Monday, October 29, 2012

Waste not

Sometimes it's hard to make sure food gets eaten before it goes to waste, but I have a particular dislike of throwing away meat or fish - if an animal has died so that you can eat it, the least you can do is make sure it actually all gets eaten. The saying 'waste not, want not' is generally disregarded in our throwaway culture, (as a child, I thought this meant 'if you don't want it, don't waste it', which doesn't make much sense. It was only years later that I realised it actually means 'if you don't waste anything, you won't want for anything') but it's worth realising that with a little thought, you can make leftover food go a long way - certainly a lot further than the nearest rubbish bin!

After eating one serving of my barbecued Warehou, I still had at least three-quarters of the fish left over. I stripped the flesh off the fish and set it aside. The bones, skin and head went into a pot to make fish stock (p85). Since there were also slices of onion and lemon, along with a few herbs, still in the carcass of the fish from the barbecuing,  I bunged all that in as well - these aren't in the recipe, but why waste them? After all, the more flavour you can get in a stock, the better.

Along with the fish scraps, I added water, a couple of fresh slices of lemon, some herbs and a handful of peppercorns. I brought all this to the boil, simmered for 20 minutes, then strained through a colander lined with muslin. That's all it takes to make fish stock - easy, eh? What's more, I'd assumed that making fish stock would stink out the whole house - in fact, there was no smell at all. Even when I went outside and came back in from the fresh air, there was no discernable odour.

On Sunday, I set about using the stock and remaining fish. Handily, Mum and Dad would be dropping in on their way down from Blenheim, just around tea time. I texted them to let them know that oyster soup (p88) and fish cakes (p113) were on the menu.

I'd got a pottle of oysters at the fish counter when I got my Warehou. I've been meaning to make this soup for ages, but needed to wait until I'd had a chance to make that fish stock. When Mum and Dad arrived, I got the soup on, beginning by cooking out a flour and water paste, then slowly adding fish stock and milk. After boiling for five minutes or so, I seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then added lemon juice and the chopped oysters. 

I hadn't been all that pleased with the flavour while I was adding the seasoning. In the end I'd given up and put salt and pepper on the table so we could adjust as necessary. As it happens, not much additional seasoning was needed - I'd followed the recipe and seasoned before adding the oysters and lemon, but with these additions came considerable extra flavour. I'm no huge oyster fan, but actually this soup was very nice. 

I'd meant the soup as an entree, but it made more than I expected, and after a decent-sized bowl and a couple of pieces of bread, I would have been happy to call that a meal. I couldn't do that though - I had the fish cakes in the fridge, waiting to be cooked.

I'd made the fish cakes in advance, flaking my leftover fish and mixing it with mashed potato, finely chopped onion, herbs and seasoning, then shaping into cakes, and coating them in egg and breadcrumbs. Having finished my soup, I headed back into the kitchen, heated some oil and started shallow-frying the fish cakes.

These could possibly be oven-baked instead of frying, but decided to stick to the recipe. They went nice and golden-brown, but I wasn't sure they were cooked through, so I zapped the plateful in the microwave for a minute to make sure.

It's easy to forget how tasty simple little dishes like these can be. A bit of salad, and a couple of these on your plate, and you've got a meal. They're satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. The flavour is not particularly fishy, (though that might depend on what kind of fish you use) but savoury and moreish. A very useful, adaptable dish to keep in mind.

So that's the story of one little fish used to its full potential: nothing wasted, and some very tasty meals enjoyed as a result.

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