Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Use It - Don't Lose it: Loving the Leftovers

So call me weird, but I get a sense of satisfaction from using up leftovers, converting them into a tasty meal instead of letting them become science experiments in the back of the fridge, or tossing them in the compost bin. I hate to see good food wasted, food that cost good money or time. My meals are usually planned around what needs using the most in the fridge or garden. In this way there are no Science experiments in the fridge, the turnover is too rapid.

This weekend we catered for 100 people and had a lot of leftover rolls, potato salad, coleslaw, tuna salad, green salad, dessert and sauces. How does Elastic Mom tackle this problem, you may ask?

Well, firstly I shared out some of the rolls, cheese, potato salad and coleslaw with the farm families. I froze the rest of the fruit crumbles, sauces, rolls and cheese for using at a later stage. We ate salad with the next few meals too.

We couldn't eat the salads fast enough, so I was contemplating what to do. Then I had a brainwave: I tossed potato salad with tuna salad (lettuce and all), stirred in 3 beaten eggs and spread the mixture in a casserole dish. Topped with grated cheese, it was popped in a medium oven and baked. The end result was the best potato bake that I have ever made. It was creamy and delicious.

I made a hot lettuce soup (Ina Paarman's recipe) for lunch yesterday from the half the wilted lettuce, onions and cucumber and some chicken stock and milk. I just couldn't toss out 8 litres of lettuce salad. The soup was ok, but not that exciting, so I gave the chickens the rest of the lettuce. If we had had any more coleslaw, it  could have been used in a winter vegetable-style soup too.

Tomatoes are precious around here, considering my summer tomato crop was a failure, so I picked over the green salad, removing all the tomato wedges, olives and feta.

Last night, for supper, I turned one leftover cooked steak, a bowl of tomato wedges and a handful of olives rescued from the green salad into a very tasty toast topping. I sliced up the steak and fried it in a pan with the tomatoes,  garlic, some horseradish sauce, some monkey gland sauce, a splash of gluhwein, and with the olives tossed in, it was lip-smackingly delicious. Decadent Dad yom-chomped his way through the meal.

In all the busyness of preparing for the catering, my fridge got a little too cold in the bottom drawer and froze up the last few precious cucumbers from our garden, and some green peppers too. This evening I made a ratatouille from the rest of the salad-rescued tomatoes, the half-frozen cucumber and green peppers, some garden-fresh brinjals and one of Decadent Dad's salami-style sausages that is half cured, not ready for eating raw, but tasty sliced up for cooking. I tossed in the last of the macaroni from the pantry and, voila, dinner. Delicious again.

Tomorrow, for lunch, I plan to make quick pizza  rolls
topped with the last of the ratatouille and olives, some peppers from the garden and our home-made feta rescued from the salad. I couldn't bear to toss those hours of hard work.

So there you have it... Elastic Mom... stretching those resources big time.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Slow Living in March

March...month of brilliant blue-sky days, and crystal-ice nights, roads lined with delicate cosmos, beech trees turning golden, round bales freshly cut in the fields, sunflowers drooping heavy as they wait for their heads to be chopped off, rows of maize standing to attention, rose-hips fat and red.... Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I reflect on the month that was. 

Autumn, harvest time, is the season of year when the fresh produce just keeps on coming. We gather in an abundance of bounty from the land and our meals are richly full of God's goodness and blessing. with few exceptions our food is as local as this farm. 
For health and strength and daily food we praise your name oh Lord. 

As we gather in the harvest, we preserve and prepare for the winter ahead as fast as we can, no slow living in this department, just bubble, bubble, toil and oh so much blessing. We are full to bursting with laden shelves and no more room in fridges and freezers. Herbs dry in the sunny kitchen window before being stored in glass jars. We gather in large bunches of mint, sage, thyme and oregano before the frost steals them away. Potatoes and gem squash are dug and picked and stored in the dark. Rusks are baked in huge batches, as are trays of nutty granola. Ice-creams are  made to order: fresh peach, pear caramel, vanilla pod and toasted coconut. We make cheeses and cured meat, most for sale and some for storage. The fruit trees are laden with fruit, ripe for the picking and falling and lost unless we use them.
Here's some more of what we prepared in March to keep us going for the year:
bunches of rhubarb stewed and frozen
peach and raspberry jam 3 1/2 jars
peach chutney 5 1/2 bottles
pears bottled
peaches, apples and pears cut in chunks and frozen
a crate of apples dried
Green beans frozen in innumerable quantities
 2 jars dilly bean pickle
6 jars curried beans
marinated green peppers
spiced brandy and apple chutney 6 jars
pear and green pepper chutney 6 1/2 jars
apple lavender jelly 4 jars
apple sage jelly 5 jars
apple thyme jelly 6 1/2 jars
apple rosemary jelly 5 jars
apple rose geranium jelly 9 jars
apple cinnamon sauce 13 tubs
apple mint sauce 10 bottles

My Elastic Mom nature balks at waste and so I use parts of plants that traditionally go uneaten. Brussel sprout and broccoli leaves are great chopped into soups. Beetroot leaves are used like swiss chard. Baby carrots, leaves and all are pretty in a stir-fry. I also cook the whole of a leek, not just the white bits. Sometimes I use the green bits and the white bits separately depending on the recipe. Young pumpkin leaves are one of the most delicious vegetables if cooked the right way. 

We have grown veggies in our tunnel for three summers now. The first summer our cabbages were magnificent.... unknown to me our gardener was spraying them with poison until I found out. The second summer our cabbages were moth eaten and riddled with aphids... disappointed, we ate them anyway, just washing them really really well. This time I have found a green solution that is working for us so far.... just cover the brassicas with fine netting to keep the moths away. 

As the summer crops come to their end, they make way for our winter crops. I was given a heap of cabbage seedlings. Hopefully they weren't planted too late in the season. We have also sowed leeks, onions, kohlrabi, turnips and more. I follow a very carefully planned crop rotation in our tunnel. Autumn brassicas follow legumes. They enjoy the remnants of lime that was dug in last winter for the spring legumes. 

That darn sock (see my Slow Living in Feb post) is proving to be a lot more difficult to knit than I thought it would. The pattern was ambiguous, but I think I have it figured out. I am persevering one stitch at a time. I have turned the corner, literally, around the heel and on my way to the toe. 

Decadent Dad is on a steep learning curve in all meaty things smoked and cured. The inhabitants of our little town have caught a whiff of the smoky wind of his charcuterie and he can barely keep up with the demand. The three main resources that he is using in this exciting new adventure are the books, Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton and the dvd, Pig in a Day by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall. So far he has made sweet cured bacon, smoked bacon, smoked and unsmoked pancetta, paprika and chilli pancetta, 2 types of chorizo sausage (a paprika and fennel spiced salami-type sausage), and coppa, 

 I have joined our local garden club. Being isolated on the farm, it is great for me to be join with some of the the ladies in our community for a monthly meeting. In March we walked through the veld examining veld flowers and grasses. Surprisingly, a lot of the so-called weeds are useful medicinal herbs or food plants. 

 Not much beats an afternoon ride through the farm lands, enjoying the magnificent landscape and glorious wild cosmos flowers.