Second helpings: Hix's dinners for kids
A holiday with choosy children reminded Mark Hix that even leftovers can be transformed into delicious dishes. Photographs by Jason Lowe
Saturday 13 September 2008
I took my children on holiday recently to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands with my mate Robin Hancock from Wright Brothers Oyster House in Borough Market. He brought his kids along too. We had a great time, but one recurring problem was the fact that the kids kept turning their noses up at the dishes that I had made from local Spanish products; so I got very accustomed to using up the leftovers and creating interesting dishes for our next breakfast, lunch or supper.
Why don't most kids like simple things like a cucumber and parsley salad or a tomato and onion salad? They didn't even like the gazpacho that it became the next day. The one dish I thought would go down a storm was the spaghetti with sardines and tomato I knocked up from the half dozen or so grilled sardines that had been left over from the night before – but oh no, the children spotted those little flecks of sardines and, sadly, rejected the pasta.
I guess one of the reasons for the fussiness of the children is that they perhaps get rather spoilt with all the fast food they consume, as well as the fact that they're not disciplined as strictly at meal times as we were when we were kids. I wouldn't have dreamt of disappearing from the table until my plate was clean – whether I liked the food or not.
Cleverly using up leftovers, however, doesn't need to revolve around children; we grown-ups have become a bit lazy too, and would often rather buy a packet of chicken breasts than the whole bird, and neat little fillets than the entire fish. Both, however, can yield several meals if they are dealt with correctly and with the current economic climate, it's well worth getting the most out of your food.
You may or may not have heard of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign – visit their website (lovefoodhatewaste.com) for lots of practical advice on the subject.
Fried eggs with chorizo
This dish is rather like the Mexican dish huevos rancheros. I could have easily thrown away a couple of portions of broad beans and chorizo, as well as the half a dozen mini chorizo that were sitting around with a few padron peppers, but I wanted the kids to think twice about what they ate and respect the cost and importance of food.
Writing a recipe like this can be tricky because I can't expect you to have the same leftovers as me – so I'm going to give you the recipe from scratch.
100-150g cooking chorizo, chopped into small pieces
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
100-120g podded weight of broad beans
4 free range duck or goose eggs
A little olive oil for frying
Heat a heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat and fry the pieces of chorizo and shallots for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the tomatoes and a couple of cups of water and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens.
Meanwhile, cook the broad beans in boiling, salted water until tender and drain. You can remove the outer skin from any large ones if you wish. Stir them into the sauce and cover with a lid. Fry the eggs in the olive oil and transfer to warmed serving plates and spoon the sauce and broad beans around.
Spaghetti with sardines, chilli and tomatoes
I managed to get three dishes out of the dozen sardines we bought from the market and although sardines are dead cheap, it seemed a shame to throw them away. I gave you a similar recipe a few weeks back with red mullet and this is an even simpler, poor man's version. When the kids clocked that I had refashioned the previous night's sardines I knew I was fighting a lost cause – and the next day, when I threw beaten eggs into the pasta and made it into a kind of frittata, they really did think that I was a tight old git.
4 servings of spaghetti
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1-2 medium chillis, halved, seeded and finely chopped
4tbsp olive oil plus more if required
450g can of good-quality chopped tomatoes
8 fresh sardine fillets, cut into small pieces or 8 cooked and broken into pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few leaves of basil or bush basil, torn
Gently cook the onion, garlic and chilli in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, without colouring, until soft. Add the tomatoes, season and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the pieces of cooked sardines and simmer for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions, then drain in a colander, reserving a little of the water to adjust the sauce if necessary. To serve, toss the pasta with the sauce, adding some cooking water and more olive oil to get a good coating consistency, then serve in warmed bowls scattered with basil.
Deep-fried smoked salmon skin
It may seem a bit desperate to start deep frying salmon skin, but if you're a smoked salmon lover and buy it unsliced on the side – which is by far the best way – what's the point in throwing away the skins after slicing up all the salmon? These are rather like fishy pork scratchings and you can even rescue the rest of the trimmings like the belly and tail, which can be a bit salty, by chopping them up and simply mixing them with sour cream and chives for an easy, cheap snack.
The skin from 1 side of smoked salmon
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Cut your salmon skin into rough 3-4cm shapes, squares, strips, triangles etc. Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Fry the salmon skin a few pieces at a time, stirring with a slotted spoon, for 3-4 minutes until crisp, then remove and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve as suggested above or just on their own.
Grouse and pearl barley broth
At this time of year, I hate to see the carcasses of game birds being scraped off the plates into the bin; you'd be surprised how much meat you can retrieve from a supposedly finished carcass, especially if your guests haven't got their hands dirty and picked the birds.
The carcasses from 4 grouse, chopped into 4 or 5 pieces
1 small onion, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A couple of sprigs of thyme
4 juniper berries
1 tbsp vegetable oil
A good knob of butter
1tsp tomato purée
2 litres chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g pearl barley, soaked for a couple hours in cold water
1 small leek, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm squares and washed
60-80g seasonal wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced or halved
Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry the grouse carcasses, onion, carrot and garlic on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often until lightly coloured. Add the thyme, juniper, butter and flour and stir well for a minute or so; then add the tomato purée. Slowly stir in the chicken stock, bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for an hour.
Strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan, reserving the bits of carcass. Add the pearl barley and leeks and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the barley is tender. Remove as many bits of meat from the grouse carcass as possible and add to the soup with the mushrooms. Simmer for a few minutes, re-season if necessary and serve.
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