Friday, June 23, 2017

Pursuing Left Overs




I am searching out pockets of leftovers that have been lying low in the kitchen for far too long. Last night we had curried lentil soup with some cauliflower that has been lurking in the crisper. We ate that with the last of the hummus that Rosy made last week, vegie sticks, and the dregs of crackers at the bottom of cracker jars that no-one can be bothered reaching right down to the bottom of.



This evening I made coconut macaroons from the two egg whites that have been sitting in a jar in the fridge for a week. Several-day old egg whites are actually better for meringue than fresh. They whip up better. How convenient. They were left over from when Posy made custard. I also whipped up some blueberry muffins because it is cold and raining and miserable and Rosy had an exam and we all need carbohydrates.

I went to get the patty pans out of their basket, and found some paper bags half full of forgotten goodies. I often throw treats up into the basket on the top shelf when I don't want the girls to find them, and there they lie, forgotten by everyone for who knows how long. So after the macaroons came out of the oven I put in a tray of slightly limp banana chips and bhuja mix to crisp it up. Also some flaked almonds I found in the back of the spices. The flaked almonds will be sprinkled on the greens at dinner and I'll serve the snacks in tiny bowls as an apertif. Tiny bowls are so useful in the kitchen. You can fill them with two spoonfuls of leftover whatever and it looks interesting and intentional. These I bought from the op shop, five for a dollar. I think they are tiny cups for green tea.


So as the winter solstice works its magic and the globe rolls slowly on carrying Tasmania back ever closer to sun I am doing the very small and absorbing work of trying to find a use for every scrap of food in the kitchen.

What leftovers have you used up this week?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Using What We Have - No Waste in the Kitchen




The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.  Calvin Trillin

I detest waste and love using up leftovers. Well, I love imagining that I am going to use up leftovers. Often I put them in little pots in the fridge and let them languish for two weeks before I tip them thankfully into the compost. But no more. Confession time - we have been overspending our grocery budget recently. We always make it up from somewhere else, and no-one here is about to starve, but robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a long term strategy calculated to make me calm and happy, so drastic action is required. It is my absolute favourite kind of action. That's right, it is not shopping. I am thinking I should rename this blog. How To Never Go To The Shops If You Can Possibly Help It has a nice ring to it.

So what I need to do is to get us back into the black and then save up another whack to fund our once-a-month dry goods shopping trip. Extensive mathematical calculations show that this means two weeks of no food shopping. Well, we can buy milk when we need it, and some meat, because right now we have none at all. But we will be mostly vegetarian. Can we do this? I don't see why not. We have a lot of food. Most of it is lentils and dried beans. Because you can buy and store a lot of dried beans for very cheap and in very little space. It will be very good practise for the apocalypse. And reducing waste in the kitchen makes so much sense on the sustainability front. Apparently in Australia we waste up to 20% of our fresh food by forgetting to eat it. Oops. I do not throw away 20% of my food. But this week I threw 6 mandarins in the compost which we had collectively decided not to eat. I am as guilty as the next person of buying new mandarins before the old ones are eaten up. And every time I throw food in that compost bin, I cringe a bit because food is so precious. For most of human history, and for large swathes of the world today, food security is not a given. Three meals a day is a hope, not a guarantee. And yet, in my life, food is so abundant and easy to come by. In our society we can afford to waste food. And so we do, because it easier to throw food away and buy new food than to stop and work out clever things to do with the just-past-its-best food. Not wasting food is a creative endeavour that I try to embrace and often fail at. But over the next two weeks it will be a priority. So here we go!

I started today, by using up some more of my summer-grown potatoes and the week old brussels sprouts from the bottom of the fridge. I imagine that every European cuisine has winter recipes for potatoes and brassicas. I am sure I have accidentally recreated some old peasant dish here. Buttery boiled taters, steamed sprouts tossed in bacon fat with bacon. Yum. There is nothing you can do to make this food look pretty, but it certainly sticks to the ribs on a cold night. Here is how not to waste any precious bacon: cut off the bacon fat (I do this with scissors) and let it render out its delicious fatness in a hot pan. Put the curls of fat in a wee bowl to cool and crisp, cut them into little pieces with scissors, and use them as dog treats. Rosy is trying to teach the dog to lie down. It will be a long process, but bacon certainly helps (mind you he lies down all day, so I'm not sure why she feels this is important..). Meanwhile, use your rendered fat to cook the sprouts. Oh yum. Only sensible way to eat sprouts.

Anyway, on to the next adventure. The tub of leftover rice (I got enthusiastic about cooking rice for curry the other night) I made into fried rice for Posy's school lunches this week. Then I used up the last of the old yoghurt to make new yoghurt, which is just amazing kitchen magic. I am writing this while I wait for the heated milk to cool enough to add the old yoghurt.

So, kitchen adventures this week and the next. The last time I bought any food was, let me see, yesterday. Vegies and milk. So Tuesday the 4th of July will be my next shopping day. Would you like to join me in using up what you have, and banish waste from the kitchen?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How I Burnt the Dinner and Other Stories


Photo by Rosy

We spent the weekend at St Helens, a sleepy seaside town, in a little blue cottage, lent to us by generous friends. I am an evil ingrate and moped for two days beforehand because I hate leaving the house. Posy is just like me in this respect. She kept leaving notes all over the house which read, "I hate the beach." She really does. She is an unnatural child but I completely understand this quirk. But Rosy is an adventurer who loves to experience new things, so we did it for her. Hermit propensities notwithstanding, we all managed to have a nice time. Posy did not so much as set foot on the sand, so was perfectly happy. She made us play Monopoly, and we took a handful of Hayao Miyazaki movies to watch.

Rosy and I hung out on the beach in the rain and climbed on rocks and found dead fish. We walked in the rainforest, and Rosy got to drive for six hours towards her driver's license. She loves driving. She is a strange girl. When I go on road trips I like to stop frequently, and luckily the girls do too. We stop for photo opportunities, historic monuments, bookshops, ice cream, animals, interesting walks and roadside stalls. The girls would not let me stop for bags of horse poo, but while Rosy was jumping out of the car to photograph cows in the mist at sunset, I spied a useful log of firewood on the side of the road and nipped out to put it in the boot. Waste not etc..

We are the most diverse set of human beings here at our house. It really puts the Nature vs Nurture debate to bed. It is Nature all the way for personality. Character probably owes something to nurture. And this brings me to burning the dinner. Reasons why I regularly burn the dinner: I was reading something important. I was bringing in the washing and got distracted by the sunset. I was talking to a child or the neighbours. I was walking the dog. I went out to pick parsley and accidentally weeded the garden for half an hour. Last night's excuse was reading something important.

It's not that I am completely incapable of cooking dinner without burning it, it's just that I have to concentrate really, really hard. Conditions must be perfect and quiet, and there must be no distractions. I often cook perfectly on an afternoon when there is no-one else in the house. But I am not a hands-on person. I am kind of flaky and easily distracted. Cooking can go wrong very easily indeed. But mostly the girls are very forgiving, especially since the alternative to having me burning the dinner is for them to cook it. They would mostly rather risk rustically caramelised roast veg than actually don an apron.

Here are some advantages of living with other people, especially those you are related to and cannot escape from: you must learn to accept their little quirks, like hating the beach, always wanting to try new things, or burning the dinner, or will go a tiny bit insane. Can I accept those quirks of my family without trying to change them? Does anyone else find it hard to try not to tweak their best beloved?

Honestly, they all have MUCH WORSE quirks than that.. and so do I. It is so tempting to just try a little nip here, a tuck there.. and then I remember the burnt dinners, and decide to leave well alone.


PS Blogger resized Rosy's stunning beach photo. Click on it to see it in all its widescreen splendour.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Orange Soup for Winter Days




This is one of those soups I threw together one day using the only veg left in the house - and it is now our winter favourite.

Gently saute an onion. Add some curry paste and garlic. Add several handfuls of red lentils and lots of stock, any kind. Chop up all the pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot that is left in the refrigerator crisper. Tip it all in the pot and let it bubble away until you are ready to blitz it up and eat it with toast. You can serve this with cream or coconut cream and nutmeg.

Today I discovered that if you bring it to the boil for a few minutes, turn it off and go out for an hour or so it will be done by the time you get home. I am going to use this lazy and thrifty cooking method more often..

Tastes better than it looks. Honest.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Food as a Joyful Adventure


Morning dew on a cabbage leaf. Garden magic. Is there a better way to start the day than cabbage appreciation?

Let's talk about food again. For the past few weeks/months/years I have been attempting to make more ethical choices about where my food comes from, and frankly, to make procuring food more fun than pushing a trolley around the supermarket. Not a high bar, to be sure. However, my natural laziness and general incompetence at any form of forward planning have conspired to make supermarket shopping a feature of my life. After all, supermarkets are predicated on the idea of convenience for the consumer and this has corresponded to conveniently large profits for the supermarket giants. Recently I turned 46. Not a particularly auspicious number, but every number after 40 is a reminder that there are probably less years left than have gone before. 46 really did it for me. I have decided to do whatever I want for the rest of my life. Yes, it is anarchy at Chez Blueday.

And one of the things I really want turns out to be a life of ridiculous inconvenience and a reasonable amount of chaos in order to assure a life of great food and joyous shopping. Yes, you read that right. Joyous shopping. Every time I snap on the dog's lead to walk to the butcher or the greengrocer, that is a joyful adventure. Every time I take my ridiculous blue op-shopped trolley-on-wheels to the farmers' market, that is an adventure. There are friends, dogs, fresh air, people to meet, new cheeses to try, buskers. What's not to like? Even if I leave home in a vile mood (not uncommon) it is hard not to succumb to being out in the weather and chatting to people in shops. So, apart from the lead up to Easter when we kept popping into Coles for their chocolate choc chip hot cross buns, which are indecently delicious, I have not been to either of the Big Two supermarkets for months (I have now mastered the art of home-made chocolate choc chip buns so we are all good for supermarket-free decadent treats).

So here is to the catalyst of mortality. I am not going to live forever, so the time I have left will be devoted to living deliberately and joyfully. Supermarkets and agribusiness, you are dead to me. I will buy my food from real people and help them live their dreams. I will do garden magic and make food in my own backyard, or forage it from roadsides. It has been slow in coming, but I think I can say, yes, this part of my journey is on the right track. It is a good feeling.

Winter afternoon sunlight on red chard. What about ending the day with chard appreciation? You could do worse.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...