I was once extremely lucky to work as a chef in a Vegetarian Inn in North Carolina. That’s not something you get to say every day, but my memories were stirred as both Pumpjack and I contemplated making our respective dinners this week.
Pumpjack is someone, like many people, who prefers to have bought his ingredients and knows what he is going to make ~ even if he wings it on the night. I’m more of a recipe sort, looking to it as mini bouts of learning from others, or at the least moments of inspiration.
And then there are the nights when you are confronted with a nearly empty fridge and must concoct a meal. Neither the ingredients you want are there or enough ingredients to fulfil a recipe. Luckily for me, and hence the memory jogging, at the Vegetarian Inn I was taught well how to work with what I had. The nearest shop was 50 miles away, so we only shopped once, maybe twice a week, but we couldn’t just nip out and buy what was missing if we forgot or ran out of something. I learned to substitute, re-think and most importantly look in the fridge and determine what I could make. It wasn’t about what I couldn’t do, but what I could.
So last night I was facing 2 chicken legs, a half jar of tomato sauce (left over from Pizza night), a half container of crème fraiche (sour cream for my American friends) a bag of frozen peas and another of frozen spinach. The result? Marinated cumin and coriander roast chicken on a bed of tomato rice with sautéed spinach in a garlic cream sauce. I was told it was one of the best meals I had ever made. Just shows what you can do when confronted with nothing.
Addendum – Celebrating my Mum: When I was growing up, Thursday was left over night in our house, where my Mum would reheat everything we hadn’t finished that week. I remember it fondly as well as with a shudder. It was a real mix, a mish mosh of flavours, but we had to eat it all. There couldn’t be any left overs on left over night. It’s because of my Mum I appreciate a no waste principle, and I am really proud she instilled that in me.
(This Sunday, March 15th, is Mother’s Day in the UK.)