Cooking is one of the two pastimes that can distract me from the stresses of day to day life, so to say that I enjoy it is an understatement. My most basic knowledge of food has come from my mum, and I owe her so much for teaching me. Growing up, our household was a little different from all of my friends as I have an Asian background, but whether it is due to culture or not, there was one major difference that came up time and time again. The concept of waste, and using the full potential of an ingredient. Let me give you a few examples.
My mum grows carrots as well as other vegetables in the garden, but the real joy of this is not in the vegetable itself, but in the leaves. When finely chopped and simmered for 10 minutes with garlic, chilli, soy sauce and mirin, carrot or radish leaves make the most delightful pickle that can be served on top of rice. If we ever have roast pork, mum keeps the leftovers, but instead of putting them into sandwiches for lunch the next day, she chops it up and makes a Chinese pork dish. And the best example yet, involves a dish from our favourite Chinese restaurant. It’s called ‘Hot and spicy king prawns’, and is exactly what it sounds like – 15 or so king prawns, cooked and served in a huge bowl of chillies. (Despite there being three times as many chillies as prawns, it’s not actually as spicy as it looks!). But I digress, the real point of this, is the fantastic idea my mum had to eat the prawns in the restaurant, then ask to take the chillies home. We got an odd look the first time we asked for a takeaway box, but it turns out that mum was absolutely right. The chillies had so much flavour that in hindsight, I would have have been criminal to throw them away. The next day, those same chillies were used as a base for a stir fry, and it was delicious.
But I really want to focus on roast dinners in our household. My mum showed me that it is possible to get 3 or even 4 meals out of one chicken, which is something that I have really found useful since becoming a student. So, here’s my take on how to do a roast, the smart way.
- Put the Chicken in the oven, in an oven tray, along with a few garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme.
- 40 minutes before the meat is due to come out, put your potatoes in the oven, coated in oil or fat.
- Take you chicken out of the oven after the recommended cooking time, transfer to a large plate and cover with tin foil. DON’T throw away the golden-coloured liquid that has come out of the chicken.
- Put the oven tray, meat juices and all, onto the job on a low heat. Add a small glass of white wine. Add a tablespoon of flour.
- Every ten minutes or so, go back to your resting chicken. Meat juice should have collected in the plate. You can add this the the gravy tray.
- Using a whisk, add stock to the rue, mixing until the mixture is homogenised.
- Boil your vegetables of choice.
- Once they are cooked, carve your meat, serve the potatoes and vegetables, and tip the gravy into a jug.
However, the interesting bit comes after the meal. Take the remaining meat off the carcass, and put it into a container. Possible uses for this include; putting small pieces onto a margarita pizza, along with a little bit of pesto, using it as a pasta topping for a quick weekday meal, mixing it with some mayo to fill a baked potato, or simply making a good old sandwich.
Then, pop the chicken bones into a pan, cover with boiling water, and simmer for 4-5 hours. This stock can be blended with the leftover vegetables and potatoes to make a traditional soup, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could try making your own Asian style noodle soup, by adding soy sauce, sesame oil and five spice. And it doesn’t just stop as soup, stock is a vital part of dishes like paella or risotto.
If your meat of choice isn’t chicken, not to worry. Beef, pork or duck stock is a tasty base for noodle soups, and lamb stock is just great for cooking lentils in, if you fancy a Middle Eastern twist to your week. I just love how much versatility you can get from what most people see as one meal. If you don’t already, I’d really encourage you to give this ‘roast recycling’ a go I’d love to hear your ideas too – comment below!
All images from Flickr, under Creative Commons
Featured image by Jeremy Keith,