Making the most of all ingredients

THE BOOK:  Home Bird, by Megan Davies, published by Ryland Peters & Small.
THE BOOK: Home Bird, by Megan Davies, published by Ryland Peters & Small.
Megan Davies is on a mission to cook and manage her kitchen like her grandparents did.

"They made satisfying, nourishing meals. They cherished meat, fats and fresh produce when it was on the menu and made use of every part of not only the animal, but all ingredients."

Her book, Homebird, is based on her childhood experiences with food and her love of cooking paired with her "unsettled conscience" about food waste and her carbon footprint.

"This book aims to take small steps in the right direction, to do little, achievable things first whilst we tackle the dilemmas of making the bigger personal changes. Not wasting food, or at least wasting less food, should be easy."

Davies advocates stretching food and has provided notes for ingredients to "swap in" or tips about serving leftovers.

"These tips will encourage you to use what you’ve got at home before you go out and buy more and to make inventive meals with scraps and scrapings as opposed to just piling them on toast."

A "mini recipe" section gives ideas on what to do with leftover ingredients such as freezing squeezed citrus halves to flavour drinking water, or drying out old citrus in slices to add an extra touch to a gin and tonic.

She also likes to use seasonal and local ingredients where possible and affordable.

Davis, who got the idea for the book, from a small supper club she ran with a "back to the kitchen table" ethos, has also provided menu ideas for gatherings.

The following edited extract from Homebird is part of her winter feast menu, which she pairs with roasted shallots and "proper" oven chips.

Pork chops with chillies and pears 

Chops remind me of my late grandfather, Alan, also known to all as Gandalph. Whenever I visited him, he would either make me a full English or chops (lamb or pork) and mash, with plenty of peas and gravy.

This is a simple recipe with minimal ingredients, but a lovely combination of sweetness from the pork and pears and flavoursome heat from the chillies/chiles.

Serve with mash and peas, like Gandalph, or with proper oven chips and greens.

Serves 6

Time 35 minutes

3 pears

6 fresh red chillies/chiles

10g fresh rosemary sprigs

2 Tbsp olive oil

6 25g-30g pork chops

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

vegetable oil, for frying

Method

Preheat the oven to 180degC fan/200degC.

Slice the pears into discs and then halve the chillies/chiles lengthways, removing the seeds (or keep them in if you like heat). Add the pears, chillies/chiles and rosemary stalks to a large baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil and a pinch of seasoning. Toss to coat, then put into the oven on the top shelf for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan/skillet. Season the pork chops then add half of them to the frying pan/skillet and fry, for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

To sear the fat, hold the chops up with tongs and fry for a minute, gently pressing down.

Transfer the first batch to a plate and repeat the browning process with the remaining chops.

Once the pears and chillies/chiles have had 20 minutes, remove from the oven and turn over the pear discs. Add the browned chops to the baking dish on top of the pears and chillies/chiles and return to the oven for 10 minutes, until the chops are cooked through.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

Swap ins: You can use eating apples instead of pears, and sweet peppers instead of chillies/chiles, if you wish. Rosemary can be replaced with oregano or thyme, too.

Leftovers: Slice up and serve piled on focaccia, or fold through blanched green beans, couscous and lambs lettuce, as a pork, chilli/chile and pear salad. It’s also really good sliced up and stuffed into a warm, crusty roll with mayonnaise. That’s how I used up the leftovers while testing the recipe anyway.

Apple and kale salad
The sweetness of an apple and the super savouriness of kale and parmesan are what make this salad marvellous.
 
I made it for a picnic once, another fridge-raid bowl that turned out pretty nicely, and is now one of my go-to combinations. I’ve added asparagus to the recipe as it goes well, but if it’s not the right time of the year, simply leave it out. 
 
 
You could replace it with something like French beans or just more broccoli - experiment with whatever is around, I’m sure it will be great.

 

Serves 4

Time 25 minutes

100g tender stem broccoli (or standard broccoli)

100g asparagus (if in season)

100g kale

1 lemon

1 braeburn apple

100g rocket/arugula

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

25g parmesan, grated

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

olive oil, for roasting

Method

Heat the oven to 200degC or fan/220degC.

Halve the broccoli widthways, and trim the base of the asparagus. If you’re using standard broccoli, then chop up, including the trunk, into small florets.

Add the broccoli and asparagus to a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season. Toss to coat and then bake on the top shelf of the oven for 8 minutes.

Add the kale to a large salad bowl and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, season and then toss, crunching slightly with your hands to combine.

Core and quarter the apple and thinly slice each quarter lengthways. Halve the lemon and then squeeze some juice over the apple slices.

Once the vegetables have had 8 minutes, remove from the oven and tip the kale on top, then spread out. Return to the oven for another 10-12 minutes, until the kale is crispy, but not burnt.

Add the apple slices, rocket/arugula, extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan and a good squeeze of lemon juice to the salad bowl and set aside.

Once the greens are ready, let them cool down on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then add to the salad bowl and toss well to combine. Season to taste and serve.

Swap ins: Swap in any greens you like. Use whatever is in season if you can. The rocket/arugula can be any salad, baby leaf salad works well with this dish, too. Any firm, crunchy apple variety, such as a Cox’s apple, is fine. Parmesan can be pecorino or any hard Italian cheese. Swap the lemon for a lime, too, but you might need more than one.

Leftovers: I love this salad in a baguette with some very mature cheddar cheese, some chutney and roasted ham or just serve it up as it is with some extra salad leaves folded through.

 

Rice pudding and balsamic strawberries

A rice pudding doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be comforting and delicious. As long as the rice is cooked fully, there’s plenty of creaminess and some sort of jam/ jelly to go with it, I’m happy.

The balsamic strawberries are a nice and quick compote option instead of jam/jelly.

You can do this on the hob instead of the oven, it’ll take about 45 minutes to an hour, and make sure you’ve got some spare milk or water to add splashes along the way, should it dry out.

Serves 4-6

Time 125 minutes

For the rice pudding

110g pudding rice

170ml or ¾ cup single/light cream

620ml or scant 2¾ cups full fat milk

3 Tbsp golden caster sugar

¼ tsp mixed spice

a good pinch of sea salt

1 vanilla pod

For the balsamic strawberries

200g or 2 cups strawberries

3 Tbsp caster sugar

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Equipment

1.5 litre/6 cups plus 4 Tbsp baking dish, greased with butter

Method

Heat the oven to 140degC fan/160degC.

Add the pudding rice, cream, milk, sugar, mixed spice and salt to the prepared baking dish.

Halve the vanilla pod/bean lengthways, then scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and pod/bean halves to the baking dish, too. Mix well to combine (while trying to avoid scraping off the butter from the dish), transfer to the middle shelf of the oven and let bake for 2 hours (stirring halfway through) until the rice is fully cooked and there is a golden skin on top.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the strawberries and halve them. Add the strawberries to a saucepan with the sugar, balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to the boil and then bubble away for about 5 minutes, until the strawberries have broken down and the liquid turns syrupy, making sure you stir often. Remove from the heat and cool.

Remove the rice pudding from the oven, stand for a couple of minutes and then serve with the balsamic strawberry compote.

Swap ins: Risotto rice can be used instead of pudding rice, you can use semi-skimmed milk, and replace the cream with milk if you don’t have any. Vanilla paste is fine, use 1 teaspoon and add with the milk.

Leftovers: Reheat in a pan with a good splash of milk, and make sure it’s piping hot before you serve.

 

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