Melon Sorbet

I’m lucky enough to be going on an extended vacation next week for three whole weeks which means I have only a couple of days to use up the food in my fridge to avoid it going to waste.

I’m lucky enough to be going on an extended vacation next week for three whole weeks which means I have only a couple of days to use up the food in my fridge to avoid it going to waste.

I’d had a picnic at the weekend where I’d made some delicious fruit skewers, but what this meant is that there was lots of leftover perishable fruit. One of the ingredients I had was 3/4 of a Cantaloupe melon, which I just knew I wasn’t going to eat. Rather than just freezing it to be used in smoothies at a later date, I decided to try out some of the melon Sorbet recipes I found on the internet and here is my adaptation of the various recipes found via Google.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g chopped Cantaloupe Melon
  • 40g sugar
  • 40ml water
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tsp honeyMETHODBlend the chopped melon (I use a hand blender as pictured; this and the Joseph Joseph electronic scales are my two favourite kitchen appliances in my generally low tech kitchen).Check that the mixture is smooth. (I had a few hidden lumps and had to pick out a bit of melon skin that had made its way into the bowl).Make a sugar paste by heating the sugar, water and lemon zest until it boils and starts to thicken (about 5 mins) and let the paste sit for 10 mins.I opted to not strain out the zest but  having sampled the finished product, I would recommend that you dAdd bit more lemon if want more of a tang.Put in fridge for a few hoursPlace in freezer over night.Once frozen the Sorbet was pretty solid and I had to let defrost for around 15 minutes before serving. If I was to do this recipe again, I would probably try stirring during the freezing process and breaking into portions before it was fully frozen.
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Pinto bean chilli and taco shells

Growing up, my mother struggled to get me to eat my greens, and if anything had even the slightest fleck of spice or herb, a food tantrum would ensue.  Over the years, I've managed to introduce so many vegetables and flavours into my diet that I'll now happily eat meals that contain purely vegetables without complaint.

This dish here is made with a whole host of leftover vegetables but the main star of this dish is the dried pinto beans which are a good staple to keep in stock for bulking out meat free dishes into cheap, nutritious and protein filled dinners.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g pinto beans
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed
  • 6 x mushrooms chopped
  •  1 x carrot diced
  • 1 x red pepper
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1x green birds eye chillies
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 300 ml veg stock
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

Soak beans overnight & cook according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic for 2 mins before adding the spices and chilli and continuing to fry for a further 2 minutes

Add all of the other ingredients and cook for 2 mins before adding the vegetable stock. Stir well and scrape all of the spices off the bottom of pan.

Finally add the tomatoes, oregano and bay leaf, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Limp lettuce

Lettuce!!! I love a crispy iceberg, but nothing upsets me more than when it's started to turn brown and limp its way towards the bin.

I thought hey, there's got to be a solution, and according to the internet there is. Ideas range from storing your lettuce in water (too messy), separating all the leaves and storing each layer between kitchen roll (too fussy) and my favourite…cooking it!

Now this sounded weird to me at first but I thought id give it a whirl, there's various recipes in this excellent Guardian article such as lettuce soup, lettuce pesto or my personal favourite – stir fry.

Lettuce stir fry sounds strange but really what's the difference between a Chinese cabbage and a lettuce? In the grand scheme of things, absolutely nothing.

So I followed recipe number two from the above article and to test out its success, I served it to my better half without mentioning the secret ingredient, and guess what – approval all round.

Never again will the be a limping lettuce in my salad drawer again.

Cheese and Bacon Pin-wheels

A while ago, I posted a recipe idea for puff pastry pinwheels which can be served as a tasty crowd pleaser when entertaining, or with a salad as a quick and easy mid week meal.

The best thing about these pinwheels is that you can make them with a whole host of leftover ingredients including cheese, vegetables and meat. They are also super easy and quite fun to prepare, so why not get the kids to help you out with this recipe during the summer holidays?

Here’s a recipe with my favourite combination of cheese & bacon, but I’d love to hear what ingredients other people use in their creations.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x bacon rashes, diced
  • 250g pre-made puff pastry
  • 100g Wensleydale cheese, grated
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled
  • Tomato purée

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200c or as per the puff pastry packet instructions.

Fry the bacon for a couple of minutes, until it starts to brown.

Roll out the puff pastry, squeeze over the tomato puree and spread, ensuring the whole sheet is covered.

Sprinkle the pastry with the cheese and bacon, or whatever ingredients you are using. (In this instance, no seasoning is needed, as both the bacon and blue cheese are already very salty).

Cut the pastry into 8 strips, approx. 2cm wide each and then roll each strip into a wheel.

Place the wheels on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden in colour.

Store Cupboard Essentials

In many of my recipes I talk about using store cupboard essentials, which are items that I deem to be kitchen cupboard staples, ingredients that can turn the most mundane leftovers into a tasty wholesome family meals and so I thought that it was only right to share with you what these items are.

OLIVE OIL – not only used for frying but also great for making marinades and salad dressings. I never buy pre-made dressings as they tend to go off quickly and can contain many additives, home made dressings can be whipped up with very simple combinations of oil, vinegar or lemon and herbs.

WHITE WINE VINEGAR – as above, it’s great for salad dressings and marinades and can also be used to add acidity to a large range of dishes.

SOY SAUCE, SESAME OIL & HONEY – the holy trinity for any Asian cuisine enthusiasts out there, these three ingredients make a great base for a quick teriyaki sauce and can also be coupled with other ingredients to open up a huge array of Asian inspired recipes.

WORCESTER SAUCE – I believe that this is a traditional English ingredient and I’m not sure of it’s availability worldwide but it is an excellent tool for adding a bit of je ne sais quo to casseroles and a Kung Fu kick to the humble cheese on toast.

RED CHILLIS/ CHILLI FLAKES – an instant flavour hit, chilli is used in many cuisines, fresh red chillies can be cut, deseeded and stored in the freezer but if this sounds like too much effort, dried chilli flakes also make an excellent substitute.

FLOUR – simple flat breads or rotis can be knocked up in minutes with the addition of a bit of salt or sugar, flour can also be used to whip up a white sauce for pasta and to thicken up casseroles.

EGGS – one of the few fresh ingredients that I insist on keeping in stock. Omelettes are a speedy and simple way to use up leftover vegetables and cheese and the humble egg is also a fabulous source of protein.

GARLIC – not much to say here apart from that it’s used in pretty much every dish I cook, also ignore the best before date as it’s pretty obvious if garlic’s off when it changes colour or dries up

TOMATO KETCHUP – yes indeed, believe it or not but many chefs use ketchup as a flavour agent; it can be used in casseroles and stir-fries as an effective sweetener

STOCK CUBES – I always have beef, vegetable and chicken stock cubes in as they are the bases of many sauces, simple gravy can also be made with flour, butter, water and a stock cube. If you make your own stocks you can freeze in ice trays to be use at a later date.

TINNED TOMATOES – one of the most versatile ingredients out there, there’s absolutely no need to buy expensive jars of pasta sauce as the humble tinned tomato can be the base for creating your own.

PASTA/RICE/NOODLES – dried items that have a long shelf life can be used as the carb portion of your meal when you have fresh ingredients to use up.

HERBS – so many herbs to chose from but no need to but them all. Whilst fresh herbs might not go off, they do lose their flavour. Many herbs can be used as substitutes for another, make sure to check out website here before you run out to buy a new jar of something you don’t have. I’d recommend having mixed herbs, paprika and chilli powder in as a start.  You can even create your own dried herbs by drying out leftover fresh herbs.

And that’s it, a rather comprehensive list of almost all imperishable ingredients that can help to make a delicious dish out of pretty much any leftover.

Sausage & bean winter casserole

It’s supposed to be spring but it’s still absolutely freezing outside so I’m resorting to cooking casseroles to keep me warm. From a food waste perspective casseroles are an absolute dream; it’s a dish that you can produce by mixing the simplest ingredients together and turn into something tasty by throwing in a few store cupboard essentials such as stock cubes, tomato sauce or Worcester sauce.

The humble sausage is the main basis for this meal, a cheap and tasty ingredient that can be used to create a hearty protein filled evening meal. A lot of the other ingredients in this recipe were from my freezer, I needed to empty my freezer as I was moving house and this recipe enabled me to use up loads of fresh ingredients that I’d previously frozen. You can find tips on freezing fresh items here and I promise that I will do a follow up blog post soon with further tips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 x sausages cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 400g pinto beans
  • 2 x sticks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 x carrots sliced
  • 1 x onion thinly sliced
  • 1 x parsnip diced
  • 8 x mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 16 x cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 x cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 x red chilli finely sliced
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • Dash of Worcester sauce

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Fry the sausages for approximately 4 minutes or until browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the onions start to soften.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced red chilli and cook for 1 minute before adding the paprika, stir well so that all the ingredients are covered in the spice and cook for a further minute.

Add the white wine or a splash of stock to the pot and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon, turn up the heat and bring the casserole to the boil, continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add all the remaining vegetables to the pan, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes before returning the sausages to the pan.

If using, add the cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the stock, Worcester sauce and seasoning. Bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes, adding more stock if needed.

Finally remove the lid, add the pinto beans and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, serve with crusty bread.

TIPS

If you prefer a thicker sauce add a tbsp of flour towards the end, or more if required.

Substitute the vegetables for any others that you need to use up.

Wine Ice Cubes

On the 8th day of Christmas…

Wine Ice Cubes

Following on from yesterday’s post for using up leftover prosecco to make jellies, here is another alcohol inspired tip.

If following the new year your liver can’t quite face finishing off any leftover wine but you can’t bear to throw the final dregs away, a good idea is to freeze the remnants into ice cubes that can later be used for cooking as and when recipes call for it. Not only does this mean you get to avoid tipping any leftover wine down the sink, but also that you don’t have to open an entire new bottle when a recipe may only call for a splash.

I freeze any leftover wine in ice cube trays, once frozen I tend to remove from the ice trays and store in freezer bags. If you’re a meticulous cook, you can always measure the volume of each ice cube  so you now how many to use in a recipe, however I must admit that I always just throw in an indiscriminate amount of ice cubes when needed, either taking them out to defrost in advance or sometimes just throwing them in still frozen.

It’s a great tip that can also be used to freeze items such as leftover stock, curry pastes or lemon/lime juice. In fact I’m a big advocate of freezing ingredients when I’m unable to use them up before they’re likely to spoil and have written about this previously  here, if you’d like some further ideas.

Prosecco Clementine Jellies

On the 7th day of Christmas…

Prosecco Clementine Jellies

Happy new year!

Chances are that some of you may be letting in the new year with a sore head, chances may also be that some of you have guests coming round with new year greetings.

If you’ve managed to open any prosecco, champers or other fizz but shock horror, somehow failed to get through the whole bottle, a good use is prosecco jellies.

Here’s a lovely festive recipe from James Martin for clementine jellies but they’re equally as lovely with pomegranate (May need to add some sugar with this concoction) or other festive fruits.

Now these will take a few hours to set so it might be a bit of an early start which a hangover could hinder, but other than that they’re a easy and crowd pleasing desert to tackle so you can greet New Year’s Day guests with some fizzy jelly wonders.

Lemon Drop Martini

On the 6th day of Christmas …

Lemon drop martini

As it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought it appropriate to share one of my favourite cocktail recipes.

This was discovered whilst attempting to deplete the contents of a relatives drinks cabinet, so I feel that it’s perfectly legitimate to classify it as a food waste recipe.

It’s not just food that gets over bought at Christmas but wine and spirits as well. I’m sure a lot of you will have numerous random liquors in the cupboard such as the classic creme de menthe, or as used in this recipe, triple sec/orange liquor.

Most of these beverages aren’t designed to drink neat, they’re meant to be mixed with other spirits and mixers to create some quite delicious tipples. Also it’s a common misconception that liquors last forever, whilst they may still be drinkable it’s likely that the alcohol content will have largely evaporated over time.

A lemon drop is a classic martini cocktail and there are numerous variations however here’s the recipe I tend to follow (makes 2)

Sugar
75ml vodka
75ml lemon juice
25ml triple sec

Use a slice of lemon to wet the rim of a martini glass (or a tumbler/champagne flute if you don’t have)

Roll the rim of the glass over a plate of sugar to create a sugar rimmed glass. The sweetness of the sugar on the glass takes the edge off the bitterness of the lemon and also looks quite impressive.

Pour all other ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice

Shake and strain into martini glass.

A tip that I learnt from my days as a bartender was never shake too much as you only want to chill the drink and not dilute it with melted ice but hey where’s the fun in that? It’s New Year, feel free to let your best Tom Cruise cocktail impression loose.

A delightful tipple to greet your new year guests with.

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