Kitchen Relay

Thursday, 16 May 2013

It was Charlotte who called it a culinary relay, where the weekly race to feed the family is won by the handing over of an ingredient from one meal to the next. Rose Prince in her book The New English Kitchen talks about rolling one meal into the next and Tamar Adler in her inspiring book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace  calls it 'catching your tail'.

 Part of it is about painlessly getting ahead by creating a store of ready-prepared ingredients. If I'm cooking rice or potatoes for supper I try to remember to cook extra so that I have the foundation of another meal under my belt. If I'm making pastry I make a double quantity and freeze the extra. I cook up bowls of lentils to store in the fridge for salads or stews. Unlike dried beans lentils are quick to cook and don't require soaking.. My answer to the 'oh but I can never remember to soak and cook dried beans' is to soak and cook a whole packet at a time and freeze them (or buy tinned). Vegetables can be prepared ahead, Tamar Adler has a lot to say about roasting vegetables ahead to use in the week. I find this works better with some veg than others, peppers and courgettes are good as are squashes and roots but roast cauliflower and broccoli did not work for me (or the rest of my family).

Another part of the kitchen relay lies in making use of the ends of things. I've long been a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles (and incidentally trifle is an excellent way of using up broken or stale cake, the ends of jars of jam and overripe fruit). I save gravy, leftover veg, crusts of bread, I religiously make the remains of every chicken I roast into stock, I pour drippings from any roast into little jars, use up the last bit of whipped cream in a sauce and if I were ever to have such a thing as leftover wine you can be sure I would throw it in my stew.

This week has been a fairly typical example of a kitchen relay.


I'd bought a squeaky bunch of curly parsley from the farm shop with vague thoughts of fish pie. I stood it in a Cornishware jug and admired it for several days before realising that it needed using up fast and fish pie was not going to take care of all of it. I made it into pesto with olive oil, garlic, walnuts and a heel of Shropshire blue.

I put the stalks into my stock pot along with the bony remains of our Sunday chicken.


The pesto was delicious on toast with a bowl of leftover fish-stew-without-the-fish. I often find myself eating leftover stews minus the meaty bits for my lunch.


I think I've said before that these days there is never much chicken left after a roast. Teenagers. There was enough, however, to make a pasty filling. I used the chicken fat saved from roasting to make a roux with flour, added a little of the chicken stock and the remains of a carton of single cream plus a splash of vermouth. This made a delicious sauce to which I added cooked leeks, the leftover chicken, some dried out grated parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.



The rest of the chicken stock was poured into plastic tubs and put in the freezer.


I bought lots of asparagus as I always do at this time of year. We like it simply boiled and buttered. This time I saved the good green water in which my asparagus had boiled. I also saved the tough ends and used the water and the ends to make soup with the addition of potatoes and single cream. This soup benefits from being sieved as the asparagus stalks are quite fibrous.


We ate it with a big dish of croutons made from leftover crusts which I tossed with bacon (bacon is my secret weapon for getting kids to eat things they think they don't like).


There was leftover cooked asparagus -I buy too much- I chopped it up, mashed it a little, stirred in a big handful of parmesan, piled it on toast and put it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Another delicious lunch of leftovers for me.

The kitchen relay works for me, it works because I like to cook with what I have. I'm not good at sticking to meal plans, or at finding recipes and buying ingredients to make those recipes. I find the necessary task of feeding people as creative and fulfilling as any artistic endeavour. For that reason I favour cookery books which suggest ideas, allow flexibility and encourage thrift. Books of recipes have been replaced on my shelves by books like An Everlasting Meal and The New English Kitchen, The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun, The Modern Cook's Manual by Lynda Brown, Food From Plenty by Diana Henry and Appetite by Nigel Slater, these all demonstrate how to cook with creativity, economy and grace.




35 comments:

  1. The relay element currently presiding over our kitchen is the one where I leave something in the oven, or on the stove ready to be heated up and rush out of the house with one child, while hubby returns to tend to the other. I am discovering quite how much I loathe and detest this arrangement. Food as fuel, with no element of coming together at the end of the day is a joyless experience.

    I am in a bad mood with life.

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  2. You are making me hungry while I applaud you, Sue!

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  3. Just restocked my freezer purely with things ready to pop into the next meal - cooked or blanched veggies, breadcrumbs, tubs of sauce etc. as I'm tired of running two different meal cycles (one for us who eat most things, and one for M-in-Law who doesn't - note how I said that politely). Can't resist the local asparagus either, like the parsley it keeps well standing in a jug of an inch or so of water and cheers the kitchen up. Currently have the most luscious pot of basil growing on the window sill so I feel pesto coming on. How's the diet going, by the way?

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    1. It's slow Jee. Feeling a bit disillusioned with it at the moment to be honest.

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    2. Mmm. I had a real off patch with mine, then someone suggested that perhaps I needed to look at whether I was eating enough on the non-fast days. I've rethought that a bit and it has helped. I also did a third day last week as I ate more than my calorie allowance on day two as we went out unexpectedly. I do feel quite good and I am losing weight so I keep persevering - I 've plenty still to lose though!

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  4. Gosh those gorgeous photos have made me feel hungry, it's a good job it's lunch time :-)

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  5. You do know that when you write a post like this I end up buying at least one more book about food! You're an inspiration Sue, truly :) And I would never have thought to use parsley in pesto!

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  6. Good work! Everything sounds delicious, but those pasties are really calling out to me.

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  7. This is how I think of my meals. It's how I was brought up. TV programmes making viewers think that it's usual to cook Indian food one night, Italian the next, and so on, have caused no end of work for people. And extra cost to their purses!

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    1. Exactly right Veg Artist. TV programmes always start with a recipe and not ingredients which is not a useful or practical way to learn to cook.

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  8. Thank heavens for your blog Sue. It reminds me what my life will be like when we stop living in limbo and relocate. Which is easily another 3 months away. Until then I will need your blog to remind me what cooking actually looks like since I have lost all motivation after essentially cooking just for me!!

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  9. Can I please come and live at your house... to eat the left overs of the left overs... I'll live quietly under the kitchen table, I'll bring my knitting... you won't even know I'm there ;-) Even though I too am a saver-of-ends-and-user-upper-of-left-overs yours are somehow much more inspiring!

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  10. I have never understood homes where they eat something different every night. Both my husband and I grew up on leftovers and using up bits and we've continued that with our kids. I can't stand the thought of throwing out perfectly good food. But, I have to say, you do this so much more creatively than we do.

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  11. I loved this post. This is how my mum cooks and how I try to cook, sort of, but without your imagination or my mum's skill. A tight budget means that I can't bear to throw away food. I've taken to saving parmesan rinds for stock. People laugh at me but I think it makes sense!

    You do eat rather fabulous looking lunches. I think I need to up the game with my lunchtime menu. x

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    1. Parmesan rinds are excellent in stocks and soups and I often think a tight budget makes for good eating.

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  12. Yummm ! A great food entry. Thank you.

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  13. Lovely ideas. I've got lots of asparagus ends around at the moment too. And I love your pesto idea using Shropshire Blue, which I also just happen to have an end of and parsley which is thinking of flowering in the garden. You have reminded me of The Winter's Tale which I read for A-level, wonderful! Thank you for this inspiring post Sue, I shall try harder to have some leftovers left now.

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  14. I love asparagus too but unfortunately my husband does not. I occasionally buy a little bunch just for me but I'm not really a big fan of buying and cooking separate things for different people. I thought my answer was to grow some in the garden but that hasn't worked. For three years now I have planted three asparagus crowns but they just don't come up the next year. I would be very pleased to find somebody with advice on growing asparagus! And I hadn't thought of it on toast. I'd love that for my lunch.

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  15. I love this post, Sue. The way you approach food and cooking is nothing short of creative genius. I only wish I could apply it to my eating habits. It's not that I eat badly, it's just I find it not much fun cooking for just myself and a teenager who is pretty fussy (he doesn't get it from me, though I believe it's genetic!)

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  16. What a feast for the eyes.

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  17. Love your long, kitchen blog posts, Sue. In fact my blog has been drifting over to the dark side, away from textiles, for months now. I'm with you on the roast veg, some veggies just should NOT be roasted!

    I've been deeply, but DEEPLY into wild garlic lately, and have made WG butter, WG oil and -biggest success, wg pesto; some with almonds and some with cashews. Sooooo moreish.Even more delicious mixed with some humous.

    Got to try that chicken pasty - you should do food photography for adverts, Sue, this looks so mouth wateringly chomp able.

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  18. Sue, I've used a version of this sort of cooking for so many decades that it's sort of second nature to me. I will use a recipe for baking, but otherwise now rely on instincts and ingredients.

    All the same, I did pick up a few hints from this inspiring post of yours, and was reminded again of the joy of Bacon.

    xo

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  19. Another marvellous post Sue. I always feel hungry after reading one of your food posts.

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  20. Very interesting Sue, as usual. We don't usually have leftovers here (my hubby eats a lot) and when we do we are not good at recycling them, to be honest...If I have to throw something away I feel guilty....(and think of you...)
    The thing is that we like to eat different things during the week and don't like to repeat so I make dishes that combine vegetables with a meat or fish and a carbohydrate: ie. cous cous tagine, or cottage pie or paella with vegetables and chicken, lentil stew with chorizo and vegetables, a prawn curry or a minestrone and a salad etc. I guess it works for us. We follow quite a Mediterranean diet with the odd oriental/asian dish added for good measure and use olive oil, loads of vegetables and fruits and varied ingredients.
    I love asparagus and recently I'm eating them as a light lunch in a salad format: I make a lambs lettuce and mini tomato salad, put a bit of salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a sauce for it. Then I add 6 or 7 fried asparagus on top of the salad and a bit of grated cheese - fine parmesan or cheddar rinds on top of them...yum!! I find that the mixture of the balsamic with the toasted asparagus is lovely...
    Have a great weekend, Pati x

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  21. When you talk about using a heel of cheese in something you are cooking, do you mean you put the rind into the mixture and let it disintegrate?

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    1. This particular heel included some of the rind Nicky but also some of the better cheese. I grated it all before adding to the food processor with the parsley and nuts.

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  22. Thank you Sue for a fab post and reminding me about using the dog ends of veg for stocks and soups. And thanks especially for the asparagus soup and parsley pesto recipes. What a delightful combination of thrift and imagination - I'm feeling inspired now.

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  23. Left over wine? Is there such a thing? (Apart from when you buy some to put a splash in a sauce, and have to drink the left overs, of course!)

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  24. Love the look of that pasty. You seem to eat very well indeed.
    I like to cook heaps of rice and then freeze it in bags, one cup per serve. Saves hours of time and effort. Roast potatoes are bagged in meal size portions too. Thaw and zap!
    About that asparagus ... Instead of boiling it, simply lie it in a dish and microwave it. Much better result.

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    1. I'm not really a fan of microwave cooking.

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  25. I cook like this most of the time,the only drawback is when a dish is particularly successful I can't always remember what went into it, in what amounts!!

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  26. Good god. I am definitely moving in.

    (And so glad someone else in be world doesn't use a microwave. No-one believes me when I say I don't even own one.)

    Now off to look at some of those books

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  27. this is inspiring! I'm good on the double lot of potatoes or rice but so often I plan to pesto the bunch of parsley or roast the extra tomatoes and next thing I look and it's too late. I need to keep intent ahead of distraction in my kitchen. This is a timely reminder.

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  28. The perfect post to ease me back towards more creative cooking. The last three weeks have been so busy we've been eating endless versions of pasta 'surprise' which have become increasingly dull and unsurprising the emptier the fridge and cupboards have become. Finally managed a proper shop yesterday and as usual your blog has come up trumps. Love the idea of chicken pasties.

    Did I really mention a culinary relay? I probably did, my life feels like a relay race most of the time, a groundhog day relay race! Thank you for the mention and the link. Oh and on the microwave front, we have one which was bought about nine years ago when we were kitchenless for two months, and I hated cooking with it. But I do love being able to defrost and reheat things quickly and it's very good for softening butter (I usually make all cakes by hand, find washing up the mixer parts a pain). But to get one just for those three things would be pointless, and besides I don't suppose you fail to defrost key ingredients as often as I do.

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    1. My microwave gets used for softening butter and for heating up wheatbags for sore necks and backs.

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