How to Stretch a Meal
Lynda Booth of the Dublin Cookery School joins marian with some advice about stretching a meal.
Though I offer quantities for a chicken stock here, they should only be used as a guideline. It is not necessary to be exact.
1kg chicken carcasses or chicken wings
enough cold water to cover the bones
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
Here are some general points about making a chicken stock.
Start with the chicken bones in cold water. The flavour is drawn out of the bones as the water comes up to a boil.
Bring to a rolling boil and then turn down to a very gentle simmer. If the stock remains cooking at a fast boil for too long, the fat may emulsify with the broth, resulting in a fatty and cloudy stock.
Skim the scum. This is an inelegant term for a quick job. Use a ladle to remove all the impurities that rise to the surface. Every time you pass by, cast an eye over it to see if further skimming is necessary. The stock will probably need to be skimmed three or four times during the cooking process.
Add the vegetables and aromatics. Some chefs cook the stock without any vegetables, so don’t worry if you don’t have everything to hand.
Simmer gently. Let the stock simmer for 4–5 hours.
Cool and strain. Leave to cool, then strain into a deep container. For immediate use, skim off the fat that rises to the surface. Otherwise, leave to cool completely and then place in the fridge for several hours or ideally overnight. Remove the layer of fat that sits on the top. This is much easier than trying to remove the fat at an earlier point. You can dab the surface with kitchen paper if it still looks a little greasy. Now you have a totally fat-free broth that can either be used as a basic stock for soup or risotto or reduced down further to add to sauces.
If the water reduces below the level of the bones during the cooking process, top it up with extra cold water.
Chicken stock will keep in the fridge indefinitely if boiled up every two or three days to remove the bacteria. Allow to cool before returning to the fridge.
Never add salt to a stock. If you are reducing the stock, it will become too salty.
Reduce a stock only after it has been strained and degreased. Never reduce a stock by fast boiling while the bones are still in the pot (this applies to chicken, meat or fish). If you boil the stock with the fat, it will taste greasy.
REAL STOCK CUBES
Once you have made stock, it can be used immediately or stored for later use by making stock cubes for the freezer. To make the cubes, the stock needs to be concentrated. Pour the degreased stock back into a pot – the wider the pot, the quicker the evaporation – and then, at a rolling boil, reduce the stock to a fraction of its volume. Pour this concentrate into deep ice cube trays, allow to cool and then place on a tray in the freezer overnight. The next day, pour boiling water from the kettle over the back of the ice cube trays and pop out all the cubes. Store your homemade stock cubes in a ziplock bag, label and date them, and keep in the freezer.
To use these stock cubes for a soup, simply dilute a few of them per litre of water. For a sauce, I use the stock cubes undiluted with perhaps a few tablespoons of water.
A further advantage of having your own stock cubes means that the exact amount required can be used without any waste.
No stock? No problem!
There is no need for your heart to sink when you see chicken stock listed as an ingredient for a recipe. A homemade vegetable stock is a great alternative. It’s easily made and can be used straight away. Another good option is to buy Marigold bouillon (preferably the low-salt version), a powdered stock that is made from organically grown vegetables. It’s available in all health food shops and some supermarkets and just needs to be diluted with water. It’s a very useful ingredient to have in the cupboard.
BRAISED CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS AND CARROTS
If you increase the quantities and make a larger batch, the left over chicken and vegetables make a wonderful pie.
15g dried porcini mushrooms
150ml boiling water
8 large chicken thighs
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
60ml medium dry sherry, such as Winters Tale Amontillado sherry
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
150g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
Place the dried mushrooms into a small jug and pour boiling water over them. Leave to sit for about 15 minutes.
Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and when hot, add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook over a medium heat, without moving the chicken, until the skin starts to go golden brown all over. Turn the chicken over onto the flesh side and cook on a low heat for 5 more minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add the finely chopped onions. Stir the onions, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any of the crusty chicken bits. Season with salt and place a lid on the pan. Continue cooking the onions over a low heat for about 10 minutes until tender. Remove the lid, add the carrots to the onions and mix in. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and boil for a 20 seconds. Add the stock, the dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Bring back to the boil, place a lid on the pan and continue to simmer until the chicken is tender (this should take about 30 minutes). Alternatively, transfer the chicken dish to a preheated oven at 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.
While the chicken is cooking, take a separate frying pan, add a dash of olive oil and when hot, add in the quartered mushrooms. Toss over a high heat, stirring continuously, until the mushrooms are browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan.
When the chicken is tender, add the cream and the sautéed mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes or longer until the sauce has reduced and is a nice coating consistency. Taste for seasoning and correct as necessary.
CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE PIE
Leftover braised chicken casserole can be turned into a chicken pie for the next day’s dinner.
1 sheet of pre-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
Deep quiche tin (or pie dish), about 25 cm in diameter
Sesame or pumpkin seeds for the top of the pie
1 egg, beaten
Oven temp: 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6
Remove the skin from the pre-cooked chicken thighs and discard. Separate the meat from the bone and add back to the sauce. (Any extra left over vegetables can be added such as roasted butternut squash, chunks of roasted parsnip, blanched broccoli or cauliflower florets to bulk out the pie).
Flour a work surface and place the sheet of shortcrust pastry on the counter. If the pastry is a little thick, roll it out to about 1 cm thickness. Cut a round large enough to cover the base and the sides of the quiche dish. Line the base and sides with the pastry and cut off the excess. Reserve extra pastry for another use.
Spoon the chicken casserole into the quiche dish and fill up to the rim. Brush the edges of the shortcrust pastry with the beaten egg. Place the puff pastry round on top of the pie and seal the edges of both pastries together. Brush the surface of the puff pastry with egg wash. Make a little incision in the centre of the pie with the point of a knife to allow the steam to escape. Refrigerate the pie for about ½ hour or until ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to the temperature above. Place the chicken pie in the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden all over. Serve with a tossed salad.
A dash of cooking oil
A generous knob of butter
500g minced beef (preferably not too lean)
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, chopped into small cubes.
100ml red or white wine
2 x 400ml tins chopped tomatoes
300ml milk, room temperature
A pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Freshly grated parmesan to garnish
In a heavy based saucepan, heat a splash of oil, along with the knob of butter. Once the butter has melted and is beginning to foam, add the onions. Stir, season with salt and place a lid on the saucepan. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir to mix. Cook on a low heat for 2-3 minutes and then add the chopped celery and the carrots. Cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and add the beef to the vegetables. Stir regularly breaking up the lumps of meat as they cook. When the meat has browned, add the wine and reduce that down, until it has almost evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir into the meat and bring up to the boil. Then reduce the heat to the gentlest simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, then add the milk. Continue cooking for a further ¾ hour, keeping the heat at the gentlest simmer.
Serve with spaghetti and finish with a dusting of parmesan.
Make a double batch of Bolognese sauce and reserve half of it for the next day to turn into a chilli con carne.
CHILLI CON CARNE USING LEFT OVER BOLOGNESE
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tabsp olive oil
1 batch of left over Bolognese sauce, as above
1 x 400ml tin of kidney beans, drained
1 tabsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
30g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
2 spring onions
A generous spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche
Chopped fresh coriander
Heat the olive oil in a casserole and when hot, add the chopped onion. Season with salt, cover with a lid and cook the onion for 10 minutes until meltingly tender. Remove the lid and add the chilli, cumin and coriander powder. Stir for a couple of minutes to release the flavour and then add the Bolognese sauce, the kidney beans and the water. Cook for a further 10 minutes and then add in the chocolate to finish. Allow to melt, stir to mix, taste and check the seasoning.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, the chopped spring onion and some chopped coriander.
LAMB CASSEROLE WITH MASHED POTATO
1 kg diced lamb shoulder, in large bite size pieces, excess fat removed
3 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into small chunks
A few sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
400ml chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken or beef stock
a generous splash of red wine
2 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
Oven temp: 160C, 350F, Gas 4
Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a casserole and add the onions. Season with salt and place a lid on the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, remove the lid and add the chopped garlic and the carrots. Cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid on.
Season the lamb pieces. Heat a frying pan with a dash of oil and brown the lamb pieces in batches. Add the lamb to the pot along with the thyme and bay leaf. Pour in the red wine and bring to the boil. Cook until almost evaporated and then add the tinned tomatoes and the stock. Bring up to the boil, place a lid on the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook about 1 and quarter hours or until the lamb is lovely and tender.
4 ozs/110g butter
Half cup/4 fl.oz/100ml cream
Half cup/4 fl.oz/100ml milk
Salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes and steam until cooked. Pass them through a food mill or ricer back into the saucepan. Put the butter, cream and milk in another saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Place the potatoes over a low flame and begin adding the warm milk mixture. Beat the potatoes with a wooden spoon or spatula until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Taste and season as necessary.
LEFTOVER LAMB CASSEROLE WITH PAPPARDELLE
About 60g Pappardelle pasta per person (or use linguine or fettuccine instead)
Leftover lamb casserole
A generous knob of butter
1 tsp chopped thyme
freshly grated parmesan
chopped parsley to garnish
Bring a large pot of water (about 4 litres, with 1 tablespoon of salt) to the rolling boil.
Place the leftover lamb casserole in a large frying pan. Once it warms up, add a generous knob of butter, followed by the chopped thyme. Cook slowly for a few minutes for the flavors to combine.
Add the pasta to the boiling water. When the pasta has been cooking for 4 minutes take a few tablespoons of the pasta water and add it to the frying pan with the lamb casserole.
When the pasta is 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time on the packet, (normally about 8 minutes) take it out of the water with a pasta scoop and add it to the casserole.
Toss everything together, to infuse all the flavors together. Season to taste.
Serve in a warmed pasta bowl and top with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WEDGES
I love roasting vegetables in the oven so that the outside becomes lightly caramelized. I always drizzle them first with olive oil but often add some hard herbs such as thyme or rosemary or even some ground coriander, cumin, paprika or chilli flakes instead. Roasted butternut squash wedges go well with chicken, lamb, beef, duck or fish. If you have extra squash left over, you can turn it into a wonderful soup (see below).
2 butternut squash
Sea salt and black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan, 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
It’s important to cut the squash into even sized pieces so they cook evenly. With a large knife, top and tail the butternut squash, and then peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half, generally across the middle. With the top piece, stand on its end and cut it down through the centre, and then cut each half into 2 or 3 wedges, depending on the size of the squash. (The wedges should be about 2cm at their widest part). Repeat for the bottom part of the squash, using a soup spoon to scrape out the seeds once it is cut in half. The wedges again should be, as far as possible, all the same size.
Place the squash wedges in a large bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season well. Toss and then place onto a baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Spread out the slices well, so they have plenty of room to roast.
Roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes. They should have taken on plenty of colour, and be tender when pierced with a small knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before handling and serving.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH LEMONGRASS
If you do not have enough left over butternut squash, you can add in chopped some sweet potato, carrots or red pepper as well.
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 lemongrass stalk
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, split in half and finely chopped (seeds left in if you want a bit of kick)
1 tabsp finely grated root ginger
1 tsp madras curry powder
2 tsps tomato puree
800g left over butternut squash wedges
1 litre chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
Coriander leaves, to serve
In a large heavy based saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped onion. Stir, season with salt and cover the saucepan with a lid. Turn down the heat to low and cook gently, stirring regularly, until the onion has softened - about ten minutes.
Split the lemongrass stalk in half lengthways and bash lightly with the flat of a chopping knife to release the flavours.
Add the garlic, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, madras curry powder and tomato purée to the pot and cook gently for another few minutes with the lid on. Now add the roasted butternut squash, the stock and the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Season with salt and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the stalk of lemongrass and discard.
Whizz the soup in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. If the soup is too thick, thin out with some extra stock or water. Taste, check the seasoning and adjust as required.
Sprinkle a few coriander leaves over each serving,
LOAF CAKE WITH ORANGE, RAISINS AND SHERRY
Makes 1 loaf cake
4 tbsp sweet sherry
225g butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
190g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
60g ground almonds
2 tbsp orange juice
Zest of 2 oranges
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the orange glaze
50ml orange juice
25g caster sugar
Equipment: 900g loaf tin
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160° Fan, 350°F, Gas 4.
Line the loaf tin with some baking parchment.
Put the raisins and the sherry in a small saucepan and bring up to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs together in a small bowl and add the eggs to the butter mixture little by little, beating well between each addition. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and add the ground almonds. Mix the orange juice, grated zest and vanilla extract with the raisins. Fold the dry ingredients and the raisin mixture alternately into the creamed butter mixture. Scoop the cake batter into the loaf tin and spread it out evenly. Bake in a preheated oven for about 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Place the orange juice and sugar together in a saucepan and bring up to the boil. Boil for a couple of minutes to thicken the glaze slightly. When the cake comes out of the oven, brush the glaze over the top of the cake. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then remove the cake to a wire rack.
ITALIAN MEATBALLS AND TOMATO SAUCE
Simple homely fare, but very tasty. These meatballs are moist and succulent and, dare I say it, difficult to overcook. The bread, which is soaked in milk, is added to the beef and pork. This stops the meat from drying out too quickly. Serve up with some buttered pasta noodles.
Serves 6 - Makes 50 meatballs
50g white bread, such as ciabatta, broken into chunks
500g minced beef
300g minced pork
1 small onion, grated
60g grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp thyme or 1 tabsp oregano, chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
handful fresh basil leaves, to garnish
For the sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 x 700g jar passata (puréed and sieved tomatoes) or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 ½ tsp caster sugar
To make the tomato sauce
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Season, cover with a lid and cook until the onions are completely tender, about 10–15 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for about 30 seconds and then pour in the passata or the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and sugar and bring up to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently, reducing to a light sauce consistency. The sauce shouldn’t be too thick, as the meatballs will be transferred to the oven.
To make the meatballs
Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C Fan, 375°F, Gas 5. Pour the milk over the bread in a bowl and leave to soften. Put the beef, pork and grated onion in a bowl and season. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add to the meat, breaking it into crumbs as best you can. Mix in the Parmesan, garlic, egg, thyme or oregano and cayenne. Mix well and form into meatballs.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer (you may have to do them in two batches so they aren’t too crowded). Keeping the heat on medium-high, brown the meatballs all over. Remove the meatballs to a gratin dish and cover with the tomato sauce.
Cover the dish with tin foil and transfer to the oven. Cook for 30–40 minutes. Just before serving, chop the basil and scatter it over the top.