Inside my fridge
This is where it all starts. My leftovers book made me realise that the starting point for what I cook is always the fridge - the staples that I try to keep there all the time - milk, yoghurt, cream, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables, bacon - and then all the little jars of stuff to enhance and flavour. The picture is a snapshot of the contents of my fridge on July 15 2016 - but I’m willing to bet that they would be much the same at any time of year - the fruit and vegetables, just might be different.
“improvising is wonderful. But, the thing is that you cannot improvise unless you know exactly what you're doing.” Christopher Walken
Is this true I wonder? It would certainly boost my morale a bit if it was.
CHICKEN, FENNEL, CAPSICUM, RICE - TODAY'S FRIDGE HARVEST
Our ancient ancestors lived by hunting and gathering - eating what they could find - and raiding the fridge is a sort of modern-day continuation of the tradition. Maybe this is what mankind does best - improvises - though I suspect that lots of animals do the same. Not in quite the same way though. Hunters and gatherers, of course, didn’t do anything much with what they found other than eat it, but it probably didn’t take them long to find out that meat was better cooked than raw - and really you had to do something to potatoes, for example, to make them palatable, ditto for a whole host of food items. Indeed how did they discover that some of those things were food? Potatoes - one of my favourite things - are really not very tempting in their raw state. I guess once you had found that meat was better cooked, you might try applying heat to various foodstuffs - but then that wouldn’t work with wheat. Who first thought of grinding it down and mixing it with water?
Improvisation is key to human progress and will probably be even more important in times to come if all the disaster scenarios come to pass. But creating a meal is a very small and insignificant example of improvisation - and we should be grateful that we live in a society where creating something from a vast array of possible ingredients is so everyday.
And there’s that other key word I have used - create - also something almost unique to humans. Again, I suspect they are finding that some of the higher apes at least are capable of creating things. Still we humans like to think it is something only we can do - and for somebody like myself who does not have an artistic bone in her body - creating a meal out of what’s in the fridge is my main creative outlet. For I think that quite apart from it being a unique human capability it is also something necessary to us, I’m sure everyone does something creative in some way.
Anyway back to my fridge. In this instance my starting point was the rice. There’s been a bit of publicity of late about rice being potentially almost poisonous if not used up almost straight away, but I must admit I have often used quite old leftover rice - so far without any ill effects. I didn’t want to do yet another not very wonderful stir-fry and so I started to think about what else I had in the fridge. Fennel was my first thought, then I thought about the little capsicums that I had - roast is best - so add some tomatoes - for a meat component ham or bacon wasn’t a real good idea - so chicken it is - there’s always some of that in the freezer. And I think I’ll try with some spices - maybe paprika, cumin, turmeric - and a herb of some kind - mint? and a bit of yoghurt. Would love to add some chilli but this is not allowed. Garlic though. Will post the result tomorrow.
Well that’s my first go at this. Improvised of course from random thoughts that pop in and out of my brain.
RECIPE - SPICED ROASTED CHICKEN WITH FENNEL, CAPSICUM, ONION AND TOMATO
So this is what I did. It was OK I guess if not sensational. I think I overdid the spices and the yoghurt. Maybe a bit too runny. Quantities for two - there were a few veggies left over - which I now have to do something with.
2 chicken legs and a chicken breast cut in two crosswise
3 small capsicums cut into largish pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into wedges, boiled briefly to soften
6 small Roma tomatoes cut in half
1 large onion cut into edges
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, turmeric and sumac
Chopped mint and fennel tops
2 tablespoons of yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Mix everything together in a large dish - one layer and cook in the oven for about 1 hour. Serve with rice. (Well I did this time, but really you could also include potatoes in the mix or serve with some kind of flatbread.)