


L’arte d’arrangiarsi, or making the most of what you’ve got it now is consciously at the heart of my cooking. It is turning a large onion, a couple of carrots and some celery into an Umbrian minestrone; with the addition of some brown lentils and leftover gravy from Sunday’s pulled pork. It’s never ever throwing chicken bones out before making a stock. It is using a left over portion of a roasted butternut squash to make a curry to go along with some  plain basmati rice and a garlic loaded riata.

Above all it is not wasting anything. I had to throw an aubergine out yesterday and I can’t tell you how much that hurt, especially as they seem to make infrequent visits to the supermarket shelves in lerwick. We are moving to live near Glasgow and the idea of having access to things like an Italian delicatessen, a Chinese quarter, a variety of Asian shops and perhaps even being able to get a veg box delivered to where I live, is just too much. It doesn’t take much to please me.


Before you go shopping take a last look around your store cupboards and fridge; do you really need to go shopping today or even tomorrow? Or can you use that last head of broccoli to make a pasta sauce, along with some olive oil, garlic and chilli powder or flakes? Have you got something put by in the freezer you should use up? Do you have half a cabbage wilting away Have you tried Madhur Jaffrey’s cabbage and red lentil dal? It’s delicious. Once the fridge looks really bare then it’s t ime to go shopping.

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Flying the coup

I’m glad to say that normal service will be(is) resuming. Going back to work in May was harder than I thought it would be and two weeks later I was back in the nest rather bruised and dented. I’ve now had a wee while to recover and with Samuel about to leave, is Glasgow ready for him I wonder? I thought it was time to make sure that he could cook a meal fit for McCormack family fayre. Sorry, I just can’t resist the chance to add a little alliteration.


First sauté lots of onions and then add your spices/garlic- always seems to be the first instruction.


Pizza dough: made by Sam, n.b. no smarties added!

Sunday was the first time I had cooked a meal for weeks, which may also help to explain a lack of posts about what I’ve been doing in the kitchen. All the meals over the last three weeks, perhaps longer, have been chosen, prepared and cooked by Joseph and Samuel. The only thing we’ve done is pay for the ingredients! Oh and I have been a speaking recipe book. Stephen has had the dubious pleasure of tidying up after the kitchen has been reduced to something that looked more like a war zone.  I just wonder how often prawn toast made with 450g of king prawns will feature in Samuel’s meal plans? Not too often I suspect. Perhaps a few less dishes will also be used; unless his kitchen is an unusually well stocked for a halls of residence kitchen. He is now in a halls of residence in Glasgow and is getting a reputation as, ‘The Chef’. Result.


Chicken with ginger, garlic, soy and spring onions. One of Sam's first solo meals.


Joseph and I playing with some dough at Shetland Food Show

Since the weans, who both now tower above me, have been old enough to wield a wooden spoon they have been involved in preparing food. Samuel’s first bread making exploits are truly the stuff of family legends. Joseph is just amazed that anyone else actually ate it. The smarties in the bread were the least of his concerns; the number of times the dough hit the floor was a little more bothersome. Spinning dough is an art that not many six year olds manage to master, enough said!

I digress. What have been my aims, apart from making sure he can actually cook a meal? Obviously I wanted to make sure that he could use his limited resources wisely, so he doesn’t end up wasting either money or ingredients. Hopefully he will check his store cupboard before he restocks them it; those wilted veggies lurking all lonely and unloved could become a tempting meal. The lunch we had yesterday was the result of spotting a pair of aubergines that were no longer plump and shiny. They became Melanzane Parmigianino, an aubergine bake with tomato sauce and parmesan, cheddar or Wensleydale depending what I discover in the fridge . The alternatives were – an aubergine pasta sauce or  a Keralan curry sauce from ‘A Girl Called Jack’. Talking about food, as well as preparing it, has been part of this process too. I also wanted both Joseph and Samuel to see that cooking can be fun and that delicious meals can be made quickly and simply.


Omelette, one of Sam's staples.

I know I’ve enjoyed sharing the kitchen with them and taking on a more advisory role. We’ve had some splendid meals too. This week we had a surplus of cannelloni beans that had made there first appearance in a green pepper and bean goulash, courtesy of Rose Eliot’s Complete Vegetarian. There was also some meat left on the skeleton of a chicken that had been lurking in the fridge with malicious intent. If it wasn’t used up very soon it would have to be binned. A Capital offence in this household. In the salad drawer a pepper was looking limp and lonely. After a brief discussion,  some  surfing the net and browsing through our collection of cookery books we decided to make enchiladas. Having no wraps in the house we would have to rustle some up, simples. To make life easier I just made up a standard white bread pizza dough and after the first rising just divided it into 60g balls. These were rolled out nice and thinly and quickly cooked in a lightly greased moderately hot skillet or heavy frying pan. Once you get a few brown spots on each side they’re done.

What I hope they have learnt is the skill of doing ‘roll – overs’ and stretching the more expensive ingredients to make follow on meals . With just small tweaks truly the phoenix of one dish can rise from the ashes of an old one. 

My initial starter was 500g of cannelloni beans which I placed in a pan with twice as much water so they had tons of room to expand, which I boiled for five minutes and then turned the water off and left for one hour. You can change the water, I don’t bother, then boil the beans for 10 minutes and simmer until tender usually about another 35 minutes drain and rinse.

For the goulash you will need
500g onions, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp oil, if a meat eater I’d use dripping or large for added unami
1 clove garlic, minced
2 peppers, deseeded and cut into chunky strips
2 × 450g tinned tomatoes
500g cooked beans. Or 2 × 450g tons cannelloni beans
1 heaped table spoon of smoked paprika

Sour cream to serve, I added a tablespoon of chopped dill to it and 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, add the onion and cook until softened.
Add the garlic, don’t let it burn so we’re talking about one minute.
Add the peppers, cook until softened 4 or 5 mins, add the paprika.
Bung the tomatoes into your pan, simmer uncovered for fifteen minutes.

Serve with rice or a baked potato, drizzle the sour cream over your goulash with a crisp green side salad dressed with a tangy lemon dressing

The next day we served the left over goulash with a little leftover roasted chicken which I fried with an onion, a red pepper and some ‘Slap yer Mamma’ – an authentic cajan spice mix.
I made same wraps using a basic white bread dough recipe allowing 60g of dough


Wraps, using mainly wholemeal flour today.

Next I made a simple tomato sauce by heating 3tbsp of oil adding copped clove of garlic and a finely chopped red chilli, cook briefly before adding  500ml passata and salt to taste. Cook for about 5 mins. Simple.

Oil a shallow casserole dish, take a wrap and place a few table spoons of your bean, pepper and chicken mixture in a wrap. Roll it up and place in your dish.
For a lunch allow one enchilada per person, dinner two.
Continue filling and rolling your wraps until you have used them all up.
Next pour your simple tomato sauce over your wraps. I sprinkled some i.e. lots of cheddar cheese over them all at this point.
Bake at 175°c fan oven or  195°c in a standard oven until piping hot, about 15-20 mins.

I like to serve a salad with them and sour cream.

Now you should still have heaps of beans left.

I used half of them to make a lamb and bean casserole which I served with creamy polenta.

The last batch became Boston(ish) baked beans. I use my simple tomato sauce but add a couple of table spoons of molasses to it. One spoon is probably enough for most folks though.
Add your cooked beans and simmer for a few mins. These I served for brunch on sourdough toast,  a poached egg with a salsa made from diced tomatoes, diced chilly, parsley, finely sliced shallot and a little olive oil.


Sam's favourite toy; his Nespresso coffe maker.

The possibilities are countless. I think both Joseph and Samuel have got the idea of using a base ingredient and making it into several different dishes.


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Life living on the edge – of a large rock we call home.

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‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’


Hoswick bay at the crack of dawn one Sunday.

Sundays, in my imagination anyway, are lazy days to be taken at a leisurely pace. Starting with a mug or two of freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee. Gentle music helping to create a relaxed atmosphere, the dogs curled up on the couch. Breakfast will follow, preferably prepared by someone else. Alas we can all dream. The reality is often rather different. In truth Sundays can be just as hectic as any Saturday; Samuel works in Niela’s knitwear studio every Sunday. Joseph on the other hand frequently has band practice on a Sunday afternoon. Now he works every other Sunday and breakfasts at 4:30am! Trying to find time for those leisurely long family breakfasts will have to remain an idea that is pleepsing on the back burner for awhile longer.

However; I’m not one to be defeated by the practicalities of the hurly burly that is family life. Our day begins early, usually around 6am at the weekends. Why? Doesn’t the duvet’s alluring attraction prove too much? In the week we, well Stephen and I, get up at five every morning. Times change. This used to be so that chickens could be fed, dog walked, washing machine fed with a never ending supply of clothes, the  dishwasher unloaded and reloaded all before breakfast. Sadly the last of our thirteen assorted hens has met its maker. Our pair of brindle terrors are generally walked later in the day. Our internal alarms seem permanently set for the wee small hours. To make the most of this: we get settled on the settee; mull over mugs of fresh coffee; listen to some gentle music and slowly wake up. It’s just the relaxing family breakfast that’s missing from this rural idyll. Due to the fact that young Heath is a whirlwind on four paws at the best of times we usually try to snatch a quiet hour before we let them disturb our peace.


Heath the canine tornado snapped in a quieter moment.

Sunday breakfast just can’t be toast, even if its homemade sourdough. Or even homemade muesli, it just can’t. Even if we don’t often manage to sit down all together I like to make something that seem more  special than our usual breakfast staples of either something on toast or porridge with a fruit compote. When we had thirteen laying hens, eggs had to be included. Even I, an obsessive cook and baker, couldn’t manage to use that many eggs every week. Now, hen less the tradition continues. I like to make something that adapts itself easily to being served in several sittings or is very quick to prepare. This week I decided to make ‘Bombay Eggs’ using Meera Sodha’s marvellous book ‘Made in India’. This is the recipe that has been tickling my imagination. It consists of a spicy tomato and spinach sauce with eggs gently poaching in their vegetable nests. There are various similar versions of this; the two best known are probably Huevos Rancheros and chachukka, I’m going to have to check the spelling.

To make this delectable delight you begin by roasting cumin seeds in a large frying pan that has a lid, you’ll need that later. I usually use about two teaspoons of coriander  and one of cumin seeds. Sometimes the proportions vary, depending on the state of my store cupboard and whether the boat’s come in. Once they’re is a lovely aroma in the air and they have turned a couple of shades darker carefully tip the spices into a grinder or use a pestle and mortar and gently crush them. I love the smell of freshly roasted spices. Now heat four tablespoons of oil, I’ve now switched to rapeseed oil, tip your spices back into the pan fry for about one minute and add the onions and cook until they are floppy and are beginning to turn golden at the edges. Don’t rush; this will take about eight minutes.


The spices and onions softened in the pan

Next add your crushed garlic and ginger. If I’m feeling lazy I use a couple of heaped table spoons garlic and ginger paste, it’s not the same but I like the pungent hit you get when the paste meets the heat. I think its the acetic acid. Otherwise use four large cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and a small thumb length of ginger about four cms. Cook for two or three minutes before adding two 450g tins of chopped tomatoes. Meera Sodha says 1kg of chopped fresh tomatoes. Early on a Sunday morning that seems a bit too much chopping for me. So tinned toms will do. Maybe fresh ones would have not involved a trip to casualty, but that’s another story entirely.


Just look at the vivid colour of those tomatoes!

Leave the tomatoes and onions pleepsing away for fifteen minutes. Such a wonderful word for gently simmering. By now they should be thick and the sauce should still be vividly red. Add a tablespoon or so of tomato purée and salt to taste, my default measure is usually one tsp, add a tsp of sugar, about half a tsp of chilli powder, I usually use chilli flakes and up the cumin seeds and a good couple of pinches of turmeric. If you don’t want to stain your fingers its about a quarter of a tsp.


Piano, piano! Slowly add a 300g bag of spinach.

You will need to add the spinach gradually, letting each hand full wilt before you add the rest. Once it has all wilted you can add the eggs. If anyone is eating later I just take a portion of the sauce out of the pan and reheat it in a smaller pan before adding the eggs.

Now if your not happy about cracking the eggs directly into the pan, crack them into little preparation dishes or ramekins and carefully slide the eggs into the pan. Usually its two eggs per person. Put the lid on and cook on a very gentle heat for ten minutes. The yolks should still be runny and the whites cooked.

Garnish with lots of freshly chopped coriander leaves, a generous sprinkling of black pepper and serve with toast or any Indian bread of your choice. Homemade soft nans are a McCormack favourite.

Sometimes if I’m in a hurry I use hard boiled eggs then it is so easy to feed the minions later in the day. Sam will normally rush in for a quick lunch. He usually gives me a ring and by the time he has; locked up the studio, walked a couple of hundred metres, a plate of eggs in a spicy sauce is on the table,  the nans have been warmed up in the microwave and one smug mum looks on. Sometimes, if I’m really pushed for time, I make up a simple tomatoes sauce just by sautéing a couple of cloves of garlic in the oil add the tomatoes and a few mins later some good quality balti paste, then the spinach. While this is reducing, hard boil your eggs or just plop your fresh eggs into little nests you’ve made in the sauce. Pop the lid on and in less than fifteen minutes you have a lovely light lunch or a brilliant breakfast. Just don’t tell anyone about this short cut. Needs must at times.


Its even nicer with eggs poached in the sauce though.

Things have moved on since I started this post. Mental health issues have plagued me. Ironically I have had plenty of time to write these posts. However, it just didn’t happen now I’m feeling much more on top of things so look out for a few more posts. Samuel is a student living in a shared student flat. Joseph is working in a local bakery and getting up at five seems like a unheard of luxury and we will be upping sticks and moving of this remote rock we’ve called home for 11 years.


Home is where the heart is. Or, more likely, where the dogs are.

I just had to sneak in a photo of Filska and Heath.

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