Thursday, 30 December 2010

Keeping it simple… Part III

Ideas for leftovers are everywhere – how best to resurrect the beast (Our beast was half a crown cooked with goose fat – counter-intuitive I know, but utterly delicious) whilst making it seem joyously fresh and exciting and tempting to everyone’s somewhat jaded palates. I rather take the line with Jay Rayner and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that there is very little unimproved by frying in hot butter and I would apply it to turkey too. I’m really not that keen on cold meat, apart from rare beef, so it’s a practice I’ve taken to with enthusiasm.

Frankly, the best bit – of course – is the turkey sandwiches afterwards. There must absolutely be stuffing: even Paxo’s rather bullying sage & onion has its place here and I reheat my turkey (look away now if this makes the more salmonella-paranoid of you squirm) either in a good knob of butter in the frying pan or cut into thin slices and covered with a little chicken stock/leftover gravy and some knobs of butter in a dish in the oven. Make sure it’s piping hot, though. I also used to adore – God, it sounds revolting, but I truly loved it and so pass it on now – sandwiches made with hot turkey and stuffing and a good squirt of salad cream. Makes a change from mayo which is really only useful to lubricate the bread rather than add much in the way of flavour.

Boxing Day isn’t Boxing Day proper without bubble & squeak with Worcestershire sauce and however many types of chutneys and pickles you can fit on the plate. However, this year, having gorged on my mother’s B & S on Boxing Day, we still had our leftover veg waiting for us, as well as quarter of a can of chestnut puree from the stuffing. Reader, I made a Bubble & squeak soup, nicked from a recipe I saw from dear old Nigel Slater and adapted and it was luscious.Use whatever veg you have to hand.

Chop an onion and some celery and sweat in butter, then add a sliced leek. Toss in your leftover cooked veg and add stock to cover, then stir in the chestnut puree. Simmer until it tastes mingled – maybe 20 minutes – and throw in a handful of greens, leftover or fresh – for the sprouty taste – and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Blend until smooth – or at least not lumpy and ladle into deep bowls. I had some stuffing and did as he suggests, cubed it and added to the soup before serving. 

You might also consider making a Keema – a curry made with a base of sliced onion and garlic, garam masala, ginger and cumin with the chopped meat, peas, spinach, a can of tomatoes and a little water and left to simmer until thickened and shiny.

And don’t forget the pasta sauces made with the leftover cream (why do we insist on buying those mountainous pots of cream – what do we use it for?), turkey, bacon and mushrooms – ridiculously rich but comforting if the weather’s a bit dreich and drear.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Keeping it simple… Part II

Last night was wild mushroom risotto. Now, I have to admit to a certain amount of seasonal wanton profligacy with this, due to a timely visit to Costco and the bulk buying of 500g wild mushrooms for less than a tenner, which has led to me throwing them with gay abandon into everything. And I also have to acknowledge that not everyone will find a half-eaten jar of Sacla anchovies with white truffles in the cupboard to also throw in with wilful wantonness, so feel free to edit these elements somewhat… If you wanted that savoury richness and had only ordinary anchovies, add them in with the onion at the beginning so they melt and form a backbone of flavour.

So: I soaked a good handful of mushrooms in some chicken stock while I sweated a chopped onion and 2 cloves garlic in some butter. I scooped out the mushrooms and added them to the pan, then added in around 160g arborio rice (carnaroli is my preferred choice, but we’re talking cupboard love here). Add a good slug of vermouth (or white wine) and allow the rice to soak it up, then proceed as normal, adding in the stock a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid and stir, stir, stir. About halfway through, I added the anchovies which melted into the risotto as it cooked. You’ll notice the risotto is taking on a rather brown hue, due to the mushroom liquid, but think of it as autumnal woods and move on…  When the rice is cooked,season and leave to stand for a couple of minutes while you add the incredibly important knob of butter and – for even more richness – a big handful of grated gruyere cheese. Warm your plates, then spoon the risotto onto them, adding a grating of Parmesan and a sprinkling of parsley. Heaven in a bowl.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Keeping it simple… Part I

Pre-Christmas I find I crave meat less and less as the Big Day approaches: something I suspect to do with the surfeit looming. Particularly in this weather – and with MCD Jr having had his very first cold and cough – I’m paranoid about keeping up our vegetable intake and a lot of the meals tend towards the vegetarian, in a strange simulacrum of Puritan-like fasting before the main event.

Monday’s soup was the usual throw-unfeasibly-large-amounts-of-vegetables-in-a-pot-and-cook-with-stock-and-blend variety but the combination this time was particularly worthy of note. Half a pumpkin, laboriously peeled and cubed, a handful of Jerusalem artichokes simply scrubbed, a lone peeled potato found floating in the drawer and an apple for sweetness – all softened with a base of sweated onion and garlic. Simmer with enough vegetable stock to cover until thoroughly soft and then blend. The genius is in the velvety texture from the artichokes and the sweet combo of pumpkin and apple. Last night I just topped with a handful of toasted croutons (always mindful of Simon Hopkinson’s note that they ‘do something nice to the inside of your mouth’). This lunchtime I had the leftovers alongside a roll stuffed with grilled chorizo sausage in a riff on the old pea and ham soup-and-sandwich combo.

Edouard Pomiane, a warm and lovely presence in the food writing world, had a lovely way with cooked tomatoes, luxurious and warming without being cloyingly rich. Cut tomatoes in half and prick the skin side a few times with the point of a knife. Place cut-side down in a frying pan with a knob of butter and fry until coloured. Turn oven and cook – and this is his crucial injunction – until the juices run out. Pour in a dollop of cream, season well and scoop over hot toast. It’ll do for breakfast with a pot of hot coffee.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Haggis - it's never too early...

The freezer needs some serious consideration if I am to fit all the Christmas goodies in that I intend to for the two of us (And I know there's now three, but if you're not on solids, you don't count on this particular occasion). I found - stashed in the back from last January when I optimistically bought it for Burns Night - a haggis. Being pregnant at the time, it was the first Burns Night in a few years I had gone without my customary haggis fill, but I need the space in the freezer now and it seemed the perfect solution for a warming supper toute seule.

Wrapped in foil and bunged in the oven for 90 minutes, half of it was comfortingly savoury with chips (of course...) and some - oh the shame - Bisto roast onion gravy which I almost never use but can get you out of a culinary hole when time is tight and only thick gravy will do. The other half - well, all I can say is if you haven't tried a haggis sandwich, you haven't eaten the best this can offer. I fried some mushrooms in a pan with some butter, added the remaining haggis and cooked through until completely hot. I spread a little redcurrant jelly (I know but work with me) on a slice of white (home-made!) bread, then tipped the contents of the pan over said slice, topped with another and applied to face. It strikes me now it would have been less messy to eat in a bun of some kind, but it was a very Scottish take on a Sloppy Joe, a deconstructed burger dish of which I am inordinately fond.

Naturally, come January I shall be going down the traditional route once more, but as MCD isn't that keen, I might have half on Burns Night and save the other half for sandwiches again. Who knew...?