Waste not, want for nothing

So there appears to be a recession going on at the moment and it’s probably world-wide, if you believe what you hear in the media. I read an article last week that suggested it isn’t technically a recession. My understanding of the description was that the term ‘recession’ is only applied when two consecutive quarters have been in a downturn. Apparently, this quarter has shown a very small growth. Hey ho.

Petrol is higher than ever in price, and food is still soaring. It isn’t a nightmare yet, but it is aspiring to be so.

The best way to approach it seems to be to pull in the belt and make the most of everything.

There’s an old saying “waste not, want not”, and it seems to work. If you waste nothing, you never run out. Using up leftovers can be a real chore but there’s something immoral in throwing out food that’s perfectly fine. (Homemade food is often more attractive for longer, because it isn’t full of fillers and thickeners).

There’s always the freezer of course, but if you can stand having variations of the same dish over a couple of days (even three), that is just as pennywise, and maybe more satisfying. It’s easier to control by not making too much in the first place  but it’s still possible to be creative.

Tonight’s Example:

Bolognese sauce with 300g beef mince from Steadmans Butchers in Kirkby (about £3.30).

1st incarnation: pasta bake – 3 handfuls of large pasta shells (lumaconi) cooked and mixed with 3 big spoonfuls of bolognese & placed in a baking dish (preheat oven on 180 deg C). A few dollops of soft cheese (preferably Ricotta but mine was Philly-style) on the top, a grating of cheddar, followed by a layer of parmesan and herbs. Bake for about 20-30mins until browned on top.

2nd use: pasta bake in the microwave & fresh salad

3rd version: mince (still bolognese) and baked new spuds with broccoli and peas.

4th and final tastiness (two nights later as had a break from mince): added a chopped, tiny chilli and snipped in a handful of coriander stalks.

before cooking - baked sweetcorn on the cob

Corn on the cob in the oven with just Maldon and olive oil.

 

Just the additions of a homemade flour tortilla and a fresh, chopped salsa of peppers, onions, tomato, jalapeno and coriander are enough to turn the same mince into a completely different meal.

corn with chilli bol and salsa

 

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We’ve got geeses! Part 2

The first and the last feeds of the day with cabbage and cauliflower leaves can only be described as a frenzy. See the video for evidence.

Looking after these birds has so far been peaceful and fulfilling. They’re on here not because they’re necessarily bound for the Christmas Dinner (their fates are as yet uncertain), but because like in cooking your own food, there can be a simple joy in looking after animals that need you to be there to feed and shelter them. If you will only let it.

Pastry TidBits

I admit, the hedonist has a thin Puritan streak running through her. She can’t throw anything out without a heartrending tug. If she can use it, it stays. Dang it, even if she knows she doesn’t want to eat it, it’ll stay in the fridge until it’s far beyond best before. Some leftovers are completely pleasurable though.

What to do with pastry leftovers is nearly a reason in itself to make pastry. My mum used to make a little jam or currant tart, or marmite straws.

Me, however. I am far less austere in attitude towards the little luxury by-products of baking.

Cheese Straw Classic

*Roll out pastry till it’s as thin as you can get it without it breaking up.
Grate a light sprinkling of cheddar on half the shape. Fold in half and roll out again.*

Repeat *-* until you have as many layers as you can be bothered to make.

Grate one last heavy covering of cheddar over half the shape, fold in half and press down with the rolling pin. Nip the edges in case you’ve put a lot of cheese in there. No point in it escaping. Brush with milk if you remember, it’s not essential but is a nice touch.

Semi-cut the product into strips and bake in a preheated 200 deg C oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Tip: Try not to handle the dough too much, just use the rolling pin to push it about as much as possible. On a cool surface is best.

Variants on the Classic Final Layer

Serrano Brie Stix

Thin slices of Brie and a single layer of Serrano or Proscuitto ham.

A long squeeze of Marmite across the cheese before folding.

Fried onions mixed into the grated cheese at the end.

Raspberry jam and cheese, or sweet chutney and cheese.

We’ve got geese

The geese are the highlight of the summer. They’re a mainly peaceful, organised gaggle of 20, about 8 weeks old and they’re fascinating to watch and listen to. They have something to say about everything and they go through cabbage and grass like piranhas.

Himself started off saying that he wasn’t going to ‘knock’ them at Christmas; they were purely guard dogs. Then if anybody asked,  he said that some of them would go. Then he said the other day that he hadn’t completely decided.

I am tempted to feel sentimental, but I have a feeling this is farming. There’s no room to be soft but I do just wish he would make up his mind.

Caramelised Onion & Goats Cheese* Flan

A perfect egg custard tart baked at the weekend left over some pastry. (It was a perfect egg custard, not just a good one. Gently wobbly and not too sweet, it was consumed with love and mouthfeel).

But I digress. The pastry led to an equally genius potato and cheese flan.

First blind bake your pastry case in a flan dish. The oven wants to be as hot as possible, so 200 deg C at the least. When you get it out, reduce the temperature to 160 deg C.

Cut 2-3 small potatoes into centimetre cubes (leave the skin on) and boil in salted water until just cooked.

Saute 2 medium-sized onions in about 1 tblsp butter for around 20 minutes until they are a rich yellow brown in the pan. Salt them slightly.

Spread two-thirds of the onions on the bottom of the flan case and mix the rest in with the cooked, drained potatoes. Cut 100g or more soft goats cheese into the mix and add a couple of slices of ham (serrano, proscuitto or even just plain boiled bacon) torn and shredded into strips

Don’t overmix the filling. It wants to be chunky with recognisable pieces. Pile it into the shell case, heaping it in the middle.

Beat 1-2 whole eggs together with 4-6 tblsps plain yoghurt (the cheap, low fat stuff is the best) and gently pour it over the piled up filling, helping it to soak into the crevices with a teaspoon.

Grate parmesan over it if you have it.

Bake on 160 deg Cfor about 20 minutes. It’s cooked when it’s browned on the top; just use your nose.

Half eaten, I admit it.

 

*doesn’t have to be goats cheese, I was ready with soft cheese, philly-style in case there weren’t enough goats but just happened not to need it. Ricotta would also be good.

Harmonised in Ravenstonedale

Oh, harmony. Rapture, even. Gentle tastes used strongly and strong flavours used gently. There is a public house* called The King’s Head in an immaculate Cumbrian village called Ravenstonedale (pronun. Ray-vun-stun-dayl), which has a chef who can give you a balance and not just a choice between upmarket chic and satisfying fullness. The menu has all the elements of modern gastro desirables (fondant potatoes sprout to mind) but with a strong emphasis on local food production. Nothing new there; these days any gastro pub worth its Maldon is getting its meat from 5 miles away and its chutneys from local producers. What is new** is a strong element of tradition that genuinely filters through the menu and the place as a whole.

Tradition isn’t just a parody from the olden days, when farmers said “ooh arrgh” and miners took pasties with meat in one end and fruit in the other.Traditional pairing of flavours happens over time as people use the foods they can obtain in the combinations that work.

If you limit your base to the local supply, you should find yourself with the means to make proper traditional food. Most local gastropub menus try to do this, although the ones I’ve seen have had too much variety. It takes discipline when there is so much to choose from. They haven’t limited themselves enough to properly achieve the genuine traditional article. And it’s worth it to do so because the focus is so sharp. At the Kings Head, they do it so well.

Tradition trickles through every fibre of bespoke upholstered, secondhand chair, every Real Wood floorboard in the dining room. But most of all it tripped off the menu onto your tongue and somehow you found yourself ordering it.

 

*it’s too posh to call it a pub but it isn’t a bar and its atmosphere too relaxed to just call it a hotel, although that is also what it is.

**apart from the reportedly £1.2m refurbishment of the old pub.

 

Meal of the Week: the Kings Head, Ravenstonedale.

The Decisions:
Me: Ham hock terrine, (because I am always insanely jealous when other people order it) and rib eye steak (because the steak and ale pie was sold out), and chocolate creme brulee.

Garden Pea Soup in good hands
Garden Pea Soup Gone

Himself: Garden Pea Soup (more for the bread than the soup, I suspect) followed by the rib eye again (for the same reason as above), and sticky toffee pudding.

Mother of Himself: Salmon fillet, and sticky toffee. Salmon because she didn’t want a lot of food at that time of night and sticky toffee because they’d sold out of strawberry cheesecake.

I can only speak for myself, though the pictures do say it too.

The terrine was succulent, substantial shreds of ham populating a well seasoned jelly. Plenty of ham. It came with what was described on the menu as picallili. Cadmium yellow cauliflower florets, two tiny onions and a piece of carrot. Not picallili as I thought I knew it, though the pieces tasted like it.


As I ate it all up, I realised that the dry pickles were essential for the balance with the succulent terrine. They foiled the richness and didn’t add extra goop to the plate. An edge of sweetness was added with a swirl of molasses-sweet syrup, just hinting. And though I pined for thickly buttered, brown bread, it couldn’t have been possible. The portion was quite substantial enough for a greedy starter. It is the greedy person’s continual lesson that their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

The rib eye steak came exactly as I had asked (medium-rare, erring on the rare) with more than enough giant wedge chips and hidden beneath the steak was half a Portobello and some roast cherry tomatoes with their stalks still in.

Rib Eye

No green veg to take your mind off the prize. More importantly, no side salad cluttering up the plate. The steak juices that lightly washed the plate gave each mouthful a warm, spicy suggestion. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the mushroom seasoned just so.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

The chocolate creme brulee was divine; heady, addictive and lucious on the tongue. Its accompanying homemade shortbread biscuits crisply broke and then melted in the mouth. The combination of the rich chocolate and a slight malt cream basenote was a hedonist’s luxury. Added to which, the portion was generous. So often creme brulee is presented in a wide, shallow ramekin. It could have been 150ml, maybe even more.

It was a rocking meal. Big flavours with modernism and tradition at its core. The Kings Head in Ravenstonedale is a must-eat for any who haven’t been yet.