Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas leftovers... some ideas

So, hands up who bought too much food for one? I manage this every year, always with the mindset that friends might drop by or I might have an unexpected dinner guest on Christmas Night who has nowhere else to go. At the moment I'm looking at a large slab of belly pork on a plate in my fridge - some of that will be simply reheated for dinner tonight, accompanied by some of a lovely savoy cabbage I have and the rest of yesterday's roast parsnips.

If you're stuck for ideas, here's a few.
The quick chicken supreme work well with other poultry such as turkey, if you bought a small crown, guinea fowl or duck. And so will my cheat's chicken cacciatore - just make the sauce without the uncooked chicken, then add the cooked meat 10 minutes before the end, so it's thoroughly reheated.

Pie and risotto will take almost any filling - both are a good way to use up whatever leftover meat and vegetables you have to hand. Try my chicken and vegetable pie or chicken risotto.

My recipe for lamb in date and lemon sauce says uncooked lamb, but cooked will be fine - you'll be basically reheating it in the sauce in the oven. You can do the same with my fruity goat tagine - it doesn't have to be goat meat: leftover lamb or chicken will both be fine. A couple of slices of cooked lamb can also substitute for fresh chops in my lamb chops baked in the oven.

Soup is a go-to for Christmas leftovers. My game soup is ideal for leftover partridge, pheasant or other roast birds. My quick winter minestrone is very adaptable - the tomatoes, greens and pasta are the backbone, then just throw whatever else you have to hand in it.

If you have too many root vegetables lurking in your fridge, the winter root veg casserole is tasty and also simple and light after the richer food of Christmas Day.

If you have leftover cheese, you could make yourself a thrifty cheesecake or use some up in a stilton, rosemary and walnut scone.

Don't forget, quite a few of these can also be frozen once made - handy for those days when you don't feel like cooking but can pull something home-cooked from the freezer!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas dinner for one - 2013

Christmas dinner for one - time for a revisit. I offered some suggestions exactly two years ago, but it never hurts to look at some more options. (This topic is one of the main searches that brings you readers to my blog, all year round!)

Apart from the alternatives to turkey I suggested last time, a spatchcocked poussin will feed one very hungry person, or give you a meal and a bit for leftovers (using the carcass to make stock afterwards, for soup or risotto). You can spatchcock the bird yourself if you have a pair of poultry shears or very sharp kitchen scissors - it's very easy. If not, ask the butcher to do it for you. The supermarkets have them at this time of year, already prepared. All you need to do is oil the skin, add a rub if you like and roast for about 40 minutes at 180C. (I cooked the one above with a rub made of sweet smoked paprika and ate it with a plate of oven chips.)

I wrote about breast of lamb in October - it's cheapish, very tasty and very versatile. I stuffed the one in the photo a couple of weeks ago, with a homemade stuffing of breadcrumbs, a handful of chopped chestnuts, a few dried apricots and a little rosemary - very seasonal. If you opt for this, the October post has cooking instructions.

I can also recommend (again) looking in the freezers in Lidl and Aldi. I've already picked up a cooked, frozen lobster for £6 from Lidl, as I do every year, and both shops have a good selection of small three-bird roasts that will give you 2-3 portions - enough for Christmas Day, plus leftovers for sandwiches, curry, a casserole of some sort, a pie (swap the veg for leftover roast parsnips, carrots or sprouts) or soup.

Fresh ducks should also be appearing now. One duck feeds two people quite well, so you'll have some nice leftovers from that - it makes a good stir-fry if you cheat, like I do, with some bought stir-fry sauce.

What am I having? I don't know yet, is the short answer. I have a nice slab of Cheshire belly pork in my freezer but I'm also tempted to buy either a duck or a rack of lamb next week. A rack of lamb is quick and easy to cook, and cobbling together a quick crust of breadcrumbs and herbs adds extra flavour (I had this last year). These should be in the supermarkets from about now but you should also be able to order one from a butcher - a rack of 3-4 chops should be enough and you can make a pilaf (watch this space) if you can't finish it in one go.

If you have any questions, do post in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.

Merry Xmas!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

REVIEW: Grey's Fine Foods Spanish gourmet hamper

A hamper is generally a welcome gift in my home, but Christmas ones less so - when you live alone, baskets full of Christmas pudding, family-sized tins of chocolate biscuits and the like seem like a wasted opportunity as well as useless (I hate Christmas pudding and it would take me half a year to get through a tin of biscuits).
Hampers like this, though? Now you're talking. This fabulous package came from Grey's Fine Foods, which imports a huge range of artisan Spanish produce, and is perfect for one person. I love Spanish food - I know my way reasonably round both standard and regional menus, sometimes cook Spanish dishes and am generally influenced by the cuisine. So a truckload of gourmet imported Spanish products is the sort of thing to put a smile on my face.
I tore into the charcuterie for a quick lunch. The Ibérico ham, produced from the renowned Iberian black pig, is a wonderfully dark red colour with a rich, nutty depth of flavour from their acorn and grassland diet. There was a good layer of creamy fat too, which for me is essential on an air-dried ham. The black pig salchiçon has a lighter flavour, with tones of fennel and something fruity that I couldn't quite place. I had these simply on a plate, with a handful of salted Spanish almonds (not in the hamper but lurking in my larder) and some of the roasted peppers straight from the jar. They had a decent, firm texture and a sweet intensity. The only thing missing was a glass of chilled fino sherry. 
I had a quick nibble of the chocolate, which was made with olive oil and sea salt - I could taste both of these, which cut nicely through the sweetness of the chocolate. The turrón I'm saving for when I crave a proper sugar hit - sticky Spanish nougat is always a winner for me because I love the chewy, nutty mix of honey, toasted almonds and egg white. It's a generous pack too, which will last me months. Alarmingly, when I took it out of the box the oils had leached out into the plastic vacuum wrapper so it will need to be opened carefully.
Of the store-cupboard ingredients, I dipped a little bread in the olive oil with my lunch. It was fruity with a distinctly peppery kick, definitely one for drizzling and dipping rather than cooking with. I love the pretty ceramic bottle - I'll be looking to reuse it in my kitchen for something. I was also blown away by the cute packaging of the piquant pimentón, which had a fiery punch beneath its dark smokiness. I'll be using that in my paella.
I'm not a big fan of tinned tuna, as most in the UK are cheap and nasty and taste very unpleasant - my larder tends to have sardines and mackerel instead. This can of bonito tuna (in olive oil, which really marks it out as a cut above) will make a great fallback staple though for a quick tuna and bean salad. I love gazpacho, the chilled tomato and cucumber soup - so easy to make yet never as good as the real thing. This bottle is also a great store-cupboard standby although I'll probably wait until the weather's warmer to eat it.
All in all, this is excellent value. All the products are artisanal and their total worth is slightly more than the cost of the hamper. The only item I missed was a wedge of manchego cheese, which would have rounded it out perfectly. Almost everything was in amounts ideal for one person: the charcuterie packs are 100g, for example. The packaging was beautiful and even the wooden crate - once I'd turfed Nelson out of what he thought was his new bed - was quickly repurposed as a storage box for my home office. 

Now the details... The Grey's Hamper costs £50 from Grey’s Fine Foods, one of a range starting from £35. Delivery is usually 3-7 days but they offer a one-day service too if you plan to order for Christmas (either for yourself - and why not? - or as a present).

Disclaimer: With thanks to Grey’s Fine Foods and Coffeepot Digital. I received the hamper free of charge, for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own and I was not paid nor obliged to write a positive review.