October cook-up

Cooking the Book – October Edition

If my cooking in October had a theme, it was leftovers. I felt like I was constantly eating leftovers, that my ability to cook anything was being ham strung by endless little containers of ingredients and portions of previous meals. Normally this would be smashing but when you’re trying to cook up your cupboards, it is less than ideal. (I made curry last night – Keralan Quorn Curry – and didn’t bother cooking rice with it, as I’m still using up the polenta…)

Butter Chicken (well, Quorn ‘chicken’ pieces if we’re being accurate) because I love a curry. I’m sure none of you had the least suspicion that that was the case. Because the take away of choice for my childhood was Chinese food, I never really encountered the classics of British-Indian take away food until I was an adult. And while I’ve eaten a fair few regrettable Chicken Tikka Masalas over the years – when I still ate meat I was much more at the Korma/Pasanda end of the spice scale – I’ve never actually had Butter Chicken. I’ve no idea if what I made was remotely accurate, but I would certainly make it again. Although I would make sure I had plain yoghurt next time. I realised halfway through that I’d forgotten to get plain yoghurt, but courtesy of my yoghurt maker I had a big tub of mango yoghurt in the fridge. Lots of curries use amchoor, and I really like them, so I figured, what the heck, it was worth a shot. And it does work, it makes it a very fruity curry, but it works, though I don’t know that I’d recommend it unless you’re similarly caught short.

It did also lead, as part of my cupboard cookup, to my making Curry Quesadillas. By means of toasting a couple of left-over tortilla wraps in the frying pan, filling them with left over curry, chucking in some paneer – to go with the theme – and some shredded mozzarella. It was actually really good. Not a fusion food combination I imagine showing up on a menu anywhere any time soon, but surprisingly good, quick easy food to make after a back shift.

Mini Chestnut, Apple and Spinach Wellingtons. Which are not, I would contest, particularly ‘mini’. I made them as a sort of test run, as a possible Christmas food dish. I think I’m more disappointed in them because I actually watched Lorraine cook these on the tele a couple of years ago. (While staying with a friend in Belfast almost exactly two years to the day before I made them.) They looked delicious at the time and when I saw them in this book I was really excited and I’ve been looking forward to making them ever since. They’re alright. Not horrible, not brilliant, just alright. I found them very dry, both in filing and entirety. I do wonder if they might be rather better made with puff pastry, if that might make them lighter in a way. However, because I ended up with too much filing – I was using up dried green lentils rather than canned ones, and I over estimated the conversion rate and ended up with cooked green lentils coming out of my ears – and I used it up by means of stirring it up with some passata and sticking it in a baked potato. Which was delicious – really, really good. So I’ll be trying this recipe again at some point but with added passata in the filling as I think that might solve the problem entirely.

Actually I ended up making a third recipe out of the book this month, as I made Shallot and mushroom gravy to go with my Wellingtons one day. Which was…fine. I tried to scale it down to just have enough for one person, but didn’t cut down the shallot enough – they were quite sizeable shallots which didn’t help, I suspect that if they’d been the little round ones it would have been fine – so it didn’t really break down enough during cooking so I ended up with a weird lumpy gravy – I should have stuck to my usual mushroom sauce, that’s considerably nicer.

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October Cookup

I should say at the outset, that I totally underestimated how much dried goods I had in my cupboards. I have, for example, an awful lot of lentils. And lentils, as you’ll know if you’ve ever cooked with them outside of soup go a long way. It’s one of my favourite things about lentils, that a few ounces of dried lentils will transform into a big pot of dal that will feed me all week. Which is great, especially at the end of the month, when you need to make things stretch that wee bit further. When its not great is when you’re trying to cook up your cupboards and you cook a few things with lentils, they stretch far enough that you’re sick of the sight of the darn things and you still have lots of them left.

I’ll not talk about the two recipes I made from my recipe book – I’ll save them for their monthly post – though one of them was picked specifically as a cookup recipe. But other than that I did actually do quite a bit of cooking this month. There was lots of soup, curry, pies and Mexican food. I actually kept to my challenge quite strictly, and the purpose of cooking up stuff in the cupboards shaped the cooking that I did, forced me to be more adventurous and experimental to work with what I had. But frustratingly I don’t actually feel that there’s that much less in my cupboards than there was at the start of the month. I mean, realistically there is, for a start my Mexican food binge at the start of the month means that I no longer get attacked by that pack of tortilla wraps every-time I open the cupboard and I did empty out a decent number of half used packets and tubs – and most of the later were even in a good way into another recipes rather than into the food waste tub under the sink.

You would think that after the best part of two years of cooking only for myself on a day-to-day basis I would have accustomed myself to the idea that I don’t go through food as fast as I used to. But no, I still often forget that if I make a meal that the recipe says serves four, then that isn’t one meal for the family and one serving for me later in the week (or one meal for me and my mum and two servings for me later in the week if it involves chillies), its four servings for me. Which would be fine if I had a decent size freezer, but as it is I have an icebox at the top of my fridge – standard contents: pint of ice-cream, tray of ice-cubes, packet of pastry, pack of frozen quorn and some emergency veggie burgers – there’s not a lot of room for leftovers. I really need to internalise that knowledge when I’m standing in the supermarket contemplating the pulses.

Back when I was living at home with my parents, my own food cupboard was a small and tightly organised cupboard, and in order to keep things from getting forgotten about and expiring, I kept a list of my staples on the door, scoring things off as they got used up and adding them on as I bought replacements. I suspect I may need to reinstate that habit, because I this month I kept coming across things that I’d forgotten that I had – that while not yet expired were certainly getting perilously close to their dates – I do wonder what else is lurking about in there. Such is the joy of having more than one food cupboard – I now have to remember where everything is. I think I’ll be keeping up this challenge, it may not be particularly showy or dramatic but it is quite useful.

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The Return of the October Cupboard Cookup!

A second post? This early in the month? Must be challenge time!

For some reason, as the seasons turn from Summer into Autumn, my thoughts turn to my store-cupboards. Perhaps it’s a hibernating instinct to ensure that we have enough food in hand to keep us through the sparse winter months ahead, but there’s something about this time of year that makes my tendency to hoard cupboard staples particularly powerful. In an attempt to keep it in check, I’m setting myself a challenge this month. To cook up my cupboard staples ahead of the winter. There’s far too many packets – of pulses, rices and other dried carbs – and tins that have been lurking there since last winter, time to use them up and start afresh.

So that’s the challenge this month, to only buy perishables and to let my diet be shaped by the stuff I already have in the cupboard. Naturally, I’ll be blogging about. Recipe suggestions – especially for what to do with that packet of polenta – gratefully received.

(ETA Make that 2 packets of polenta. One loose, the other ‘ready made’ – why? Who can tell.)

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October Cook-Up RoundUp

So the end of the month has arrived and sadly, I have not completed the list. It was always a bit ambitious but I did hope I’d do rather better than I did. In the end I made 6 recipes off the list, which was good in the sense that those are six recipes that I wouldn’t otherwise have made, but a little disappointing that I never made the others, largely because most of the recipes came from recipe books that I’ve now returned to the library. To the extent that I ended up photographing the recipe for one recipe so that I could make it this evening after I’d returned the recipe book.

  1. Dal Paneer Nawabi (Dal Cookbook)
  2. Parsee Dal
  3. Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
  4. Lentil Kutu with Green Beans
  5. Moong Dal with Cauliflower
  6. Flaked Rice with Potatoes/Batate Pohe (India’s Vegetarian Cooking)
  7. Bamboo Shoots in Coconut Milk/Kirla Ghassi
  8. Rice and Mung Stew/Mung Khichdi
  9. Rich Root Soup (Easy Vegetarian)
  10. Lentils and Couscous (Guardian)
  11. Pappardelle with Leek
  12. Pumpkin Curry (Wagamama)
  13. Yasai Dotenabe
  14. Yasai Yaki Soba
  15. Sake Poached Pears
  16. Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia (Packet)
  17. Cheddar Cheese Scones (Lighter Way to Bake)
  18. Bite-sized Pinwheel Snacks
  19. White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  20. Baked Lentil and Bean Cottage Pie

So this week I made two new additions. The first was Flaked Rice with Potatoes

Batate Pohe

or Batate Pohe, to give it the correct name. Which was nice, very filling – proper stick to your ribs food but while many of the rice dishes in that book work as both accompaniments and as meals in their own right, this one definitely needed an accompaniment. Whether a spicy vegetable side order or perhaps just some sauce (I’ll be trying the leftovers with Plum Sauce tomorrow to test this theory) it just needs a wee something more.

The second one was a proper cook up my fridge contents effort,

Lentil and Bean Cottage Pie

Lentil and Bean Cottage Pie. I nearly forgot to photograph this one, so you get the left-overs. I’ll pretty them up with some extra mash when I’m settle again, but I wanted to record this for posterity before I forget and never post about this one. Very tasty, I really enjoyed it and would definitely make it again, though the recipe is designed for six so I need to work out a way to more effectively cut it down. As while I successfully cut down the topping, still ended up with enough filling for six which wasn’t ideal. However, I did feed it to a carnivore who also enjoyed it so we’ll call that a win.

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List Progression

Slowly and surely, progress is being made. I ended up having to knock one of the recipes off the list, as I’d mistakenly thought I had couscous in the cupboard when in fact it was polenta. However the list is now 20 items long, and I have been making decent progress on cooking up the cupboard contents, though not necessarily from the list.

  1. Dal Paneer Nawabi (Dal Cookbook)
  2. Parsee Dal
  3. Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
  4. Lentil Kutu with Green Beans
  5. Moong Dal with Cauliflower
  6. Flaked Rice with Potatoes/Batate Pohe (India’s Vegetarian Cooking)
  7. Bamboo Shoots in Coconut Milk/Kirla Ghassi
  8. Rice and Mung Stew/Mung Khichdi
  9. Rich Root Soup (Easy Vegetarian)
  10. Lentils and Couscous (Guardian)
  11. Pappardelle with Leek
  12. Pumpkin Curry (Wagamama)
  13. Yasai Dotenabe
  14. Yasai Yaki Soba
  15. Sake Poached Pears
  16. Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia (Packet)
  17. Cheddar Cheese Scones (Lighter Way to Bake)
  18. Bite-sized Pinwheel Snacks
  19. White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  20. Baked Lentil and Bean Cottage Pie

 

I have made a few things from the list though, largely because last week, I finished compiling my list and was utterly horrified by how little I’d actually cooked off the list so far and went on a bit of a cooking spree. That’s actually harder than it sounds for me, as I tend to bulk cook to accomodate my shifts and we also have a tiny freezer so I have to strike a happy medium between making several days meals at once and making so much of one thing that I scunner myself of the meal in question.

Rich Root Veg

I made the Rich Root Soup, which was very tasty and filling, though mostly brought home to me that I need a proper BIG pot for making soup in, my current large one really isn’t up to the task.

Lentil and 'Couscous'

Then I decided to make the Lentils and Couscous recipe, only to discover that I don’t actually have any couscous in the cupboard. Handily though, the recipe had a variant option where you replace the couscous with brown rice (which I do have in the cupboard) so I made that instead. It was a bit bland, but I suspect the couscous takes on the lime juice flavour more so worth trying again with actual couscous.

Then I had a go at making focaccia. This is actually my second attempt at focaccia – I wasn’t happy with my original attempt so a while back I picked up one of those little flour bags that claim to be bread mix to see if that would work better. No. Nope. Not at all. Total disaster. Wouldn’t rise, wouldn’t cook, I ended up cooking it for twice as long as the recipe recommended and still when I cut it open the dough was still raw inside. Win some, lose some, I guess. Perhaps I should just take it as a sign that I’m not meant to make focaccia…

So four recipes tried; sixteen to go. Clearly I’m not going to make them all before the end of the month, but I’m going to have fun trying to squeeze them all in!

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I’ve got a Little List

So after taking everything out of my cupboards to establish what I actually have in there, I spent a few (many) glorious hours paging through all the recipe books in the flat, in search of recipes that were vegetarian, sounded tasty and involved food I had in the cupboard. So far the list is 17 items long. It’s only not 20 items long yet, because I have some baking supplies I want to use up and the recipe book I’d requested from the library for that part of the plan still hasn’t arrived. So here’s the list so far:

  1. Dal Paneer Nawabi (Dal Cookbook)
  2. Parsee Dal
  3. Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
  4. Lentil Kutu with Green Beans
  5. Moong Dal with Cauliflower
  6. Flaked Rice with Potatoes/Batate Pohe (India’s Vegetarian Cooking)
  7. Bamboo Shoots in Coconut Milk/Kirla Ghassi
  8. Rice and Mung Stew/Mung Khichdi
  9. Rich Root Soup (Easy Vegetarian)
  10. Summer Beans and Couscous Salad
  11. Lentils and Couscous (Guardian)
  12. Pappardelle with Leek
  13. Pumpkin Curry (Wagamama)
  14. Yasai Dotenabe
  15. Yasai Yaki Soba
  16. Sake Poached Pears
  17. Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia (Packet)

So far I’ve made Pappardelle with Leek, which was very tasty, even if I didn’t get the Leek:Pasta ratio quite right when I cut it down to serve one person (next time I’ll keep the dark green parts for soup), it was definitely a tasty and straight-forward worknight dinner.
Paperdelle and Leek

I appreciate that it doesn’t sound all that impressive, 7 days into the month to have only cooked one recipe off my list, but in my defense I was away on holiday for a long weekend this weekend so haven’t actually been at home to cook for most of the time, but, I will do better.

I hope…

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