Category Archives: Leftovers

Quickies – cheating again

Once again, far too many days have slipped past without a post.  This is going to be a quickie, too, because Kitty and I have a table waiting at Tsuyu for some sushi – the best in Jo’burg, many say…

Two quick meals to write up, both of which provided some tasty leftovers for lunch or dinner during the week.

First up, cheating with beef olives:  All the recipe books tell you how to make your own beef olives, and, I’m sure, all the purists would tell me that DIY is the only way to go.  This, however, is about bachelor cooking – so the odd cheat here and there is the norm.  This includes beef olives, which I buy in raw, but cook in a sauce of my own making.

For those of who in the northern parts of Johannesburg, the German butchery at Deco Park, Northriding (Tirolean Meat aka Berliner Deli and Grill) supplies superb meat, including beef olives.  Trusty Woolworths also sell great beef olives.  I usually allow two per person (plus a left-over allowance), as the meal tends to be rich and filling once you factor in gravy and starch.  A great winter dish.

Earlier this week, as I continued my quest to empty out my freezer (to make room for some new leftovers, of course!), I found some beef olives hiding under a cover of frost and decided that their time had come to be eaten.  I also found some gravy left over from my last beef olive cook-out, so thawed that out, too.  As you’ll see from the following write-up, this dish managed to consume a few more leftover-survivors before I was done.

I have used Gordon Ramsay’s “Angus beef olive” recipe several times.  He makes a simple gravy using flour, tomato paste, red wine and beef stock.  This time around, however, I felt like something different – and the leftover gravy was nowhere near enough for the frost-burnt beef olives I was seeking to eradicate.  I also had some carrots and celery lurking in the fridge.  A quick Google search turned up a BBC Food recipe (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1157635/beef-olives) that provided the desired inspiration.

Once again, my faithful Jamie Oliver / T-Fal sauté pan was hauled onto the stove.  I put the oven onto 180C to heat up whilst warmed some olive oil in which I melted some butter, then browned the beef olives.  The trick, I think, is to brown them quickly, but not at too high a heat, in the hope that they will not become tough (fat chance with this frosty survivors, sadly).  Whilst the beef olives kept warm in a casserole dish, I first fried up some bacon pieces, then sautéed some chopped carrot, celery and onion.  I’d also found some dried porcini mushrooms hiding in the fridge (yet another chance to clean out the appliance), and put them into some warm water to reconstitute.

Once the vegetables had softened a bit, I lobbed in half a tin of jam tomatoes (yet another find from the freezer compartment) and a big squeeze of tomato paste, and let things simmer a while longer.  I mashed up the tomato pieces, then added some glugs (very scientific measurements, these) of fine red wine and beef stock.  That was followed by the now-soft porcini mushrooms, as well as the water they had been soaking in.  A few more minutes on a low simmer, some salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and things were tasting very good indeed.  If I was going to leave the sauce as-is, I would probably have added some mustard earlier in the process.  This time around, however, I had that leftover gravy to use, so lobbed that into the pan to warm through. It already had some mustard in it.

Once the oven was up to temperature (180°C), I poured the gravy over the beef olives in the oven-proof casserole dish, put the lid on and popped it all into the oven for 20 minutes or so.  It was all rather delicious over some plain basmati rice, washed down with the remnants of the bottle of red wine that I’d opened to make the gravy.  I liked the slightly chunkier gravy, with the cubes of carrot, celery, onion and bacon.  Some recipes I saw online suggested pureeing things to get a smoother gravy, but I don’t think that would be necessary.  I enjoyed the remaining beef olives, rice and gravy for lunch today (no wine, sadly), sitting outside on the patio enjoying the winter sun.

The second dish I cooked recently (last Sunday, to be precise, although the preparations were made on Saturday) was Chicken Yassa.  Google tells me that Yassa is a West African dish – originally, it seems, made with monkey!  The Chicken Yassa recipe that caught my attention, however, was at the back of my Larousse Gastronomique (yet another epicunary gift from Kitty).  Of course, I could not bring myself to follow the recipe exactly, so made a tweak or two – and, when I repeat it, I will make further changes.  Google, again, informs me that there any number of variants on the theme.

Given that I had no monkey (not something normally found on the shelves at Woolworths, unless it is someone’s ill-bred and ill-behaved loin-spawn…) and I did not feel like jointing a whole chicken, I cheated (again, as usual, как обычна) by using chicken portions.  I had some chicken drumsticks and wings lurking in that freezer I somehow never manage to empty, and bought some fresh thighs and drums to extend the quantity (I think I cooked 2 thighs and 4 each of the drums and wings).

I had some fresh limes lurking in the fruit bowl, so zested and juiced 3 of them.  The juice plus some of the zest went into the mixing bowl (the original recipe did not call for zest, but I feel that it adds a spark to dishes) along with a glug of peanut oil, two chopped chillies (again, a not-so-slight increase on the recipe’s quantity), salt, freshly-ground black pepper and three onions, sliced.  Next time around, I think that only 2 onions will suffice.  I sliced them into rings but, next time, I would halve them before slicing, or cut them across the rings into little wedges (much like one would cut them for Thai cooking, or stir-fries).  I think that, next time, I might add a crushed clove of garlic, too.

I put the chicken pieces into a large freezer bag, inside a bowl, poured in the marinade, then squeezed out the air and knotted the top of the bag.  The bowl with the bag of marinating chicken went into the fridge around lunchtime on Saturday, and sat there until Sunday lunchtime.  Every few hours I would work the bag and move the chicken pieces around, ensuring that everything got covered in the marinade.

On Sunday, I lit a fire in the Weber and let burn down to a nice set of hot coals, then emptied the contents of the marinade bag into a colander over a bowl.  I picked out all the chicken pieces, which I browned over the coals of the fire.  Importantly, you’re not aiming to cook the chicken all the way through – you’re just aiming to brown the skin and impart that lovely, smokey fire flavour to the meat.  The onions went into that reliable T-Fal sauté pan, with a little oil, to soften and brown, and the marinade went to one side.  Once both the chicken and the onions had browned, they were reunited in the pan, along with the marinade.  The lid was popped on and they were all left to simmer for 20 minutes or so, whilst the rice finished steaming.

Lunch was then served: the chicken pieces placed on a bed of steamed basmati rice, with the onions forked on top and a few spoonfuls of the sauce poured over the whole lot.  Delicious! (the leftovers served as dinner during the week).

Reworking leftovers – oxtail to ragu

As I have discussed previously, I often cook more of a dish than I need for that meal, so that I have something left over to go into a plastic storage container for another meal in a day or two’s time.  Whether, technically, those are leftovers or the product of strategic planning, is perhaps a topic for discussion around a table of anally-retentive / obsessive-compulsive types who have already had one too many glasses of wine…

Kitty made some oxtail (my father’s warped name for the same dish is “beef bum-wiper stew”) a week or so back, which she served with polenta. It was delicious and, according to her, came the closest that she had ever done to her late mother’s version of the dish.  We ended up with leftovers, for which I already had a cunning plan… I would rework the oxtail into ragu, which could then go over pasta one night.  Another option is to put the de-boned oxtail in ravioli – B had enjoyed just such a dish, which was stunning, at the Ten Bompas restaurant some years back.

The following recipe is based on something B did recently with some oxtail that she had made for me prior to one of her extended trips to Moscow, after she had returned to find the oxtail still lurking in the freezer.  I suspect there is also some influence from her recent Tuscan cooking course.

Reworking oxtail into ragu

The messy part involved deboning the leftover oxtail, separating the already-tender meat from the remaining bones.  The bones went into a stock pot with the leftover herbs, to be boiled a while longer so that I could extract the remaining meat and have some stock to enrich the ragu.

My trusty JamieO / T-Fal deep frying pan went onto the gas hob with a few glugs of olive oil and 1 or 2 sliced garlic cloves.  As I have described previously, I let the oil warm through slowly, extracting a subtle garlic flavour from the sliced cloves, without the potential harshness of crushing the cloves into the sauce.  Once the slices turned golden brown, they came out (once drained of the oil, they make “interesting” nibbles for those who don’t mind garlic taste and breath for an extended period, but I usually just bin them).  Whilst the oil was chatting up the garlic cloves, I had finely chopped some brown portabellini mushrooms – those went into the warm oil along with a knob of butter and a few sprigs of thyme to simmer and soften.

After 5 minutes or so, I added the oxtail meat and leftover gravy to the pan, stirred them into the mushrooms and let things warm up again.  I then added a big dollop of tomato paste (I keep a tube of tomato paste in the fridge for just such flavour-enhancing moments) and a spoonful of whole-grain mustard.  Once those had started to get well-acquainted with the meat-mushroom mix, I poured in some red wine and a glug or two of port.  I left the mixture for a few more minutes, allowing the alcohol to evaporate and the fluids to reduce a little.  I then added a stock cube, which I had dissolved in some boiling water, stirred it all up, and left it simmering slowly until the fluids had reduced and the gravy had thickened up again.  Oh – when I was stirring, I also broke up the larger chunks of meat.

On the neighbouring gas ring, I still had the stock pot going, with the leftover bones.  When that had reduced nicely, I pushed the whole lot through a sieve over a bowl, so that I could extract the stock.  By then, I had run out of time (this was the same afternoon that I made the basic tomato pasta sauce and planned on cooking the Sicilian-style tuna for dinner), so I turned off the ragu, decanted it into one plastic container, put the stock into a separate container, and left both to cool before putting them into the fridge.

The advantage of allowing the stock to cool in the fridge was that, a day or so later, I could easily remove the layer of fat that had settled on top of the rich stock.  The stock and the ragu went back into that famous pan and onto the stove to warm up and reduce a little further.  A word of caution – with all the reducing, based on a dish that had already been seasoned and to which I had added a stock cube, there was no need for any further seasoning.

The ragu would be delicious over some penne or tagliatelle, or as filling in some homemade ravioli (which remind me, at some stage I need to post my pasta dough recipe) – or, even better, as pelmeni filling (pelmeni are Ukrainian or Russian pasta parcels, similar to ravioli – I will post that recipe at some stage, too).  The ragu would even work on a slice of toast, as a real bachelor meal!  This batch of ragu, however, went straight into one of those ubiquitous plastic containers, clearly labelled (I put a strip of masking tape on the lid and write on that with a permanent marker), and into the freezer.  There was enough to make a warming meal for two on a cold winter’s night when I don’t feel like cooking from scratch, or don’t have time.

I have some baby leeks in the fridge, surplus from a chicken pie I made recently.  Later today or tomorrow I am going to use those leeks, with the meat from some pork sausages and some crème fraîche that I found in the freezer, to make yet another pasta sauce – but that is a topic for another posting.

“Found” lunch

Somehow the week ran away with me and I did not post anything… that does not, however, mean that I was not cooking, eating or writing notes for blogging.  I hope to catch up sometime this weekend.

It’s a beautiful winter’s Saturday here in Johannesburg – warm, clear and sunny.  I’m trying to work through a long list of chores, so had limited time for lunch.  Fortunately, I found some leftovers and partly-used ingredients lurking in the fridge and assembled a delicious snack in double-quick time.

The foundation was the remnants of a baguette (french loaf) from last night’s dinner (Tuna, Sicilian style – see the recipe I posted last week) – I’m a sucker for crusty fresh bread and to hell with the carbs… Then there was the remains of a packet of bacon, with a few lonely rashers just calling to be paired with the grill (yup, trusty TV grill crisped those rashers in no time), the beautifully ripe avocado, a sad half red onion and, of course, some chillies.  Whilst the bacon crisped up, I lobbed some sliced onion and chopped fresh red and green chillies into a frying pan with a little butter, sliced the avocado, and prepared the baguette.

Assembled – ready to be folded over and enjoyed out on the sunny patio with some fresh juice and the Saturday newspaper:

Crispy baguette, bacon rashers, slices of avocado, fried chillies & onion

Crispy baguette, bacon rashers, slices of avocado, fried chillies & onion

Yummy! Now I need to get back to those chores, much as I’d like to write about that tuna last night, or the chicken pie last weekend, or the “trashy” bangers & mash, or turning leftover oxtail into ragu for pasta…

Fantastic plastic (and leftovers)

Fantastic plastic!  Tupperware, Addis and other manufacturers of those useful plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are the saviour of the single cook and parent, or the workaholic who also wants to eat well in the office.

I’ve become a fan of the newer containers with the lids that include the tabs to lock the lid in place and a gasket to ensure that it does not leak.  They are (rather, were, when I was a wage-slave) very useful for taking prepared meals into the office.  I used to cook up meals like soups (gazpacho in summer, or vegetable in winter), curries (with rice), pastas or even flash-fried steak or chicken breast, and pack them into 400ml containers.  Some would get frozen, others would go straight into the office.  A few minutes in the microwave and I’d have a healthy, well-price lunch – often paired with fruit or nuts, or juice.

Earlier this week, Kitty and I had Thai green curry for dinner.  I cheated (again), using the Woolworths pouch of Thia Green Curry sauce as my base.  I started, however, with some olive oil, chopped onions and chillies, to which I added several spoonfuls of green curry paste.  Once that had warmed through and started to smell good, I added some prawns (thanks, again, Woolies, which provided de-shelled, de-veined prawn tails) and chicken thigh meat.  I poured the contents of the sauce pouch into the pot and added sliced mushrooms, snap peas and baby corn, some extra coconut cream and fish sauce.  Just before the end (it all only needed less than 10 minutes’ of cooking time), I stirred in some chopped fresh basil and coriander.  Served over some basmati rice, it made for a superb meal.  The left-overs, of course, went into those beloved plastic containers – rice first, followed by the curry – to serve as lunch the following day for Kitty (at work) and me.

Continuing the theme of left-overs, that roast pork belly from last Sunday is not quite finished.  In an earlier post I spoke of having some of it as sandwiches, on crispy fresh bread rolls.  Last night I felt like something warmer.  I sliced off the remaining crackling and put that under that battered old TV grill to crisp up (sadly, the TV grill has come to the end of its life, unless I can buy or have a new element made – it tripped the electrics twice, in spite of having had the cord repaired, so there is obviously a problem somewhere…)

Getting back to the pork – I chopped the remaining meat into chunks, after slicing off some of the fat that lay under the crackling.  The fat went into a little cast-iron saucepan along with some chillies (yup, these appear regularly in my diet), sliced red onion and some chopped chourizo sausage (to add colour to the gravy).  I left that lot to fry slowly for a while whilst I prepared a little salad.  Oh – and I had some brown rice on the go already.  Once the onions had softened, I added the pieces of cold pork to warm through.  The “cheat” arrived in the form of some instant brown onion gravy I had lurking in the cupboard – mixed with boiling water and added to the pork / onion mixture, I had instant sauce.  I served that over some of the brown rice, with the salad and some left-over red lentils – and there was enough left over to go into yet another of my favourite plastic tubs for lunch today.

If you like tuna, have a look at the “Sicilian-style Tuna” recipe I will post after this – the recipe is courtesy of B, my recently-ex-wife.  We made this a number of times when we lived in Moscow a few years ago.

Roasts = leftovers = sandwiches

Although South Africa is heading into winter, the days here on the Highveld (in Johannesburg, Gauteng) are usually clear and sunny, even if they start out cold.  There was a nasty cold wind blowing this weekend, but, fortunately, yesterday (Sunday) was pleasant enough to sit out on the patio in the sun.

Lunch was simple – a roast, rolled pork belly (from Woolworths, where else?), roasted to perfection (hey, I never said that I would be too humble in this blog…), with roast potatoes and veg, washed down with some superb SA wine (ugh – was still slightly hungover from Friday night).

The trick to crispy pork crackling, I think, is to score the skin first, deeply, with a very sharp knife. Then you pour some boiling water over the skin, which starts to open up the cuts.  Dry it off with paper towel, drizzle on some olive oil, then season with Maldon salt, ground black pepper and, if you enjoy some spice, perhaps some 5-spice, peri-peri or paprika.  SA pork is usually very good, which means that you just need to cook the meat until the juices run clear – rather than drying the meat out entirely.

I think I have mentioned my love of potatoes… the trick here is a deep Pyrex or similar dish, which you fill with enough sunflower oil to cover the potatoes you intend cooking.  Heat the oil in the oven whilst it warms up, or once the roast has started.  Peel the spuds, halve or quarter them, and pop them into the hot oil just under an hour before the roast is supposed to come out.  Turn the spuddies every 15 minutes or so – which may lengthen the overall cooking time of the roast by 5 or 10 minutes as the heat escapes each time you turn the potatoes.

If you like, you can roast some vegetables around the meat – we did some carrots, bell peppers, an onion and a few chillies.

Now, since this is, after all, a blog by a bachelor cook, we get to the real point:  the leftovers!  Kitty and I did not finish the roast, so there was a nice piece left over.  This morning, I picked up some fresh, crusty bread rolls for lunch (guys ‘n girls, some fresh bread would have made just-as-tasty sandwiches).  I filled them with thinly sliced cold pork, slices of cucumber and onion.  Because I love chilli, I smeared some mazzavaroux (a Mauritian condiment made from fresh red chillies blended with some Maldon salt and olive oil) onto the roll.  Today was an even nicer day than yesterday, so I sat out on the patio in solitary splendour (it was, after all, Monday, a working day) and savoured that roll.  Oh – cold crackling is not so lekker (Afrikaans for nice), so I trimmed some off the roast and popped it under the TV grill (see below) along with the left-over roast spuds – allowing both of them to warm and crisp up again.  Yummy!

Ah, yes – the TV grill (see the pic).

TV grill - old and battered, but IT WORKS!

TV grill – old and battered, but IT WORKS!

A trashy, cheap, ancient and, yet, oh-so-useful kitchen appliance.  Nothing much more than a frame with some horizontal bars to support the pan and grill, hanging under a bare grill element, covered by a simple steel top (which doubles as a warming plate). My  father won it in a bowls (lawn bowls) competition or draw many years ago, and it got passed onto me when I left home and got my first house.  It is a most useful little appliance, especially for a bachelor cook – or even cooking for 2!  It does chops and sausages to a turn.  It crisps up bacon (and pork crackling). It makes an awesome open sandwich.  It is very low-tech, cannot be left unattended, and would certainly have the health-and-safety fun-police complaining bitterly, but IT WORKS! (unlike most politicians).

Today, it worked a little too well… Just as the pork crackling was almost ready, the electricity went off.  That’s not unusual here in SA, where the national electrical parastatal, Eskom, is a monument to incompetence and corruption.  I assumed it was another power failure.  I enjoyed my lunch, and spent the afternoon relying on the laptop batteries to continue working (and the gas hob for coffee).  When they ran out, I got stuck into some real paper-work.  It was only went I ventured out for a walk and a chat with the neighbourhood cats towards sunset that I realised that my neighbours had power.  Proving that one should not make assumptions, and that it is always worth checking the trip switch when the power goes off, I found that the beloved TV grill had, indeed, tripped the power.  The power cord had been looking for attention for some time, so that is what it received, immediately.  Suitably repaired and tested, I hope to continue using the grill for years to come.

Dinner was definitely classic bachelor stuff:  poached salmon and mashed potato (see, spuddies again…) fishcakes from Woollies, heated in the oven and served with a humble salad. Quick (30 minutes or so from turning the oven on to eating) and healthy (ok, the leftover Malva pudding and custard from yesterday was not so healthy).  Better for me than greasy take-aways, and tastier than sardines on toast (although I do eat those from time to time as well).

Music!  Almost forgot – Shannon Hope (http://www.shannonhope.co.za/) has been keeping me company for the past hour or so – right now, it is her 2009 album, Still, spinning in the CD player (preceded by her latest studio album, Fight A New Day).  Folks, this lady can sing! Her original material is simply superb and she writes and sings from the heart.  Check her out on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/shannonhopemusic), or Google her.  I’ve had the pleasure of watching her play live several times.  Yet another amazing, talented South African musician.