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Currying Favour

lambI have noticed that the leftovers bandwagon is trundling along nicely at present. All the big foodie blogs are writing about how to use up your leftovers, as if the idea of doing so was some amazing, new and previously unconsidered discovery. As far as this household is concerned, NOT throwing away food is the norm, as it was when I was growing up. Maybe the odd, almost empty jar of something that has been lurking at the back of the fridge or cupboard gets tossed out occasionally, but otherwise it is only packaging and bones that end up in the bin.

We seem to have slipped into mid-week rather than Sunday roasts, largely because the leftover stretching has become so extreme. A couple of years ago, I wrote about the perpetual chicken and how it is possible to feed a family of four for 5 days with one large bird and some vegetables. She has now been joined by the Constant Cow* and the Eternal Sheep** (excuse the alliteration breakdown but Lengthy Lamb just didn’t sound right). We have discovered over the years that it is, in fact, rather more economical to spend between £6 (chicken) and £12 (taking advantage of half price offers on beef and lamb) on a Sunday roast, which then feeds the family for another 2-4 days, than buying packs of mince or chicken, which will probably only last for two days at most, for £4-£5 each. The other advantage is that meals made using leftovers tend to be quite quick to prepare and we can have one meal out without breaking the bank. (The “Sunday” roast slippage is at least partly because it seems rude not to take advantage of the excellent Sunday buffet at We)

*roast + stroganoff + pie (2 days) = 4 days
**roast + lamb couscous with roast veg + (Rogan Josh) curry  = 3 days

We had the last of the lamb (curry) on Friday night and jolly tasty it was too, requiring only a large onion, a carton of chopped tomatoes, a couple of spoonfuls of Patak’s Rogan Josh paste and a few other tweaks, namely a pinch of dark brown sugar and some ground coriander. Served with Basmati rice and a few indulgent ready made extras from the supermarket, like onion bhajis, garlic naans and poppadums, none of which were in the least bit necessary, but made for a pleasant Friday night curry treat. I could have stretched the leg of lamb out to 4 days, but it was particularly nice, with plenty of meat and almost no fat and so we indulged in rather generous portions.

I did make my own onion bhajis a couple of months ago and DD plaintively asked why I had not done so again last night. They are quite easy to make – if you’ve ever made batter, bhajis will not cause you a problem. You need a large, thinly sliced onion, an egg, some gram (chickpea) flour, water, a tsp of baking powder and seasoning. Make a paste with all the ingredients and leave the mixture to rest for at least half an hour so that the chickpea flour can absorb the water.  The mixture will thicken but don’t make it too runny. In terms of seasoning, I add a little garam masala, ground cumin, coriander (ground and leaf), turmeric, a pinch of chilli powder and black onion seeds, as well as salt, all in modest quantities.

I had no gram flour (and still don’t since none of the local supermarkets around here stock anything that exotic, unfortunately) so I whizzed up some dried chickpeas*** in a spice grinder, as they just wouldn’t have tasted right made with wheat flour. The resulting bhajis were a little gritty, but extremely tasty (the family snarfed them down as fast as I made them) and worth the effort. I don’t have a deep flyer either but they came out just fine shallow fried with lovely crispy bits of onion sticking out around the edges. Stir a little commercial mint sauce and a pinch of turmeric into some plain yoghurt for the sauce.

I have been deliberately vague about the spices, as it is a matter of taste and what you are accustomed to – some curry house bhajis are spicy, others very bland. likewise with the mint sauce. I have had some quite surprisingly spicy mint sauce.

***The following day, I tried making bhajis using tinned chickpeas…a total disaster, don’t try it! The mixture was far too wet and just disintegrated when fried.

This week, we are back to chicken. A splendid roast with lovely crispy skin (salt the skin and put water in the roasting tin), roasties (potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions) and veg (peas, carrots and whole green beans). Tonight will be a pasta dish with some of the leftovers, tomorrow we’ll have enchiladas and the rest of the week will be soup made with veg and the remnants steamed off the carcass and home baked bread. Nom!


5 February 2013
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