On New Year’s Day I roasted a beautiful rib of beef. Alongside I had cauliflower, cavolo nero from the garden (I’m still harvesting it since starting to do so in August), roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and a tray of roast swede, carrot, garlic and onion mixed with lemon thyme, rosemary and sage. Everyone enjoyed the meal and, as I neared the end of the washing up, I opened the oven to find the tray of roasted vegetables sitting patiently. It’s a good idea to put food back in the oven to keep warm, but it’s useful to remember that you did so.
On Bank Holiday Monday I tipped the forlorn roast swede, carrots, garlic, onion and herbs into a heavy saucepan and added enough water to cover them twice. After a little seasoning and a gentle fifteen minute simmer I liquidised the whole lot and added a little more water to get a thick and silky consistency. With a swirl of cream and the last knockings of the Stilton I was glad of my mistake. I need to leave random things in the oven more often if this is how it’s going to turn out.
One of the most rewarding aspects of cooking for me is in the thinking of how to use food up, and the days and weeks following Christmas can be some of the most rewarding in presenting opportunities to do so. I think I learned to avoid waste from my mother, who took it to extremes. One Christmas she found an old Christmas cake from the previous year lurking in the cupboard under the stairs, and she crumbled it up, mixed it with a few bits and pieces and recommissioned it as a Christmas pudding. It was remarkably good.
The only disaster in the kitchen is the one in which the food is truly inedible. Everything else is simply an opportunity.