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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Christmas Pudding Trifle

On the 4th day of Christmas…

Christmas pudding trifle

Every year for as long as I can remember, my sister has baked christmas cakes for the entire family.

A couple of years ago I decided that I should get in on the tradition and contribute to the festive feast as well, deciding that puddings would be my thing.

I was met with a lot of groans; apparently Christmas pudding isn’t the favourite desert amongst my family, however they’ve now been converted by Nigel Slaters recipe which can be found here;  a golden, fruity and light version of this traditional christmas staple.

Despite its deliciousness, there always seems to be pudding left over after Christmas day and as I wasn’t paying attention to the recipe properly this year, I ended up with a lot of Christmas pudding that was surplus to requirements (see below).

20141229-221833.jpgHowever I’ve managed not to have a pudding meltdown as it’s a desert with an incredibly long shelf life, and what’s wrong with Xmas pudding for Easter?

For a slightly more inventive way to use up the leftover pud and create an impressive and simple desert that would be a great addition to a new years eve party, why not turn it into another festive staple with a twist on the traditional trifle?

Last year, I followed this recipe from BBC good food and it’s so tasty I’ll be repeating it again this year. Not only does the recipe use up any leftover Christmas pudding but it’s also incorporates that mountain of clementines that you probably have lying around since you replaced your 5 a day with chocolates over Christmas. It also uses cream, orange liqueur and you can even make use of the flake out of your  chocolate selection box by sprinkling it over for the topping.

Overall, this is an absolutely fabulous and original desert and none of your guests will be any of the wiser that it’s made from leftovers.

Parsnip & Potato Rostis (from left-over veg)

On the 2nd day of Christmas…

Parsnip & potato Rostis

It’s not just the Turkey that gets left over after Christmas Day, and here’s a great idea of what to do with the leftover veg.

The Food Waste Diaries

Glancing in my fridge on boxing day I was met with a huge array of left-overs giving me plenty of ammunition for a few experimental dishes.

We’d cooked far too many vegetables to accompany Christmas dinner, a common mistake when cooking up roasts, but being determined not to waste a morsel I’d kept all the surplus in the fridge. Some of the left-over vegetables had made it onto my boy-friends turkey sandwich – ‘a roast dinner sandwich’ (or a manwich in his words), which was pretty delicious but it hadn’t made a dent in the left-over roast potatoes, parsnips and baby carrots.

I’d seen Nigel Slater cook up some Bubble and squeak patties so I decided to do something similar with my left-overs. I mashed up all the potatoes, parsnips and carrots but the mixture was very dry, so for moisture I added a dash of left-over turkey stock…

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Dips Away

In my last post I made a Tzatziki in which I substituted the traditional Greek yoghurt with Crème Fraiche, I also commented on how I much prefer to prepare my own dips as opposed to purchasing ready-made shop ones.

The main reason for this preference is that homemade dips are a great way of using up leftover ingredients; in particular yoghurt, cream, citrus fruits & fresh herbs. Dips don’t have to follow a set recipe every-time and you can experiment with different concoctions until the results suit your palate.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show how your own fair hands can quickly and easily prepare some of the most common dips.

SOUR CREAM

Possibly the easiest of all dips to make; simply take some cream (or crème fraiche if you’re trying to be a bit healthier) and sour it by stirring in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

SALSA

The base of Salsa is obviously tomato and you can create your own by using any type of tomato you like; tinned, cherry or plum tomatoes all work great and will each individually create salsas that differ in both sweetness and texture. To form the base of any salsa, mix together chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion. From here you can add a whole host of ingredients to suit your taste, the most common additions are chilli for a bit of a kick, a squeeze of lime which adds a bit of zest or herbs such as coriander or parsley, depending on your taste. I have even heard of salsas being made with all kinds of crazy ingredients including chocolate and almonds, although I’m yet to try either of these creations.

GUACAMOLE

What could be more simple than mashed avocado mixed up with a bit of lemon juice? This is a great accompaniment to Mexican dishes such as chilli or enchiladas and is the perfect use for avocados that are verging on over-ripe.

TZATZIKI

See my previous post but essentially, yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and lemon

PESTO

A fantastic way of using up fresh basil, simply toast some pine nuts and blend with basil, oil & Parmesan. This is more than just a dip and can be used as a delicious homemade sauce for many recipes. As an example, have a look at my recipe for Grilled Halloumi & Cherry Tomatoes with Mint Pesto.

HUMMUS

Now I must confess that this isn’t one I’ve tried myself but I believe it’s as simple as blending some tinned or dried cooked chickpeas, lemon, garlic and a sprinkle of paprika.

I purposely haven’t published detailed recipes for these dips, purely because you really can start producing your own  creations on a trial and error basis, why not have a look at ingredients you have left to use up and start inventing? I’ve always managed to come out with something tasty (or at least edible) when I’ve attempted a dip. I hope that the above ideas inspire you to create your own dips, they’ll be sure to impress friends at a dinner party or summer BBQ, and of course you’ll be reducing food waste by using up those leftover items you might have lying around.

Cheat’s Tzatziki

There are a few items that I used to buy straight from the supermarket without questioning how they were made and what they contained, particularly sauces and dips.

In all honesty, I never really started cooking anything adventurous until my mid twenties, if I could buy an item in a bottle or jar, then I would, and it probably wasn’t until I moved to London and in with my partner that I became slightly more creative as I began to cook for two as opposed to just myself.

I think I initially discovered how simple Tzatziki was to make when the supermarket had ran out in advance of me entertaining a group of friends, rather than going without one of my favourite dips I decided to make it myself, and ever since that evening it’s now very rare that I purchase any pre-made sauces. One of the main benefits of this is that I find portion sizes of sauces and dips sold in supermarkets are often too large for the serving required; by making your own, you can make just the amount you need.

Now this recipe is entitled Cheat’s Tzatziki and that’s because I’ve replaced one of the core ingredients; yoghurt, with crème fraiche. The reason for this was purely that I had a half a tub of crème fraiche to use up, and in keeping with my mantra of food waste, I’m never afraid to experiment and substitute key ingredients when I have an item to use up.

Crème Fraiche generally has a runnier consistency and a more sour taste than yoghurt which will be the main taste difference you’ll find if you do choose to substitute yoghurt with it. If you prefer to stick with tradition and use yoghurt, than the recipe below remains the same.

INGREDIENTS

  • 150 ml Crème Fraiche
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed
  • Fresh pepper

METHOD

Mix together the crème fraiche and lemon juice

 Peel the cucumber and grate

Squeeze the excess water out of the grated cucumber (I just use my hands, but I believe the professional way to do this is by wrapping in a clean tea towel and squeezing)

Mix the grated cucumber and crushed garlic into the crème fraiche and lemon mix

Season to taste

And that’s how to make a super simple cheat’s tzatziki, delicious as a dip for nibbles or crudités or a delicious condiment with Greek dishes such as Pork Gyros.

 

Sausage, Chilli & Tomato Pasta

This week I’m home alone; when I’m home alone I never want to spend much time cooking so I prefer to make a couple of dishes that will serve me over multiple meal times.

I’ve had a rather extravagant January and with the Christmas costs still hanging over me, I’m determined to have an economising month. My mission during February is to literally empty the cupboards and freezer and buy as little as possible from the supermarket.

Last week I’d frozen some leftover tinned tomatoes and some fresh red chillies; also lurking in the bottom of my freezer were some pigs in blankets that I hadn’t used up over Christmas. I couldn’t think of a use for the pigs in blankets other than on the side of a roast, but I figured that they’re just sausages and bacon so why not use them up just as I would normal sausages.

Pasta’s great for using up leftovers, it’s amazing what you can do with tinned tomatoes and a few veggies, there’s no need to buy expensive jars of pasta sauce. As I was using up ingredients I had in the freezer and cupboard I didn’t have to visit the shop for this recipe as there was also a half eaten onion lurking in my fridge.

And this is how the ingredients below, provided me with couple of dinners and a lunch for the week (there would have been 4 portions but I didn’t have quite enough pasta in) meaning that I didn’t have to slave in the kitchen every night after work.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Sausages (I used pigs in blankets as a substitute)
  • 200g Tinned Tomatoes
  • 200-300g Pasta (50-75g a portion)
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 Red Chilli (or pinch of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Dash White Wine (optional)
  • Parmesan to top (optional)

METHOD

Heat oil in large frying pan and fry chopped onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes until soft

Add sausages and fry for 5-6 minutes until browned

Add dash of white wine (water or stock will do if you don’t have wine) and scrape the bottom of the pan (this step will add additional flavour to the sauce). Boil over a high heat for a few minutes, until the liquid has reduced by a third.

Add in the tinned tomatoes and chopped red chilli, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions. Once cooked and drained, combine with the sausage mixture and top with grated cheese if desired.

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TIPS

Note I used frozen fresh red chillies for this recipe; I’ve found the best way to freeze chillies is to chop before freezing. I’ve frozen chillies whole before but they tend to retain too much water when defrosted.

The dash of white wine I used was also frozen. If you have a few dregs of wine remaining (sacrilege), freeze in ice cube trays and these can then be used for cooking, as recipes require.

Leftover pasta is a great thing to pack in some Tupperware and take for lunch; it’s also suitable for freezing if you don’t want to eat all the portions in the same week. (Homemade ready meals).

Pork & Potato Broth

In my previous post No Shop Week,’ I promised to write up the recipe for this dish which was made solely from left over vegetables, frozen items and stock cupboard items…no supermarket visit involved. This recipe is a great example of how knowing the base of a few simple dishes can really help to reduce food waste.

The perishable ingredients that I had to use up were:

Celery

Potato

Carrots

Onions

Ingredients in the freezer included:

Pork mince

And store cupboard essentials that I had in stock were:

Vegetable stock

Worcester sauce

Chilli sauce

Ketchup

Garlic

The idea for this recipe came from my hate of celery. I’m really not a fan of raw celery, in my opinion, anything that contains less calories than it takes to eat isn’t a food. The only time I ever use celery is in stews and soups, which are conveniently both fantastic recipe ideas for using up leftover veg.

Now I could have cooked a simple soup out of my leftovers and for you vegetarians out there, feel free to adapt this recipe by leaving out the pork, or if a thicker blended soup is more your bag, throw in a few extra potatoes and blend before serving.

Anyhow, back to the pork…

I know how long most veg takes to cook, and this is what dictated the order of which they were added into the pan, so if you’re using different vegetables, follow this methodology to work out your timings.

For this specific recipe though, here we go with the method:

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry onions for 2-3 mins until soft
  • Add pork and fry for 4-5 mins or until browned
  • Add chopped celery and fry for a further 2 mins
  • Drain off some the fat from the pork, this will avoid a scum forming on top of the broth
  • Add stock (see notes) and bring to boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer, add diced potatoes and cook for 5-7 mins
  • Once the potatoes start to soften add in the chopped carrots and continue to simmer for a further 3 mins
  • Finally add Worcester sauce, ketchup and seasoning to taste

Tip

If you don’t like your vegetables quite as al dente as me, feel free to keep simmering until they are cooked to your liking.

And that’s it, a quick simple broth from leftovers.

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In terms of the measurements I was unsure how much stock to use. 250 ml per portion sounded like a reasonable amount and I wanted 4 portions so I made up 1 litre of stock.  When I came to add this to the meat, it just felt like too much so I reckon only about 800ml went in.

The trick with inventing dishes and also when following other peoples recipes, is to follow both your instinct and your taste buds. Don’t be afraid of messing up dishes by adding too much of an ingredient or diverging away from a recipe. If you’re unsure of how much of a particular ingredient you should add, start with a smaller quantity and keep adding until you’re happy. In this instance I started with 1 tbsp of both ketchup and Worcester sauce and continued until I was happy with the flavour. In total about 2 tbsp of ketchup and 1.5 tbsp of Worcester sauce went in.

I mentioned in my “No Shop Week” blog, that knowing a few basic recipe bases & tips will help with inventing dishes. My tip to take away from this recipe is that adding ketchup and Worcester sauce to casseroles and soups is a great way to add flavour without having to buy any extravagant sauce mixes.

Believe it or not, Ketchup is a fantastic ingredient to sweeten up dishes, Worcester sauce adds a bit more depth to stocks and stews with its unusual and unique taste, and although not used in this recipe; if you like things spicy, Tabasco/chilli sauce is an easy way to add a bit of a kick to recipes.

Too Much Turkey?

This is only the second Christmas where I’ve been in charge of the shopping and the cooking and the first time it’s at my house. I’m really keen to make it extra special but  I also want to make sure that no food gets wasted.

To make things more difficult, it’s only a small gathering of three people but I still wanted a full turkey with all the trimmings. I couldn’t bring myself to resort to a turkey crown which would be much more suitable for a small gathering, it just wouldn’t be Christmas for me without a big bird stuffed on the table.

The smallest turkey I could find says it serves 6-8, and even with my gluttonous family, we won’t manage to scoff all 5kg down in one sitting, so it’s a good job that one of my favourite things about Christmas is the turkey left-over concoctions. I used to love sitting down to turkey butties on Christmas evening, already stuffed from lunch, the whole family would always manage to find room for a turkey sandwich in front of the TV, the final indulgence of the most indulgent day of the year.

Christmas is all about tradition and Boxing day tradition at my parents normally involved a trip to the football match. Lunch before we headed off would be simple cold cuts of turkey with some oven chips. Now this might not sound like a gastronomical delight but as a child it was probably my favourite meal of the festive period. The best thing for mum was that having slaved over the oven for the entirety of the previous day, no cooking was involved.

The other child-hood dish I remember that rose out of the turkey remnants was a turkey curry for dad. Mum used to freeze all the dark meat and then a week or so later dad would be in for a treat. The best thing about a curry is if you’re feeling extra lazy you don’t even have to cook it from scratch. There’s no shame in picking up a jar of already made curry sauce for a quick evening meal.

I’ve become a bit more adventurous with left-overs in recent years, boxing day now normally involves a salad; something a bit lighter to give the stomach a rest after the big day. An all round pleaser from recent times has been Jamie Oliver’s Asian inspired turkey salad. A quick simple and palette refreshing salad that not only makes use of the left-over turkey, but also other festive ingredients such as clementines, pomegranates and nuts.

This year, keeping with the festive spirit, we’re going for more of a Waldorf based salad using up turkey, cranberries and walnuts, but the salad munching possibilities are endless. The mantra really is “anything goes”.

In terms of the remaining turkey, I’m definitely going to follow in mum’s tradition and get a curry on the go, the spices in a curry make a nice change to the other flavours ingested over Christmas. We also received some lovely Japanese Ramen bowls for Christmas so I’m hoping to come up with a turkey ramen inspired recipe that I’ll keep you posted on.

There are thousands of recipes that call for left over turkey;  casseroles, pasta bakes and soups can all be created from left-overs. A few simple dishes that you can cook up, keep in the fridge/freezer and keep the family fed over the festive break.  It’s also not just the turkey that can be re-used, left over vegetables can be frozen, turned into soups or rostis.

Nigel Slater, recently had a great programme on BBC where he used all leftovers imaginable to create a wide variety of dishes including bubble & squeak patties and a delicious sounding perky turkey salad. I also saw a fantastic post from Recycle for Greater Manchester that spent the twelve days of Christmas using up all the leftovers.

There’s so many resources available, on-line, on TV and in print that there really is no excuse for food waste over Christmas and in my opinion you never really can have too much turkey.

So get cooking and it would be great to hear about any left-over concoctions of your own.

Fail to plan, plan to fail (the basics of meal planning).

Now I’m certainly no saint, and food (very occasionally) gets thrown away in my house. This tends to happen when I’ve not planned ahead.

Saturday mornings in my house are spent with a cup of tea, a scurrage around the kitchen cupboards to see what perishable items need using up, and some time in front of my computer planning the meals for the week ahead.

This might not be the ideal Saturday morning for many of you, but believe me, a quick 30 minutes of planning will not only reduce your food wastage, but is likely to reduce your food bills as well.

THE BASICS

Little Miss Hubbard…

The first step in my weekly meal planning is to see what ingredients I already have in stock. These ingredients will form the basis of the following weeks meal plans. Perishable items such as fruit and veg are to be used up first, whilst any items that are frozen or have long-shelf lives can be used if they fit into a recipe that incorporates the “must use” perishables.

Planning ahead…

My partner and I have pretty busy lives and our schedules are never the same each week. Sometimes we’ll be home and eating together every night at 7pm, other weeks we’ll only see each other at breakfast. To ensure that this doesn’t result in thrown away food, I check our expected schedules for the week before I plan the weekly shop. This means that I’m not planning additional meals that won’t get eaten, it also takes into account time available which impacts whether I’m cooking up a culinary storm or emptying a tin of beans into a saucepan.

Where to start…

So, mentioned earlier were the perishable items already lurking in the kitchen cupboard, these will be the starting point for the meal plan. The ingredients might include an onion, some potatoes, cheese on it’s use by date etc…so therefore my recipes for the week have to contain these items. How you plan your recipes is up to you, you might have a full database of recipes in your head, be an inventive chef who can knock up a new invention with the available ingredients, or be like me who uses the powers of the internet and a meal planning app.

The meal plan…

To start, I’ll use the above 3 ingredients as a basis for my meal plan. I’ve got potatoes and onions, and I might have some sausages in the freezer, therefore with a few extra ingredients I reckon I can knock up a yummy sausage casserole. What I have will make 4 portions, therefore I can take left-overs for lunch, save them for a night when I haven’t got time to cook, or freeze for a later date.

I’ve now got some cheese to use up, I probably had to buy some tomatoes for my sausage casserole and cheese and tomatoes sound like a pretty tasty base for a pasta bake. I’ve now used up all the perishables that I had in, but probably had to buy some additional ones for the recipes above. Therefore I repeat the same process for the new ingredients and keep repeating until I’ve got a full weeks plan.

Don’t worry if you’re not a confident cook, the fundamentals of meal planning still apply, whether you cook everything from scratch or rely more on sauces and meals that come out of a jar or packet. However, hopefully you’ll find that introducing new recipes into your meal plan will increase your kitchen confidence.

The List…

The final piece of the plan is the shopping list, write down all the ingredients and quantities needed for your weekly meals, don’t forget the weekly essentials and add any snacks that you want for the week ahead, and hey presto, your meal plan is finished and you’re ready for your shop…