Every time Tuesday comes around I seem to forget all the good ideas I had during the week – I really need to start writing them down…. and not lose the piece of paper – or I realise that while I might have a good idea I forgot all about taking photos for it over the last week or more. Tonight I face this second problem, no photos, which is a bit disappointing for a food post. They are always better with some pics, but I hope this works anyway.
I wrote last week about upping the number of vegetarian or mostly vegetarian dishes I prepare during the week so that I can buy better quality and more ethical meat when I do buy it. I figure if I’m going to do a roast (quite a big outlay in dollar terms if you want free range, grass feed or in some other way ethical) then I want to be able to stretch it out into a couple of meals, eating less meat and more vegetable with each one, but appreciating the meat that we do have on our plates. We all love a good roast with lots of roasted veggies, gravy and even stuffing if its a chook I’m roasting, served with some minted peas, blanched green beans or silver beet. Having recently cooked a free range organic roast chicken, I can also attest to the superior flavour of this meat, especially the dark meat which is always my favourite part anyway. It has quite a strong flavour, which actually might put some people off as it’s quite different to other chicken. I want the roast dinner to be a regular feature of our menu, but if I can stretch it a little further than that’s even better. Here are my top five ways to use left overs from a roast:
1. Chicken pie
You can use just about any chicken pie recipe, using chopped up roast chicken meat instead of raw chicken, I even add some of the stuffing to the mix making the most of the herbs and bacon that I use in it. My favourite pies include a family chicken and leek pie or individual chicken and porcini mushroom pies made like little pastry parcels (these freeze really well too). The trick to using the left over chicken is to not cook it too much, it just needs to be heated through really otherwise it can dry out a bit. Also the dark meat has more flavour so if you have any left over (which we rarely do), use it.
2. Cold Meat Fritters
These are a family favourite, one that I enjoyed as a kid the night following most lamb roast dinners. I’ve only ever tried this with left over lamb or beef and I think it would work better for these meats than for other meats. Simply make a batter using self raising flour, egg, milk and salt and pepper. Chop the left over meat into small cubes (add some vegetables like peas, corn or carrot if you don’t have much meat or want to up the vegetable content of the meal) and add to the batter, stirring until everything is coated well. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, add a tablespoonful of the mixture (more or less depending on how big you want them) flatten out so that the fritter is an even thickness and cook until bubbles form and burst on the top. Flip and cook on the other side for a few minutes. I loved them as a kid because it was one of the few dishes we had tomato sauce on. Now I serve them with a spicy tomato sauce or some sort of relish or chutney.
3. Shepherd’s Pie
Although ‘shepherd’s pie’ features on the menu quite a few times a year I usually technically make cottage pie, using minced beef. Traditionally a shepherd’s pie uses lamb (hence the term shepherd) and a cottage pie uses beef. Other than that the two dishes are basically the same. Using shredded lamb roast however takes this dish to a whole other level of deliciousness. Topped with a creamy mashed potato this is a great all in one meal. Again I serve this with some sort of tomato sauce or relish just for a little extra flavour.
4. Roast Vegetable Fritatta
It is always my goal to roast as many vegetables as I can, hoping to have some left over. I generally include potato, pumpkin, carrot and parsnip, but have also used turnip, sweet potato and whole baby onions. I have an unfortunate habit of snacking on the left over vegetables as I clean up or during a late night fridge raid, but if I do manage to restrain myself, I slice them up, layer them in an oven dish, pour over an egg and milk (or cream) mixture and bake in a hot oven for about 15-20 minutes. For a more authentic fritatta use an oven proof frying pan, cook the bottom on the stove top and then put in the oven to finish off the top. I also often slice up some roasted capsicum (which I make separately or you could get them from the deli) and add some cheese – parmesan, feta or goat’s milk cheese.
I always keep the carcass of a roasted chicken or the bones of a roast beef (as I do with other dishes using meat on the bone) to make stock with at some later point. For some reason I never use lamb bones, though I’m not sure why, is there a reason for this? If I’m not going to do it soon after the meal, I freeze the bones. If I’m using bones that haven’t been roasted, I put them in the roasting pan and put them in a hot oven for about 40mins. Then I add them to the slow cooker with vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, I just keep the vegetable scraps, except for potato peelings), herbs, pepper corns, and a little salt. Top up with as much water as will fit in the pot and cook on low overnight. Strain the liquid, then refrigerate for a few hours. The fat will solidify as it cools, remove this. Then you have two options, if the liquid has enough flavour intensity divide it into one cup portions and freeze. Otherwise, return the stock to a pot on the stove and boil rapidly until it reduces and the flavour develops more. Once your happy with the stock portion up and freeze. It can be used as the basis for soups, in risottos and casseroles. If you use the bones from another meal and the vegetable scraps (which I collect in a container in the fridge until I have enough) then this is stock for nothing, beats the pricey tetra packs from the supermarket.
There are a few other meals I haven’t included – a delicious udon noodle stir fry with chicken, prawns and carrots or a simple dinner of cold meat and salad. What I would love is any other great ways to stretch the roast dinner out a bit more. Does anyone do anything else interesting?