Cooking up a storm

It has taken quite awhile to get settled after our move to the mainland. New jobs, new routines and then the house sale falling through with all the financial and mental strain that involves set us in a downward spiral. Now the house is sold, Stephen is working as an EAL teacher and four days a week I teach drama in one of the largest schools in Britain. It is time to look to the future; with this in mind I have joined Townhead Slimming World group, led by the ever vivacious Clare. So let the battle commence.

Last week I’m afraid I ‘self sabotaged’, sitting in the staff base on Monday after work with coffee, my Kindle and a packet of dark chocolate digestives (not mine, I’m sorry Jacquie) If it had been milk chocolate ones I would have resisted, maybe. An hour later I had finished my book and to my shame most of  the biscuits. Feeling slightly guilty I ended the day with a couple of gins (doubles) and tonics (Slimline of course). Tomorrow is another day.  Tuesday was fine, well almost, just a couple of syn-full gin and tonics, opps. Well, Wednesday was almost as bad as Monday.  Once again I was sitting on my lonesome in the staff base waiting for Paradise Taxis, ie Stephen, to pick me up from work. On Monday it was a Parents’ evening that delayed him. On Wednesday it was a staff meeting. There I was all on my lonesome, with; coffee, a vat of, my Kindle – another book, and a tin of Danish Butter cookies this time. An hour and a half later, at least twenty biscuits later and worryingly nothing prepared for dinner, my phone rings ‘Paradise Taxis for McCormack’. On the way home ‘any ideas for dinner?’ Normally I have something prepped and waiting. Not on Wednesday though. The consuming of alcohol didn’t do me any favours. Shamefully I somehow found myself sitting in Burger 7. Still in in Destructo mode I finished the day with a couple of glasses of vin rouge, it doesn’t sound so evil in French.

I know the secret of success is in careful planning. With this in mind I went into overdrive on Sunday. I chopped enough veg to feed an army; a small, not very hungry one. Carefully coordinated, mini mountains of chunks of carrots,  chopped celery, slices of swede and pieces of parsnips ( I can’t resist a little alteration) covered the butcher’s block.

image

Lots of lovely ‘speed’ ie low calorie, vegetables and low fat quark which will somehow be transformed into a lasagne. I may have over estimated how much veg I’d need and I now have one very large and a smaller two portion sized lasagne sitting on the butcher’s block. I wanted to get the sauces made in order that the tomato sauce could have a long slow cook to deepen the flavours.

image

A vast vat of sugo di pommodoro.

It’s also better if you can build the big beastie a few hours before you intend to cook the brute. Those few hours let the sheets of lasagne soften; soaking up the sauces, so you end up with an Italian style lasagne with well defined layers.

image

Everything you need for the spinach layers.

I’m not so keen on the over sauced sloppy ones that used to be the British norm.

That’s a few dinners sorted. Next the lunches needed  to be tackled. Almost everyone seemed to be in agreement that soups are the secret of successful Slimming. After sea through several Slimming World books and online I found I recipe that was full of mainly low calorie speed veg. After even more chopping I had everything ready for a spicy roasted root vegetable soup.

image

Lots of lovely vegetables.

Most of the day was taken up with ‘Cooking up a Storm’. I’ve got three gorgeous rainbow trout in the freezer, which we’ll have another day, with steamed whole small potatoes, broccoli and a dill sauce. On Thursday, my day off,  the shopping will be delivered, which means my meals this week are catered for.

image

Everything seems to have shrunk now it's all cooked

This lot should keep us on the right path, lots of veg, less carbs and very little fat. The sun is definitely over the yardarm; it’s time for a
G & T.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

https://journeymanbakers.com/2016/03/14/gli-avanti-or-what-goes-forward/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

image

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.

IMG_0070

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.

IMG_0081

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

img_20151015_071633.jpg

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!

1 Comment

Filed under Food budgeting

https://journeymanbakers.com/2016/03/07/larte-darrangiarsi-or-making-the-most-of-least/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

 

wp-1457348054052.jpg

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.

image

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.

wpid-img_0077.jpg

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.

image

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

image

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


image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

https://journeymanbakers.com/2016/01/21/every-day-is-like-sunday/

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized