Posts Tagged With: beans

CCC Mostly Italian

I made a concerted effort to finish off the dried tagliatelle last week, in part so I could free up the tall and pretty jar it was stored in to keep the fancy new noodles I got during the week. Early shifts meant that I needed to keep it simple and straight forward most days, so first we used up some broccoli florets I’d got on special in a dish that was essentially, pasta, broccoli and two kinds of cheese, simple and delicious. Later in the week I made two variations on tagliatelle with beans – the recipe called for broad beans, but I had edamame which don’t need peeled – crème fraîche and garlic, which got spruced up with various combinations of peppers, spring onions, hard Italian cheese and toasted pine-nuts.

The Tuscan Beef Ragu did indeed convert successfully into a Tuscan Bean Ragu, though given how much ragu I ended up with, I feel if I’d used beef instead of beans, I’d have been eating ragu all week! As it was, I had a lot of food rather than two much food. Between shifts and the weather, I actually ended up prepping the ragu to the point where it’s meant to go in the oven and then actually baked it the following day. It came out pretty decently, though it wasn’t special enough for me to consider it worthy of inclusion in my regular rotation of bulk cook recipes – the effort to tastiness ratio isn’t worthwhile.

Speaking of gnocchi – one of the better parts of the ragu was the gnocchi in it – a colleague who keeps chickens had an excess of eggs, so I’ve been eating cooked egg breakfasts more frequently lately, and it’s reminded me how much I enjoy paprika fried gnocchi as a side with a cooked breakfast. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, just a little spicy – lovely.

Additionally, I’ve been making a valiant attempt at cooking up the giant tapioca that has been lurking in the cupboard since my ill-fated experiments with making bubble tea a couple of years ago. I loved tapioca pudding as a child, but it’s not something I’ve ever made for myself as an adult, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve actually ever eaten it as an adult, as I don’t think my mum’s really made it since I went to uni. My dad has always preferred rice pudding and semolina – he tends to refer to it and its sibling sago as ‘frogspawn’ – so I guess it wasn’t worth the hassle? Whatever the reason, I had a hankering and got her to send me the recipe, and lo, after much patient stirring – and also an impatiently burned tongue – I had tapioca pudding. It was more glutinous than I remembered, seeming to take forever to thicken up, but that might be a product of it being giant tapioca, and the recipe omitted the essential ingredients, generous sprinklings of both nutmeg and cinnamon. However, once my tongue had recovered from it’s scalding, I had a big bowl of hot, filling, comfort food – and equally important, leftovers for the following day!

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Covid Cupboard Cooking: Week 1

While I was working on my last post I ended up getting distracted and creating an inventory of my food cupboards, which seems the ultimate in procrastination but has actually turned out to be very useful in terms of meal planning. I’ve always been a fan of meal planning and food shopping with a targeted list, but in these strange days it’s become even more important than before. Also it means that if I find myself faced with a bargain I can make the impulse buy or not based on knowing exactly what I have in the cupboards that I can cook it with.

As part of this challenge I’m attempting to use up some of the dried pulses and tins that having been lurking longer in my cupboards than I’d like. Also those little ends of packets where I had just too much to fit in the available jar. (The section of my cutlery drawer that houses my freezer/packet clips is full to busting in a way it hasn’t been since I first moved in and still had an empty freezer.) To that end I’ve used up some lurking dried mung beans in my – broccoli and blue cheese – soup, freeing up a jar to keep the rest of my quinoa in, and made giant couscous for dinner one night using up the rather sad end of a packet so that it all fits in one jar. I don’t know that the packet of cheddar and sundried tomato bread mix that I turned into a loaf the other day really counts towards this challenge – as I only bought it as a treat a couple of weeks ago – but it sure does taste good. I’d planned to do more bulk cooking this week but I discovered that there was actually very little free space in my freezer. There were, however, lots of half used packets of things lurking at the back of drawers so I’ve also been trying to use them up. First up were the end of a bag of edamame beans that had frozen solid – I’ve fully defrosted them and chucked a handful of them in almost everything I’ve cooked this week. They work really well in giant couscous and with gnocchi, but less so in an omelette. I also finished off a packet of ‘no duck’ Chinese pasty things which were definitely elevated by being served with some edamame and the Ketjap Manis I unearthed in my cupboard inventorying.

I’d also stocked up on frozen fruit mixes as I’d thought fresh fruit might be harder to source at the moment, but on my last grocery run, I discovered that evidentially lots of people had had the same thought as I was able to pick up a pile of bargains in the fruit and veg section – I got a bag of carrots, a cauliflower and a bunch of spring onions for the princely total of 22p – and other than bananas and tangerines, fruit seems plentiful. So it looks like I won’t need to keep my jam gooseberries for keeping up the vitamin C and can actually make jam with them.

Oh and I did track down those dried black beans, it turns out they’re in a cupboard in my mum’s kitchen – a cupboard that, despite my not living there in six years, is still referred to as ‘my’ cupboard – if they’ve been there all this time I suspect that pickling them will be the only way to still get any use out of them at this stage.

Categories: being veggie, challenges, covid cookup | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cupboard Living in a time of Covid 19

When I decided to start a food blog at the start of 2014, my original intention was to document my adventures cooking as much from my cupboards as was possible. I had lots of cupboard staples – I’ve always been a sucker for being tempted by new ingredients that are reasonably shelf stable – and I thought it would be a fun way to work through the back log, while hopefully saving some pennies at the same time. The blog has drifted in focus over the last few – six! – years that I’ve been writing it, but in the current circumstances, it feels like a good time to bring the blog back to basics. It might even be helpful, entertaining to other folks stuck in their houses right now.

I should add at this juncture, that I’m not actually in quarantine at the moment, of all things I was supposed to be on holiday this week – my parents were coming up for mother’s day and a friend was supposed to be visiting from Oz – so I had done a certain amount of pre-stocking up and meal planning ahead of time. I’m just trying to be a good citizen and only go food shopping once a week so that means less perishables and no ‘popping out’ for things I’d forgotten.

The idea of bringing the blog back to basics came about as I was making my beloved beetroot risotto, having found some leftover red wine that needed used up I was excited to discover that I actually had everything I needed for the meal already in the cupboard. I’m going to need to do more of this, I thought, and at least I’ll get through some of that pile of beans and pulses in the cupboard.

It’s been a good opportunity to inventory my cupboards to see what I actually have in there. Since I’ve lived in my new flat I’ve been pretty decent about rotating my cans so that things get used up in something approaching date order – just the other day my stir-fry was enlivened by a tin of water chestnuts I’d forgotten about – and the plan of putting the little extras – cashew nuts, pine nuts, flaked almonds and sesame seeds – in pretty little mini kilner jars on my work-top has been great at both reminding me to use them and preventing me finding sad musty packets when I go looking for something else in the cupboard. I must confess I was surprised by how few cans of tomatoes I have – why do I always end up with either 6 tins or 1? And having seen Jack Monroe’s intriguing recipe for sweet and sour beans, I’m mystified as to what happened to my jar of dried black beans…

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November 52

Of all the various targets that I set myself this month, the one that has been most unexpectedly successful was my determination to cook more new ingredients. I know there’s no physical way for me to catch up, but I hoped I might actually manage a month that averaged out to a new ingredient each week. And lo and behold I was actually successful! It was a bit touch and go there until the last week of the month, in fact I was properly close to the line with the last ingredient being sprinkled into soup yesterday and today. However, despite a shaky start – I made all the chilli in the world at the start of the month and thoroughly scunnered myself of it – and being away for work part of the month, I managed to take reliable dishes from my repertoire and add a more adventurous twist to them with a new ingredient.

Adzuki Beans

I picked these up as an alternative to kidney beans and cooked them much as I would kidney beans, in a veggie chilli. Before cooking they had a similar colour to kidney beans, though they’re smaller and between that and their two-tone colour scheme – that to my eyes makes them look as though they’re bursting out of their skins – they reminded me more of black-eyed beans.

Since making dinner with them I’ve discovered that these are in fact the red beans that make up red-bean paste so I feel I really ought to have done something more exciting with them. Perhaps having a go at making chaat or experimenting with a Japanese dessert!

Whole-wheat Noodles

As part of my plan to try lots of new ingredients this year, I’ve been picking up all kinds of new and interesting noodles to try. These ones ended up being next on the list for the simple – and expedient – reason that they were due to expire at the end of the month. They’re fine. Much like whole-wheat pasta, I feel they need a bit extra cooking, along with a flavoursome sauce, because they taste similar and I find that a bit discombobulating when eaten alongside a stir-fry. I think my issue with them is that you can taste the whole-wheat, and I associate that with self-declared ‘health-foods’ – the kind of thing you only eat because you know it’s good for you – and tastes like it’s good for you isn’t actually a compliment. Perfectly serviceable but not something I’m likely to bother with going forward.

Yuzu Citrus Seasoning

I wasn’t sure how effective this would be, but actually this was surprisingly good. When I don’t have any stir-fry sauces in the house, I make a basic sauce with lime juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Chinese five spice and a little corn flour. If I’m in a hurry I just chuck a good slug of any two of those give it a good stir and hope for the best. The first time I cooked with Yuzu I just slung some rice wine vinegar and a generous slug of Yuzu into my stir-fry and was really pleased with the result. The Yuzu seasoning I’d bought has a little thickener in it, so was just thick enough that it coated everything and didn’t just end up sizzling in the bottom of the pan. It soaked in nicely to the tofu and the baby sweet corn, giving them a mellow citrusy tang, and while the other ingredients didn’t pick it up quite so well, it left the ghost of a tang in the back of my throat on every bite.

Apparently there’s been a bit of a fad for it here among foodies, and I can see why. I look forward to substituting it for lime juice in all kinds of different dishes going forward.

Za’atar

I’ve had this for ages and never got round to cooking with it, though the scent has been seeping out the bag and making me hungry whenever I come across it. I must confess that I was prompted to cook with this because I’d been feeling chuffed with myself for having actually tried four new ingredients this month, only to realise that it was only three when I came to write up this post! However when I was making soup (Cauliflower and Leek) I came across my packet of Za’atar and was inspired. I find that Cauliflower can often be a bit bland, unless paired with a strong flavour, which is why I often but it in curries and prefer my cauliflower cheese to be made with a good strong cheese. So I’ve been experimenting with using it to season said soup, it’s taken a few goes to get the right level of seasoning – too little and while it smells amazing you can barely taste it. It adds an extra level of warming to the soup and gives a little extra kick to an otherwise quite plain soup.

It’s less of a taste on the tongue and in the back of the throat and the nose, but no less pleasurable for that. I make a Cauliflower and Ras el Hanout Soup, and I think substituting Za’atar for the Ras el Hanout would give it a more mellow flavour. One perhaps more suitable for when I make it for my less adventurous relatives!

Categories: 52 Ingredients, challenges, nablopomo | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beetroot Double Feature

This month I’ve been doing a mini-challenge, not just with food, but with a variety of projects. At the start of July I declared this month, ‘finish the things’ month. I’ve a bit of an unfortunate tendency to start far too many projects and not finish them, and while I’m certainly better at that than I used to be, it’s an on-going work in progress that needs regular stock-taking and attention. Mostly this month has involved finishing half-read books, watching documentaries I have book-marked in tabs and not starting new craft-projects. However, I’ve been trying to do it more generally in my cupboards, which has meant (alongside using up bottles of moisturiser & shampoo with tiny amounts left in the bottom) that I’ve been trying to cook up my cupboards rather than buying more things.

As part of my project to re-habilitate beetroot, I’ve taken to keeping one of those vacuum-packs of cooked beetroot in the fridge as emergency vegetables during winter. Quick and easy to use, lasts for months in the fridge. However, you do need to remember to actually use them, as it’s easy to forget about them once the better weather – and greater vegetable availability/variety – returns. Handily I discovered I had some giant couscous needing used up, so I picked up some feta cheese cubes, cropped some spinach from my container garden and made my summer variant of beetroot risotto. However, because I was only making enough to use up the remains of the couscous I was still left with half a packet of – now blended – beetroot. Which prompted the question: what else to make?

One of the major challenges that I’ve faced with my ’52 ingredients’ challenge, is that I end up with lots of new things to use up. It’s all well and good finding a recipe to try several new ingredients on, but I end up spending the rest of the month trying to use up the remains of said ingredients. (Most recipes involving tahini only require a spoonful or two, but it comes in a sizeable jar. I got to the point where I tried eating it on toast but that was a decidedly joyless experience so we’ll be giving that one a miss.) Which limits the options for making things with other new ingredients and so we get stuck in a vicious circle. However, while searching for other recipes for beetroot, I discovered a recipe for a selection of Summer picnic dips, one of which involved beetroot.

It’s technically called Pink cannellini and beetroot dip, however, I didn’t have cannellini beans in the cupboard but I did have a jar of black-eyed beans. Black-eyed beans and Beetroot dip has a pleasantly alliterative sound, and, I’m pleased to report, a pleasantly mellow flavour. It was a four-fold success. It used up my left-over beetroot before it could go off, it meant I tried a new ingredient (black-eyed beans) and it helped use up one of last month’s ‘new’ ingredients (a generous tablespoon of tahini paste). Which in itself would have been good enough for me, but it was very tasty and I’ve been trying it with various different things for picnic lunches.

Based on that success, I’m definitely have a bash at their hummus recipe. I’m pretty sure I’ve got some pumpkin seeds in the cupboard to decorate it with…

Picnic lunch

Categories: 52 Ingredients, being veggie, challenges | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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