Years ago I used to spend the odd Saturday on the couch watching cooking shows in a collection known as Saturday Kitchen. Three hours of foodie heaven which Mr Good would just shake his head at. This was in the days we rented a tiny flat with a minuscule concreted court yard just big enough for a little table and chairs set that you couldn’t use when the clothes line was up. It was also in complete shade all day. Needless to say there was very little in the way of gardening happening in those days. It was also well before children had entered our lives, so spending the afternoon on the couch watching cooking shows seemed perfectly reasonable. That is no longer the case. Saturdays still involve a market, but then it’s gardening job, cooking for the week ahead, lots of washing and entertaining/feeding/cleaning small children. But today it’s just Mr Good and I about with Miss Three enjoying the last day of her holiday to the country and Miss One asleep. The perfect opportunity for me to write that cooking post I promised I’d do on Thursday (I forget I had knitting night) in my own version of Saturday kitchen.
I’ve been trying to use as much of my own harvests as the bulk ingredients in at least a few of our weekly meals since the variety and quantity started to increase. Broad beans have been the hero in several pasta dishes, kale and silverbeet have been making up the bulk of the greens in stir fries, pasta sauce or sides. I’ve picked some garlic, all very small, but still useable and the rogue potatoes have been pulled and provided us with a couple of handfuls of baby spuds. Looking at the beans, it won’t be long before we starting getting some of those in the basket and the over-wintered capsicum has lots of flowers on it.
In trying to incorporate as much of the harvest as possible I’ve been looking for dishes that can be made with small quantities of lots of veggies and ones that can easily be interchanged depending on what is available. I’ve also become much more aware of not throwing any food out, so using up that last little bit of cabbage, carrots or whatever is lurking at the bottom of the crisper becomes a challenge. One of the most popular dishes (among the children and Mr Good alike) that fits this criteria is a simple fried rice. It’s great as a vegetarian dish and uses pretty much anything from the fridge, freezer or garden. I always make a quick egg omelette to cut up and stir through at the end. And if Mr Good or the girls are feeling a bit deprived in the meat department I sometimes add bacon or chopped up sausages left over from an earlier meal.
This particular version included snow peas, broad beans, grated carrot, spring onion and some red kale all from the garden. It was made with brown rice that I’ve started buying from the Farmer’s Market. My mum always cooked brown rice when I was growing up, but for some reason I never got into it once I started cooking for myself, despite knowing how much healthier it is. Cooking rice has always been one of my kitchen weaknesses and a rice cooker is one of the few appliances in my cupboards. Without this device my rice was consistently terrible, gluggy over-cooked sludge. My cooking skills are considerably improved since the early days and I’m sure I could master the rice cooking thing, but I’m pretty attached to my rice cooker so that may never happen. Anyway, after a little googling I found the instruction on cooking brown rice in the machine, set it going and then headed off for Miss Three’s swimming lesson (now I couldn’t do that if I was cooking it on the stove). On our return the rice was cooked perfectly, and pre-prepared veggies were quickly cooked in the wok, as was the omelette, and then the rice was added with a couple of glugs of soy sauce. Dinner in minutes, healthy and satisfying for starving children (swimming seems to be the only thing to get Miss Three’s appetite going) and perfect for reheating at work the following day. The brown rice added an interesting texture to the dish and a nuttiness to the flavour. It didn’t seem to be noticeable to the rest of the family (probably a good thing), but I appreciated the change from white rice.
On a side note, I took Norma’s advice and snipped the bottom of the spring onions off to plant in a little pot on the kitchen window sill. I cut a section about 1-2cms from the base, plus the attached roots and popped five of them into the pot. Within days they were re-shooting and now the have new growth of about 10cm in length. Great idea Norma, thanks! I’ve also just read that you can do a similar thing with beetroot tops to grow the leaves for salad. I’ll be giving that a go soon too.
I’d love to hear your best dishes for using up the bits and pieces from the fridge or garden, not enough to base a whole dish around but definitely worth using in some way.