I Just Happened to Have…
a guinea fowl, kaffir lime leaves and some red peppercorns
As a professional food writer, recipe developer and cookery teacher, I am fortunate in routinely having an abundance of ingredients readily available in my kitchen, plus fresh herbs and veg in the garden. This means I can usually rustle up something interesting to eat without having to trek to the shops.
Last week, for example, I was wondering what to cook for dinner, and it just so happened I had a guinea fowl in the fridge, a kaffir lime leaf plant happily growing on my kitchen window sill and some red peppercorns bought in a spice shop in Toulouse. And so my recipe for Guinea Fowl with Peppercorn and Kaffir Lime Leaf Butter came to be. It caused some amusement among social media followers whose cupboards are typically less well stocked than mine, but it was delicious and has since become a family favourite.
Though it's fun to create spontaneous meals from an interesting range of ingredients, there's a downside too. The cupboards, fridge and freezer are invariably full of stuff that might sit there for months. For example, there is the bottle of Syrup de Violette from France that I thought would make interesting purple jellies and cocktails. I've had it a year and used about a quarter.
Then there is the motley assortment in my flour bin – Italian '00' for pasta-making, French cake flour, gram flour for Indian pancakes, as well as the usual plain white, strong white, wholemeal and self-raising flours. There were also mysterious, and as yet unopened, packets of Swiss dark flour, organic emmer flour and khorosan flour.
In the fridge there are jars of Turkish tomato paste and little pots of mostarda di frutta, bought on holiday in Italy in 2013. As for the freezer – a recent rummage produced a goat kidney, a turmeric root, four chicken wings and some sardine fillets. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.
So, as a self-confessed ingredient junkie, I have resolved to cook with what I've got, or give it away, before accumulating more stuff. I continue to buy fresh things such as dairy products and eggs, but everything else is off limits until the store cupboard is empty.
Interesting recipes are evolving, and I will share the best with you over the weeks to come. Some are based on ordinary items – sausages or a few sticks of celery, for example. Others make use of unpromising vegetable stalks and shoots, or lesser-known cheap cuts of meat, or fruit that has overstayed its welcome. I'll also show you how to make the best of leftovers and cut down on unnecessary food waste.
I hope you enjoy the first recipe and that those to come will inspire you and give you the confidence to cook with what you've got.
© Christine McFadden, August 2015