I’ve been eating out rather too much lately and suffering the consequences. The waistline has expanded, while the wallet has contracted. On the other hand, the kitchen cupboards are so well stocked that the husband and I could survive a Siberian winter. So after recently booking a ‘traveleating‘ trip to Japan in November, I decided to cut down on the London restaurant outings and use what we already have at home, supplemented by herbs and vegetables from the garden. Hopefully I’ll eat more healthily and frugally over the next few months.
You may or may not know that until this year, the kitchen was a meat-free zone. The husband, who is in charge of the kitchen and prepares 95% of the meals, is mostly vegetarian, but eats a little fish now and again. I, on the other hand, am a keen carnivore and would happily eat meat every day of the week. In January, I was given special dispensation to prepare meat at home, provided that I used separate cooking utensils and equipment. So once in a while, I’ll make a dish that contains meat or seafood, but it’s still quite a rare occurrence and we currently have no meat, seafood or fish at home.
I like to conduct a mini stocktake every week, going through the cupboards, fridge and freezer. By doing this, hardly any food is wasted as I know exactly what perishables need to be eaten (older produce sit on the top shelf in the fridge, new things sit on the lower shelves), and the weekly shopping list is created at the same time. Over the last few months, I’ve built up a beautiful collection of Bodum glass jars in different sizes to store dried goods, but I noticed recently that I’ve been buying more and more jars, rather than using up the products we already have and re-using the jars.
There are half full jars of quinoa, barley, spelt, red lentils, green lentils, mountain lentils, borlotti beans, aduki beans, black Nanjing rice, white jasmine rice, brown basmati rice, vialone nano rice, sushi rice, couscous, panko and much more. That doesn’t include the many varieties of pasta and noodles, as well as different types of tinned beans which are useful when there’s no time to soak dried ones. And I won’t mention all the spices and herbs, bottles and jars of ingredients and condiments. Or the eight types of flour bought during our fresh pasta-making phase, while in the freezer are broad beans, soy beans (edamame), peas and spinach, perfect when we run out of the fresh variety or when they aren’t in season.
We also started growing produce in the garden again this year and now have many types of herbs (chocolate mint, standard mint, Giant Neapolitan parsley, sage, tangerine sage, lemon thyme, golden thyme, normal thyme, oregano, bergamot, marjoram, Provencal marjoram, Giant Neapolitan basil), three types of chicory (sword, romanesco, treviso), land cress, Swiss chard, wild fennel, wild rocket, garlic chives, Jalapeño and Scotch bonnet chillis, courgettes and runner beans. We also have blackcurrants, strawberries, loganberries, sweet cherries, figs and olives. And there are thick blackberry bushes just outside the house! Many of these will be frozen for use during the leaner winter months.
As you can see, we’re already extremely well stocked and really don’t need to buy that much more when we go food shopping. After the ‘experiment’ started, the weekly shopping list was immediately halved!
So what have we been eating recently? A recent dinner of mushroom risotto with an accompanying salad involved using the remainder of the dried porcini mushrooms and vialone nano rice in the cupboard, supplemented by some fresh chestnut mushrooms and Grana Padano. Another meal consisted of aduki bean salad with various leaves and herbs from the garden. Mountain lentils were eaten with couscous, while vegetable soups had tinned beans and pasta ends added. I prefer to follow recipes that don’t require the purchase of multiple obscure ingredients, as these only end up sitting on the shelf after one use. When I cooked patatas a lo pobre (literally ‘poor man’s potatoes’) for a book review recently, I was pleased that all the herbs could be picked fresh and the vegetables required were already in the fridge (on the top shelf!) waiting to be eaten.
Leafing through the 100th issue of Observer Food Monthly, I came across Anna del Conte’s recipe for spaghetti with Marmite and thought it was an unusual dish, to say the least. It is, however, Anna’s family recipe, as she made it for her children and grandchildren and it totally represents her as an Italian living in Britain. I thought I’d give it a try because I have both spaghetti and Marmite in the cupboard, both of which need using up.
How To Make Spaghetti with Marmite by Anna del Conte (p43 of OFM July 2009)
Ingredients: (serves 4 children)
- 350 – 380g dried spaghetti
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Marmite
- freshly grated Parmesan, to serve (I used Grana Padano)
What to do next:
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and 1 tablespoon of the pasta water. Mix thoroughly to dissolve, then pour over the drained spaghetti. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.
It was surprisingly delicious and very umami-rich, despite just a tiny amount of Marmite being used. I thought some chopped fresh parsley or a few garden peas would have made it even more perfect. This will most certainly become a staple dish in our household!
Have a look at some of the other recipes on Lay The Table.
What products do you have in the kitchen that you’d like to use up and what dishes are you planning to create with them?
@ Lay The Table