When we packed up the flat to move out temporarily, the amount of food we had to throw out was shocking, the sort of shocking that is going to be hard not to forget and will, I hope, mean that my new vow to use up what we have, will stay a vow. Moving into a flat with literally no food (minus the landlord’s various bits that are still scattered around the place, which of course we’re not going to touch) meant that for the first time, in a long time, when we bought a week’s worth of food, that was actually a week’s worth of food, not, as it had been before, a weekly stock up to add to what was already there and it was liberating. Being able to open the cupboard or fridge and to see exactly what we had, not having to search through a jumble of half used packets and sodden cucumbers, it was wonderful, so when we move back to our flat, with it’s new, improved kitchen but still limited storage (it is after, still a very small kitchen and one of the things we’re doing is actually taking out cupboards so that we can have a breakfast bar), I want to continue that. Obviously some things will stay in the kitchen for longer than a week; I want a stock of basics, flour, pasta, sugar, rice, noodles, soy sauce, olive oil, herbs, spices etc. but everything else comes in the kitchen and gets eaten within that week. I have always envied Nigel Slater in his cooking programme, where he raids his fridge to finish off the last of his food before doing his weekly shop at the beginning of each episode, I want to do that. I’ve been working under this new ‘rule’ for about a week and a half now and although I haven’t been perfect; in the first week I had to throw out some pesto, passata and some salad, all packets that had been opened but not completely used up (the pesto and passata had been very nearly used up, the salad not so, salad is a problem in this house as I’m really the only person who eats it), but I’m getting there. So anyway, this new way of thinking is going to have to be accompanied by a slightly different way of cooking and shopping, I haven’t quite figured out how my shopping is going to change yet, I’m actually keeping a weekly record of what we’re throwing out, if certain things keep popping up on that list I’ll know to stop buying them or at least to buy smaller packet sizes or brands that keep for longer but the cooking, I think I know what I’ve got to change. Before I used to menu plan by picking a book and just using that, that way I could keep just one cookery book in the kitchen that week and not waste time trying to remember and find which books I’d planned from but some books, well, they’ll ask you to use an ingredient in one recipe and that’s it, that’s the only time really that ingredient is used, so a waste of whatever you’ve got left. Not all cookery books are like that though, Nigel Slater is good as his recipe lists tend to be just stuff you’ve got in your kitchen anyway. So, cooking 2013 style is going to involve menu planning with recipes that include the same ingredients, if that’s from a number of different books then so be it. Cooking 2013 style will also involve cooking the same dish more than once in a week, another good way of using up ingredients, it’s also a good way of memorising a recipe so that I can eventually make it (and inevitably adapt it) so that I don’t need the original book.
So, what have I been cooking? As it happens I’ve been just using one book this week, by the aforementioned Nigel Slater; Kitchen Diaries I, one of my birthday presents, it was not a good start though, first recipe I cooked, cheese smothered potatoes ended up a burnt mess, I think the recipe really need some liquid in it to prevent the sliced potatoes in the pan from catching. The whole recipe reminded me of an earlier Nigel recipe where he does cook sliced potatoes in stock and my mouth has been watering for me to cook it ever since this disaster but unfortunately that book is in storage.
The next recipe worked a lot better, a chicken noodle soup.
Then there was a chicken rice salad which was so nice I happily made it again a few days later.
And then there was a aubergine and bulgar wheat salad which lovely to, although I had to add a lot more liquid than Nigel instructed, otherwise I would have had another burnt mess on my hands.
This week’s key ingredients have been cold roast chicken and fresh mint and I don’t feel like I’ve been eating the same thing over and over again at all, in fact I had to go out and buy more chicken as I ran out and mint is definitely going to have to be a key ingredient in new herb garden I’m planning for when we get back to our flat. So far, so successful.
(I will write a proper review of Kitchen Diaries once I’ve cooked a few more of the dishes, whether that’ll be next week or in a few months, I don’t know. I am aware that I did cook my way through another cook book recently that never made these pages; Two Greedy Italians, it feels too late to review it now, particularly as in part most of the recipes weren’t, to be honest, that remarkable, except for one, their bolognese, oh my god, how could something so simple be so deeply savoury and delicious? When I originally cooked the recipe I was highly sceptical, the ingredient list was very small, just basically really mince and passata and I was all “where are the other ingredients? this is going to taste so boring!” and I was so wrong. I have cooked that recipe so many times since I don’t need the book anymore and actually it’s already morphed into something, a cross between it and my previous favourite bolognese recipe by Tanya Ramsay, so I’ve smooched the original recipe’s purity some what but it goes to show you, that sometimes less is more)