I get enormous satisfaction from making my food and cooking stretch further than might initially be thought possible. There’s nothing I like more, with our tight budget, than when I can pull together an extra meal for the four of us from bits and pieces I have left over. Mr Good would probably look at what’s left in the pot and see nothing more than scraps for the dog or the meat left over from a roast as just a mid morning snack. Instead I look at it and think I could add a bit of this or that and have a whole extra night’s dinner. In a way it’s a fun challenge to see just how much I can get out of what’s in the fridge and pantry (this perhaps suggests I need a better hobby, but hey it’s working for me at the moment). This kind of thing sure makes a difference to my grocery bill and also to how frequently I have to go to the shops (that in itself helps save money). This is also why I love Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie cookbook which is built around this very premise. For those on a tight budget it’s worth having a look at.
So I thought I would share some recent meals that have appeared out of not too much at all, but have been satisfying and healthy.
I made this slow cooker lamb chop casserole a little while ago, but I only had about 600g of lamb chops. I upped the veggie content a bit instead of cutting back on everything to match what I had in meat. This was fine when I served it first time around. Everyone got a decent amount of meat and the sauce was so tasty. But when I went to put the rest in the freezer I realised there was only ONE chop left in the dish. So how do you stretch one lamb chop between four people? Pull all the meat off the bone, shred it up, return it to the sauce and veggies and heat it up again. Serve this over pasta and voila, a delicious, satisfying and healthy dinner. Actually the kids preferred this to the first time they had it, but that’s because their pasta mad. I was possibly a little too proud of myself after this effort, Mr Good started to think I had lost my mind a little…. perhaps he’s right.
As much as I have tried to reign in the food bills, I still prefer to buy meat that is high quality and ethical. So I do this, recently ordering a bulk lot of free range chicken from Milawa Free Range Poulty, and then make sure I get the most out of it. In this order I got two size 17 whole chickens. I roasted one up on Saturday which we had with roasted potatoes, sweet potato and carrots as well as some peas and of course gravy.
I had 300g of meat left over which I stripped from the carcass. If you have a look at the Save with Jamie book you’ll soon realise this is enough for two more dinners. 200g of that meat went into a pie. I sauted a diced onion, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until soft. Then I added a handful of button mushrooms halved and sliced and cooked these a little. Lastly I added the left over peas and potatoes (which I diced up) and a couple of spoonfuls of the gravy that was also left over from the roast. The gravy gives the sauce such a delicious flavour from the roast. It did need a bit more sauce so I added a little home made chicken stock and some flour to thicken it a little. Once the filling is cooked and the sauce thickened, pour it into a pie dish, top with a sheet of pastry (or make your own) and bake at 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until golden.
Instead of making this filling into a pie you could turn it into a chicken and vegetable lasagna or a simple casserole served with mash or dumplings, all suggested in Jamie’s book. I’ll try one of those next time…. as long as I can resist the yummy pastry goodness of a pie.
While I was preparing the pie filling, I roasted the chicken bones and carcass and then added them to the slow cooker with some scraps of vegetables (onion and carrot peelings and ends, the ends of a zucchini, some celery tops etc), parsley, pepper corns and a little salt with lots of water. Cook on low for at least 8 hours and you have a very tasty stock. This is going to be turned into chicken alphabet soup after Easter as well.
So from one whole chicken we will have had three dinners for four. Oh it makes me so happy. Am I alone on this front? Tell me how you stretch your food or work your magic to turn water into wine, so to speak.