JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vegetables for lunch

The BBC website has a story today that new research at Imperial College London shows that eating lots of veg cuts blood pressure. Researchers studied 4,680 middle-aged people, and found significant benefits to eating vegetable protein. On the other hand, they didn't find evidence that eating lots of meat was linked to high blood pressure. So - plenty of veg, including lots of beans for the protein, some meat (with the visible fat removed), along with regular portions of oily fish. Puddings to be fruit-based where possible. More or less what we're doing.

Yesterday, for lunch, I had noodle soup. Just one of those small cheap blocks of 3-minute noodles. But it couldn't have been further from the salty, monosodium-glutamatey taste the manufacturers had prepared in a sachet to go with them. First I chopped and stir fried some spring greens with a little chopped garlic. Then I added some home-made stock I had in the fridge which I made at the weekend after we had roast chicken for supper. When the noodles were cooked, I stirred in some crabmeat which I couldn't resist when I went shopping in the morning. A squeeze of lemon, some pepper. Delicious. And it only took about a minute longer than opening the sachet over the noodles. Afterwards I thought that it would be one dish where tinned crabmeat would be perfectly acceptable.

Today, I had a stir-fry of more spring greens, lots of them, with some chopped garlic. When they were done, I stirred in a teaspoon of the chilli jam I made in the autumn, and sprinkled them with some re-fried anchovy breadcrumbs lurking in the back of the fridge, then squirted the juice of half a lime which has been sitting around on the worktop for several days. Really good, lots of flavours.

There were three key ingredients which made these meals quick and easy to prepare, all of them home-made, but none of them particularly time-consuming:

Stock is something I make automatically after we have roast chicken; it doesn't take long, I feel thrifty, the ingredients are all to hand, and it means there's no temptation to use expensive stock which comes in not very bio-degradable plastic pots (I don't use stock cubes any more, because even the best-quality ones have ingredients which I either don't understand or know I don't want to eat). To make stock, I remove any meat left which can be used for another meal; I put the bones in a large pan with any leftover veg (but not potato, because the starch clouds the stock). I put in some fresh veg if I have it - celery, carrots, parsley stalks - and a few whole peppercorns (mine are multi-coloured), occasionally, for a change, a couple of cloves. I cover this with water, put the pot on to simmer, covered, for a couple of hours. Or more if I forget it. Then I strain it, cool it, put it in the fridge, and when I start to run out of it, I go out and buy another chicken for dinner. The main thing is not to get hung up on quantities or even timing, just to do it, and then do it again better - which is to say, how you like it. Recipe books often tell you to reduce it; I don't bother, because it steams up the kitchen, and you quite often have to add more water when it's concentrated (especiallly if you're making risotto). Sometimes I'll reduce a little for a specific dish, and that saves a lot of trouble.

I've written about the anchovy crumbs before (you just blitz some bread, add a tin of anchovies, blitz again, then fry them up, and use them instead of cheese on pasta, in soup, as a crispy topping for tuna bake, or - well, with whatever could do with a little crunch and zip). Now I have discovered that anchovy crumbs keep very well in the fridge, and can be used either straight from the fridge, or refried. I shall start making them in bulk and keeping them in an airtight box (at the moment, storage is haphazard, although they don't seem to suffer).

The chilli jam was something I made in November, when I felt like cooking one afternoon; there wasn't much work involved, although I had to be around to watch it while it cooked down. I've just sent the last bottle to a fellow food blogger, so I'll have to make some more in the next couple of weeks, as I now can't imagine life without it for pepping things up. As I said earlier, I have stopped using stock cubes, so I sometimes need strong tastes to stir in to sauces - chilli jam makes a change from, say, Worcester sauce or Marmite, or even stock. I'm not techie enough to give you a link to the original recipe, so I'm reproducing it here:

"This is terrific chilli jam, better than any I've made before. It takes moments to prepare, and then not quite an hour and a half to simmer before bottling. This is enough for nearly three Bonne Maman jars.

"Blend 400g whole tomatoes, four chillies (seeds and all), six cloves of garlic, two small knobs of ginger (don't bother to peel them), & half a little bottle of Thai fish sauce. Put this in a saucepan with 450g ordinary sugar, and 8 tbsp red wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, finely chop another 400g tomatoes. Add them to the pan, and gently simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. You have to judge for yourself when it's cooked, and it may well take longer than an hour to reach a set (it will set without trouble, because tomatoes are full of pectin)."


Olive Oyl said...

Noodles..triggered urge to respond. Have you ever used miso as an alternative source of stock or seasoning? very good for you (perhaps staying away from darker, more salty varieties) and good strong savoury punch, might also help with that cheese gap? On an entirely different note re cakes,puds,biscuits, I live in Crete where traditionally there has been no source of animal fat for cooking.Olive oil is used for everything and the biscuits are fab. I've just found your blog, I love it, in fact pretty much read through it in one sitting (apart from getting up to make oat bread) thank you.

Joanna said...

Thanks for very kind words. I've got as far as buying a packet of miso, which is gathering dust on my larder shelf. Today may just be the day, thanks to you ...

Very interesting to hear about Cretan biscuits, I shall have to investigate. But I bet they don't eat them all that often ;)

I just love that oat bread ... have you found Tanna's blog?

and - thank you

Olive Oyl said...

It WORKED! (blog comment novice..) Hope the miso experimentation goes well.One of my favourite soups is to matchstick (sure there's a culinary term for that) some carrots,courgette, thin slice some onion/garlic and soften in tiny bit of oil. Add water (for as much soup as you want) bring to boil and simmer for a while. Take off the heat and add miso and seasoning to taste (its important not to boil the miso),if mood takes you, top with chopped spring onions/corriander/parsley...Its very good served on brown rice...honestly.

Next time I'm making biscuits I shall translate handfuls,bits of this bits of that into usable quantities and pass it on.

I haven't found Tanna, perhaps you could let me know the blog name?

Joanna said...

Yes ... Tanna is at My Kitchen in Half Cups ... she very often comments on my posts, so you're bound to find a link (particularly in posts about bread, because that is her thing)

I wish I could find your blog or email address!

Olive Oyl said...

I am a woman without blog,blogless.I think I have entered my e mail now...Thank you,Tanna is found.