Flexible cooking: Cupboard clearing flapjacks

Flexible cooking: Cupboard clearing flapjacks

Flexible flapjacks

My good friend Emily knows this: flapjacks are the cure-all for hungry people who want something sweet and have loads of random packets of ‘stuff’ to use up. Flapjacks are a fun, simple recipe to make with small people, and it gives the opportunity to talk about why we need to be careful to not waste food, why it’s fun to adapt a recipe to the ingredients you have on hand.

When I went through a phase of buying a lot of rolled grains, I would bake and my flapjacks would fail – too crumbly, not chewy. I wanted a flapjack, not a tray of granola. It took me so long to learn the correct ratio for a flapjack that could use up oats, jumbo oats, other grains, random dried fruits, seeds…

So, I present to you the Flexible Flapjack recipe. Stick to these amounts, and add in sultanas and dried figs, half a bar of chocolate and some flaked almonds. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got, just enjoy stirring in a few leftover cornflakes, a couple of walnuts, and take pride in knowing your teatime treat is avoiding food waste and helping our precious climate.

Two suggestions:

  1. If you’re using nuts, toast them in the oven as it warms up. You’ll achieve a much better, more rounded and deeper flavour
  2. Also as the oven warms, melt the butter in the butter, using the heat being generated

 

Flapjack pictured to describe a variety of ingredient you can add

Ratio: Flapjacks

Ann Storr
Want to clear out those bits and bobs of cereal, dried fruit, nuts?
Course Snack
Servings 16 flapjacks

Equipment

  • Measuring spoons
  • Scales
  • Large saucepan
  • Square baking tin
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Wooden spoon
  • Optional: baking tray if toasting nuts
  • Optional: sharp knife & chopping board, if you're chopping nuts/large pieces of dried fruit/chocolate

Ingredients
  

  • 300 grams rolled porridge oats Don't use all jumbo oats; maximum 100 grams jumbo
  • 100 grams nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, handfuls of leftover cereal... If you have 150 grams of little bits and bobs to use up, do use them, but then decrease the amount of oats in the mixture
  • 75 grams sugar caster, soft brown – whatever
  • 150 grams golden syrup
  • 200 grams unsalted butter/vegan equivalent + a little more for greasing
  • Good pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • Line your baking tin with greaseproof paper and turn your oven to 180°C.
  • Whilst the oven is warming, place the butter in the oven proof dish and melt as the oven warms; when the butter is liquid, golden syrup and sugar together and stir until fully combined. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  • If you are using any nuts, place them on a baking tray and toast in the warming oven for around 10 minutes. If you're using any whole nuts, chop them into smaller pieces once roasted. If using, chop any large fruits (e.g., figs, dates, glace cherries) or chunks of chocolate into smaller pieces.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet. Stir well, making sure that every little oat is drenched in syrup
  • Pat the flapjacks into the corners of the pan and a flat top but not too firmly – you’ll never get them out!
  • Bake for about 25 minutes until bubbling and golden
  • Leave to cool in the tin, and cut into squares

Storage

  • Keep in a lidded, airtight container for up to a week. If they last that long. (They might last longer than a week but they’ll go stale)
Keyword cheap recipies, family recipies

 

Ratio: Cauliflower Cheese

Ratio: Cauliflower Cheese

Knowing how to make a basic white sauce is one of the world’s best things. It’s cheap when you know how to make it for yourself. It’s full of goodness and can be used to stretch other food nice and far. Most Brits love a cauliflower cheese, but of course you can shove any veg in there; broccoli, roasted leftover veg and of course, pasta.

My mum used to make cauliflower cheese into a meal for 6 by piping finely milled mashed potato around the inside of an oven proof dish; my dad loves whole tinned tomatoes in the middle. Topped with breadcrumbs and baked for 20 minutes, please can I suggest you try this? It’s frugal, and delicious.

Top tips for cheese sauce:

  1. If you have rinds from your ‘parmesan’, use them to flavour the milk that you’ll be using. This means you’re using less cheese in the final dish, and making the most of the flavour from the cheese. I use mine at least twice, and then the dog has a lovely chew toy… instructions here.
  2. Never walk away from the pan. Ever. It could burn on the base, boil over, set into a thick lump… more trouble than its worth
  3. If you have a balloon whisk, use it! It’s much more effective than a wooden spoon.

You can bake the dish without par-boiling the cauliflower. If the oven is already on, then go for it. But, that is a lot of electricity for one meal if you’re only cooking the one dish! If baking with the cauliflower from raw, bake for about 40 minutes.

 

Cauliflower Cheese with mash & tomatoes

Serves 4, heartily

Equipment

  • Colander
  • Saucepan with lid
  • Optional: pan and steamer
  • Saucepan
  • Balloon whisk
  • Scales
  • Serving bowl
  • Heatproof jug
  • Ovenproof dish

Ingredients
  

  • 700 grams floury potatoes such as white/red/King Edwards/Maris pipers
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 50 ml milk

For the cheese sauce

  • 500 ml milk
  • Aromatics – all optional but all lovely: freshly ground nutmeg, parsley stalks, leek tops/half an onion, parmesan rind
  • Salt & pepper
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 90 grams plain flour
  • Around 100 grams strong cheese – whatever you like including cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, even emmental, gouda – this is a great way to clear the fridge
  • 1 teaspoon mustard

Instructions
 

Method

  • Turn the oven to 180C
  • Make the mash: peel the potatoes, and steam/boil/microwave in salted water until cooked through
  • Once they are cooked through, mash with plenty of butter, and season. Really make sure there are no lumps (Only add enough milk to make the mash the right consistency for you; you can use more if you like). If you have a potato ricer or mouli, this is the time to break it out – you want a really creamy mashed potato. No lumps thanks.
  • Steam/boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes/microwave for about 3, so it's halfway cooked

Make white sauce

  • Strain any aromatics from your milk
  • Place a saucepan on the hob and melt the butter
  • Add the flour and, using the balloon whisk or a fork, mix the flour in
  • Splash in about 50ml of the milk and make a thick paste
  • Keep on adding around 50ml of milk, whisking until all the flour/butter mixture is combined
  • Bring gently to the boil and, once it’s popping gently, turn the heat down and stir occasionally for 5 minutes
  • Add in the cheese/cheeses and mustard (if using), and mix the half-cooked cauli and cheese sauce together.

Assemble the dish

  • Squash the mash around the edge of your oven-proof dish
  • Next, pour in the cauliflower cheese
  • If using the tomatoes, make a well in the middle and use a spoon to place the tomatoes in. Keep the leftover sauce to add to a tomato sauce.
  • Cover with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and grated cheese

NOTE – if freezing the whole dish, leave it to cool, cover, label then freeze

  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through & the sauce is bubbling

Storage/further meals

  • If you’re not planning to eat this dish within 3 days I’d play it safe and pop it in the freezer

Leftover Green Pepper Curry

Leftover Green Pepper Curry

Green Pepper Poriyal

This green pepper recipe was a fluke find, many years back.  I was staring at some green peppers and feeling fed up, because I don’t like them.  But I had them and I needed to eat them. And not wasting food is, sometimes, just cracking on through.
This recipe to use your leftover green peppers doesn’t even need you to chop an onion.  I know! I guess it’s a Jain recipe, as followers don’t eat onion or garlic.  I chose this recipe, and have repeated it, because we often have plain yoghurt in the fridge.  Leaving the pepper to rest in yoghurt takes away some of the bitterness, and makes a simple sauce.  I know it looks gross but, you know, try it!  (I thought of having a food blog called “brutti ma buoni” – Italian for ugly but delicious.  I will never be a food stylist …)
The whole spices are nice because of the crunch, but if you’ll never otherwise use them, use ground and just let them fry for about 30 seconds.

 

Green pepper poriyal

Adapted, barely, from ‘The Classic 1000 Indian Recipes’, Ed. Wendy Hobson
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • Tools
  • Sharp knife
  • Chopping board
  • Large frying pan
  • Lid for the pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Optional tools
  • Measuring spoons

Ingredients
  

  • 450 g green peppers before de-seeding; 400g after de-seeding
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt preferably full fat
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 30 ml water
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder

Instructions
 

Prep

  • Chop the peppers into dice (aka sqaures), around 2cm
  • Stir the yoghurt into the peppers and leave to one side for 15 minutes

Method

  • Pour the oil into the pan
  • Add the whole spices
  • When you hear the seeds pop, add the peppers, water and salt
  • Simmer for around 15 minutes, until the peppers are tender
  • Sprinkle with curry powder and leave to simmer for about 3 minutes
  • Serve with rice or as part of a bigger curry meal

Notes

Storage/further meals
Store in a lidded container, in the fridge, for up to 4 days
Keyword eating on a budget, empty the fridge

Smokey Barbecue Noodles

Smokey Barbecue Noodles

Hoisin barbecue noodles

Barbecueing is one of my favourite ways to cook. Mostly because I like building up fires and being outside.

Cooking the right amount is almost impossible, when you take into account having to shave off charcoal edges here and there (I’m still learning about the right heat, okay?). And it’s nice to have friends and not nice to see arguments over who gets the last piece of chicken..

Inspired by the chow mien I made a little while back, I got to thinking about how a small amount of meet could make the perfect bowl of noodles. And, god I love it when I’m right.

 

Leftover Barbecue Noodles

Ann Storr
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150 grams fresh greens (spinach, chard, kale)
  • 50 ml vegetable/chicken stock/water
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons shoyu/light soy sauce
  • pinch soft brown sugar
  • at least 25 grams leftover barbecue protein per person

For the noodles

  • 150 grams dried noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Tools

  • Chopping board & knife
  • Wok
  • Measuring jug
  • Measuring spoons/teaspoon & tablespoon
  • Saucepan & colander/sieve

Instructions
 

  • Shred the leftover barbecue meat/fish/veggie into small pieces
  • Finely chop the garlic and ginger. Cut the onion or leek into 5mm slices
  • Cook the noodles to packet instructions. Once you have drained them, stir the sesame oil through and set to one side.

The stir fry

  • Heat the wok until smoking and add the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 5 seconds then add the onion/leek. Stir fry for one minute before adding the garlic and ginger and quickly deglaze the wok with Shaoxing rice wine.
  • Add the chicken/veg stock, Hoisin sauce and light soy sauce. When boiling, add the greens and shredded meat.
  • Stir the cooked noodles through and serve

Storage

  • The noodles will keep fine for a few days in a lidded container. You can eat them cold.
Keyword eating on a budget

Crispy chicken skin chow mien

Crispy chicken skin chow mien

Crispy chicken skin chow mien

So you’ve rendered the fat from your chicken skin, but maybe you want something a little more adventurous than just, you know, eating it? Remember, relay race – what ideas do you get from this crunchy, deeply savoury, salty goodness?

Learning more about Chinese cuisine is where I’m at, and my kids love the noodles and rice that are part of it. This chow mien went down a treat. Stir fries are a perfect salty/sweet/fatty meal and perfect for mid week cooking. You do need to be ready, pay attention and be ready to bin any garlic that is burned.

You can use any green veg in this, really. If you don’t have much chicken skin, you can always add any leftover meat you might have hanging around, or some egg or cashew nuts. It’s a template to get you using up those random bits in your fridge for a healthy, thrifty, leftover busting dinner.

 

Leftover Barbecue Noodles

Ann Storr
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150 grams fresh greens (spinach, chard, kale)
  • 50 ml vegetable/chicken stock/water
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons shoyu/light soy sauce
  • pinch soft brown sugar
  • at least 25 grams leftover barbecue protein per person

For the noodles

  • 150 grams dried noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Tools

  • Chopping board & knife
  • Wok
  • Measuring jug
  • Measuring spoons/teaspoon & tablespoon
  • Saucepan & colander/sieve

Instructions
 

  • Shred the leftover barbecue meat/fish/veggie into small pieces
  • Finely chop the garlic and ginger. Cut the onion or leek into 5mm slices
  • Cook the noodles to packet instructions. Once you have drained them, stir the sesame oil through and set to one side.

The stir fry

  • Heat the wok until smoking and add the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 5 seconds then add the onion/leek. Stir fry for one minute before adding the garlic and ginger and quickly deglaze the wok with Shaoxing rice wine.
  • Add the chicken/veg stock, Hoisin sauce and light soy sauce. When boiling, add the greens and shredded meat.
  • Stir the cooked noodles through and serve

Storage

  • The noodles will keep fine for a few days in a lidded container. You can eat them cold.
Keyword eating on a budget

Fishfinger fish cakes

Fishfinger fish cakes

Fishfinger fish cakes

My first job, aged 15 or 16, was washing pots.  I’d make £16 a week for the Saturday lunch session. I took the job over after one of my brothers didn’t want it any more. One Saturday morning I knocked on the fire door, said “I’m Tom’s sister – he’s not doing this any more”.  Barry, the head chef, shrugged and let me in.  It was a small kitchen, just two chefs and me.

I loved it – hot and dirty work, scrubbing pots and heaving trays of dishes in and out of the industrial dishwasher.  The labour of it appealed to me, much more than working in a shop (note: I never got the shop jobs I applied for.  Ever.  Only ever cafe and restaurant jobs).

After a few months, my responsibilities seemed to increase. Barry the head chef taught me how to use the giant food mill to grind potatoes.  Adding poached salmon, herbs, anchovy essence and seasoning.  And, how to shape a fishcake with my hands: using a cutter created waste. I learnt to pat and roll out the mixture, cut it into squares that you smooth and shape into circles with your hands.

After he taught me this, Barry sat in the cupboard that was our staff room, drank a tea, smoked a fag and read the Sun. And I was making the fishcakes.  Which was his job.  But I’ve never used a cutter to make a scone or fishcake, because it’s less wasteful and there’s less washing up.  Okay, maybe you’ve never made a fishcake – great!  But, maybe now is the time to start.  They are cheap, good for you, comforting and delicious.

Fishfingers  – okay they’re hardly poached salmon.  But don’t let that stop you. The crunchy breadcrumbs work well in the fishcakes, and adding more breadcrumbs on the outside of your fishcake adds to the deliciousness, and is a thrifty way to make a small amount of protein go further.

Crunchy fish cakes

Ingredients
  

  • 400 grams raw potatoes (350 grams cooked)
  • 150 grams cold breaded fish/fishfingers
  • 2 eggs
  • salt & pepper
  • 75 grams plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika/ras al hanout optional, but they add a lovely flavour
  • 100 grams breadcrumbs
  • Plenty of vegetable oil for frying

Tools

  • Scales & bowl
  • Chopping board & sharp knife
  • Saucepan
  • Peeler
  • Potato masher/fork
  • Whisk/fork
  • 3 small bowls/plates for egg and breadding
  • 2 large plates
  • Frying pan

Instructions
 

Prep

  • If starting with raw potatoes, peel and boil/steam/microwave until they are soft through
  • Mash the potatoes well with a masher or fork, and season well with salt and pepper

Combine the fishcakes

  • Lay out the three smaller bowls
  • In the first, add your flour, the second your eggs and third your breadcrumbs
  • Season the flour and the breadcrumbs; if using, add the spice to the breadcrumbs
  • Whisk the egg
  • Break the fish into 1 inch/2cm pieces
  • Place oven to 100C
  • Add the fish to your mashed potatoes and mix through
  • Take a handful of mixture and roll it into a ball. Do that until you have between 6 & 8 fish cakes
  • Flatten each fishcake with the flat palm of your hand and is about 2cm thick
  • Take one fishcake and place it in the flour. Using your right hand, make sure it’s entirely covered
  • Place in the egg. Using your left hand, cover it in egg. Using your left hand still pop the fish into the bowl with the breadcrumbs
  • Using your right hand, press the fishcake into the breadcrumbs so it has a nice crunchy covering and is a little flattened
  • Still using your right hand, place the fishcake onto the waiting plate. Repeat until they are all covered
  • Place enough oil to cover about 2mm in your frying pan and turn the heat to medium

Cook the fishcakes

  • Pop a little leftover lump of breadcrumbs into the pan; when they sizzle, you’re ready
  • Place 2 or 3 fishcakes in the pan and cook until golden (about 7 mins)
  • Once golden flip and repeat
  • Keep the waiting cakes warm into the warm oven
  • Serve with veg/beans

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