I've felt a shift lately in our kitchen. I can't precisely put a finger on just what it it. But there has been a renewed energy in there. Bubbling pots, spilt flour and baskets of fruit. I'm enjoying my time in there.
I've taken to re-reading cookery books late at night. There is something quite restful and comforting to read about the virtues of boiling a chicken or chilling pastry. Whether it has been Nigella's soothing voice in How to Cook, or Jamie's kitchen garden in Jamie At Home, to my new favourite An Everlasting Meal, there are all similar messages to be found within the pages. That a meal is not just about sticking to the recipe. To make do with what you have. Not just to make do, but be inspired by it. To buy the best quality you can afford to.
I've started making pastry on a regular basis. Nigella's advice on the subject was just to dive in and start doing it. On a regular basis. Once you learn the basic ratios (2 parts four, 1 part butter/lard in weight) and bring it together with a little iced water and perhaps an egg yolk (I've even taken to using yoghurt lately when I have no egg yolk), you can make it anywhere, anytime. If you make it enough it becomes part of your everyday repertoire. You really don't need a recipe anymore. Much like making bread, for those that do.
So we've been enjoying pies. Several times a week, so as to get that practice in. And you know what? It truly does get easier. I don't stress about the pastry anymore. You know exactly what is in it and it tastes so much nicer than the vegetable fat laced store variety.
But most of all I've been concentrating on making meals go further.
Leftover Saturday night pies and fried vegetables with herbs from the garden became the quick throw together picnic on Sunday. It really couldn't be any easier to make a quick lunch.
Leftovers are you friend.
Leftover pasta with a few eggs and some cheese thrown in is a favorite in this house.
Antipasto instead of take-away. The addition of fried pumpkin took only a few minutes. With ricotta on toast the next day.
Cook a few more vegies than you actually need. During the week they can be used in a tart, over pasta, frittata or even in a soup. Again egg and cheese is a match made in heaven in such circumstances. Don't forget the transformative powers of cream either. We do like our dairy products here.
Chicken roast will usually give you enough leftovers for next days sandwiches, or can be mixed with a white sauce and pastry for pie, used in a salad or a million other ways. The leftover bones will be the basis of a stock. Just throw in some onion, celery and carrot.
Our last lamb roast became the basis for a childhood favourite bubble and squeak. I'd forgotten just how good this tasted.
A selection of garden vegies and herbs becomes the nights soup, with a few pulses from the pantry and a chunk of parmesan rind from the freezer.
Making things from scratch, stretching out leftovers and using what you find in the garden and pantry, not only tastes better but I'm finding it a more frugal way to live. Our grocery shopping has stretched out where I don't need to go to the shops weekly. Now that I've put together a good supply of pantry basics, this allows me to stretch those visits out, where I really only need to pick up milk and cream on a weekly basis. We recently bought another whole lamb for the freezer. This time from a farm just down the road. It feels good to have a full pantry and full freezer in a natural disaster scenario kind of way.
Are you stretching things out? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on the subject.
It seems wrong to not mention that today in our country is Anzac day, a day of remembering those soldiers who fought for our country. So while we aren't attending the marches, or baking the biscuits, it is in our thoughts today. Lest we forget.