Yesterday when I was catching up with posts on a few of my favourite blogs I spotted a pasta blogging event that Mangocheeks at Allotment2Kitchen was taking part in. So I followed the links and ended up at Presto Pasta Nights, which this week (PPN #117) is hosted by Katie at Thyme for Cooking. The concept is that you blog about a pasta dish (well anything that has pasta or noodles in actually) and as pasta is one of my favourite quick dishes I thought it might be fun to take part especially as I had pasta for lunch on Monday from a mixture of things lurking in the fridge.
As I work from home quite a lot I get to rustle up whatever I fancy each day from whatever I can see in the fridge. I don’t often buy things specifically to use for lunch but instead muddle through with whatever I can find from leftovers and store cupboard basics. Its fair to say our cupboards and fridge are fairly well stocked so it not often that I struggle to make something tasty, but I do tend to really on pasta, salads and open sandwiches a lot.
On Monday the fridge yielded:
- some cooked garden peas and new potatoes leftover from dinner the night before
- the remains of a bunch of asparagus that had got hidden behind something else so it wasn’t in top form any more but still edible
- some fresh tarragon pesto that was dangerously near its use by date
- the last of a chunk of parmesan
So I headed to the cupboard and dug out the current pasta shape (some De Cecce Tortiglioni) and cooked it as per the packet instructions. I steamed the asparagus above the pasta for about 7 minutes and then cut it into 2cm lengths. Once the pasta was done I drained it, put it back in the pan and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, and tossed it with the asparagus, peas and potatoes (cut into 1cm dice). Into a bowl with a good grating of parmesan on the top and there was my lunch. Maybe 15 minutes from fridge to table – not bad.
Note: The fresh pesto was Purely Pesto. I’m going to be doing a producer review soon so watch out for that.
Those who have been following carefully might wonder where the very last of the roast chicken went.
You’ll be please to know that the cat didn’t get it but instead it ended up as a quick lunch in a fresh white lovely soft floury roll with lemon mayonnaise (or salad cream for one of us) and tomato. It was breast meat – perfect.
So in these credit crunch times lets see whether overall we got value from the chicken. We had 4 meals (for 2 people each time) using the meat (roast, curry, pie, sandwich) and about 5 pints of stock, which will make 10 potions of soup or risotto or whatever. The chicken cost £11.32 – you can do the maths anyway you want but that means it cost £1.42 per portion if you ignore the stock and 63p if you don’t.
Not bad going whatever angle you peer at it from.
What to have for a quick and tasty solo lunch at home?
Often its down to what’s in the cupboards and fridge – it doesn’t make much sense to want something quick but need to go to the shops first to get ingredients (well possibly if you live right next door to a good shop then it just might but otherwise its going to slow the whole thing down somewhat).
So today we found eggs and bread and tomatoes. Ah ha that’ll be scrambled eggs on toast with some grilled or sauté tomatoes.
Its as easy as 123 (and just possibly 4):
1: Get the tomatoes on to grill or sauté
2: Eggs in a jug or bowl, splash of milk, salt, pepper, whisk lightly with a fork
3: Start the bread toasting
4: Melt butter, scramble eggs
Its all ready – get it on the plate – EAT (or in my case take a quick photo first – some of the blogging stuff is just a bit weird!).
Quicker to cook than it was to eat – just the job.
So what have we done so far with our roast chicken leftovers (apart from store them safely in the fridge of course)?
Well one of the favourite options is to rustle up a quick curry – always good whether you go for a creamy or a tomato based option. Probably not very authentic but WAY BETTER than anything you’ll get in a supermarket heat and eat; and believe me I know, I’ve tried a lot of heat and eat curry in my time searching for one that’s vaguely good. They are few and far between. Even if the supermarket recipe started out more authentic it’ll never taste quite as fresh and zingy as something you do yourself. So next time you’ve some leftover chicken gives this recipe a whirl and your taste buds a treat.
We went for a tomato based option and did a side of chickpeas and purple sprouting broccoli (because we happened to have a few bits of the latter lurking in the fridge drawer).
First the chicken curry…..
(enough for two – scale up with the chicken meat for greater numbers and add some water if there’s 4 of you, more tomatoes if there’s six – we could have made enough for six with the meat we had left but decided to save it for later in the week).
The pan: we always use some kind of low sided sauté type pan for curry as this helps the sauce thicken faster than a regular sauce pan would – which is quite important.
The onion: we pretty much always start by frying up an onion fairly finely chopped so its starts to colour but not get too dark (it can get bitter if it over colours though I have found a great curry recipe with really crispy onion but I’ll save that for another post).
The spices: then we add the spices which are a mix of mostly freshly ground and a few ready prepared; we just go with the flow of what we fancy taste wise and how hot we want it to be (this last point always being up for a bit of debate as I’m a bit of a curry wimp when it comes to the chilli content). This time we used coriander and cumin seeds, ground turmeric, dried chili flakes and a chopped fresh red chilli. We toss the spices with the onions for about a minute to start to release the flavours – boy does it start to smell lovely.
Tomatoes: we add a tin of chopped tomatoes and raise the heat so it all starts to simmer down.
The chicken: as the tomatoes begin to bubble quite vigorously we add the chicken meat, which I’ve pulled off from one of the legs and cut into smallish chunks.
We leave this to bubble away fairly rapidly, keeping an eye out and stirring every so often to prevent it catching on the pan bottom.
While that’s working its curry magic we get the chick peas and sprouting broccoli on the go, cutting the latter up into small florets and tossing with the chick peas, a tiny bit of water and a few twists from a garam masala spice mill plus a good dollop of greek yoghurt to coat everything. This cooks away and thickens whilst we pop on the basmati rice and get some bowls warming.
The chicken curry needs a good 20- 30 minutes of swift bubbling to get the chicken heated through and the sauce nice and concentrated, the chick peas and broccoli need about 15 minutes cooking (thought they’ll survive more if the timings go a bit awry) and the basmati needs 10 minutes boiling and few minutes after its drained to help fluff up.
Then its into the waiting bowls, to the table and dive in for a tasty curry experience. Pretty good all round authentic or not.
Oh and there still at least two meals left on the chicken before we even get to thinking about maybe making stock.
Some days you need a lunch dish that’s fast, fast, fast.
Its still grey outside so it needs to be warming and fairly robust but also bring a hint of the spring that’s coming (it seems like it is – I can see daffodils poking through the ground and buds appearing on the trees – balmy days of sipping rosé and chucking fresh basil on every dish must surely only be round the corner).
So what will fit the bill?
Well pasta is always a winner I think – quick and easy (I mean the dried stuff not making your own and then hand rolling it – delicious though that is, it’s a kind of all day project). And what to have with the pasta – well lets not be completely lazy and tip out something from a supermarket tub, lets cook a couple of things up in the same time it takes the water to boil and the pasta to cook.
Yesterday’s choice for me was some salami cut into strips and some baby plum tomatoes cut in half, sautéed in olive oil, mixed into the drained pasta, sprinkled with pine nuts and parmesan, et voila.
Start to finish 15 minutes (not including the eating time!).