Friday, 7 January 2011

Use It Up

By Bel
from Spiral Garden

I menu plan every week, without fail. When writing my plan I always consider what's in the garden, the fridge, the freezer, the pantry and try to use what we have at hand first. But some weeks we just seem to have accumulated a lot of excess food. For those weeks, I plan what I call a Use It Up week. More than ever I plan the meals around the leftovers, the produce gluts and the tired things in the freezer and pantry, which really need to be eaten soon!

On Use It Up weeks I try not to buy groceries at all. We are blessed with some homegrown fruit and veg, and fresh milk from our house cow. I always have bulk flour to make bread, and other pantry staples are stored in bulk too (like rice and lentils).

Use It Up weeks occasionally run into a couple of weeks and not only do they encourage inventive recipes, very local eating habits and a good clean out of my kitchen, but they save us hundreds of dollars on groceries for our family of eight. I normally use this money saved for a bulk shop to replenish the stockpile of anything which is low.

These past two weeks were Use It Up weeks. We had a lot of family staying for Christmas, and they left behind bits and pieces of food to be used up. First we tackled the fresh food because we didn't want it to spoil, and then we moved on to the more obscure ingredients. But we ate so well!

Some of the meals we enjoyed were crustless quiches, pasta sauces and curries (with all sorts of vegetables hidden inside), jacket potatoes, salads and all sorts of 'peasant food'!

The crustless quiche has to be my favourite as we almost always have an abundance of eggs from our chickens. This week I made three shallow quiches one night when we had nine to feed in the evening, and some slices were enjoyed cold for lunches the next day.

One contained defrosted shredded ham, mozzarella and some herbs. Not many of us eat ham, but our visitor and those who do, thought it was delicious! The second one contained some very finely chopped mushrooms, cubed various cheeses and more fresh herbs - it was my favourite! And the third was a basic mixed vegetable quiche, with some mozzarella and herbs for flavour.

To make these crustless quiches, I rub pie dishes with butter and pour in the vegetables etc mixed together with herbs and cheese if I'm using it. Then I whisk together a lot of eggs (about 5 per pie), some yoghurt or cream, some stock powder or paste, any herbs or spices not yet added, a dash of milk, some plain flour (I use wheat or spelt, wholemeal or unbleached) and a pinch of baking powder. This mixture is only slightly more runny than pancake batter. I pour it over the vegetables etc waiting in the dishes, and top with sliced tomato if I have some.

The quiches are baked at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and firm throughout. How long they take depends on the size and depth of your pie plate. I prefer shallow, small plates so they cook faster and I can make more than one variety at a time.

We serve the quiche slices with a big green salad and homemade dressing.

Do you have a favourite Use It Up recipe? If so, please share!