Shortcuts to the 5 S's - In Praise of Veg Extract
Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or elaborate – in fact, I glean the most gratification from the simplest things: a caramelised crust on just about anything (easier to do when it’s already been cooked the day before); butter melting into the cracks of something steaming away; or flipping out a precariously-yet perfectly formed omelette full of wilty rocket and cheese. The kitchen is where fun can be had, creativity flexed and risks taken.
Most importantly, it’s a place where you should feel safe enough to break away from convention, take control of your dining destiny and find better and easier ways to make the food you love. Nobody polishes off a delicious meal and says, ‘Gee, I wish that recipe was harder!’.
Wherever I can, I’ve included shortcuts that take advantage of bits and pieces you might have at your disposal, as well as suggesting how you can give dishes another spin of the turntable (a ‘double duty’ so to speak), which usually takes the form of one of the 5 S’s: Soup, Sauce, Stew, Salad or Sandwich.
Romesco Soup - In Praise of Veg
The simplest soup is really just a runny purée, so blitzing left-over roast veg or any form of stew to a finer consistency with a bit of extra liquid (such as stock or even water) is a great way to feel like you’re eating a new meal with minimal effort.
The same goes for sauces, which I’m especially enamoured with during the summer months, when barbecue marinades become dipping sauces (be sure to heat and eat here), or juices in the bottom of the pan transformed into pasta sauce perfection. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting a pan that has had something caramelising in it hang out on the stove for the afternoon, only to reheat it to become the flavour-base for that evening’s dinner.
Left: Cheese-cloud corn cobs with apple chipotle barbecue sauce | Right: Coriander bean stew
Stews, casseroles, curries and rich pasta sauces always taste better the next day. I like to give them a new lease on life by adding extra fresh vegies that are capable of cooking through by the time the dish is reheated – baby spinach works well here, as do corn kernels, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
As for salads, anything from curry to kebabs to quark to tins of fish or beans from the pantry can be added to fresh (or even left-over!) vegetables and become inexpensive, delicious and nutritious hot-weather dinners or lunch at your desk. Have fun with textures and temperatures by roasting, steaming or crumbing and deep-frying (bonus points if you’ve made your own crumbs from left-over bread!). You can boost flavour with some form of onion, use nuts and seeds for texture, and shake things up with different oils, vinegars and fats (such as cheese or avocado).
When in doubt, turn it into a sandwich filling. I’m using the term ‘sandwich’ here very loosely, because who says it’s gotta be bread? Anything from pita to tortilla wraps to rice paper to lettuce leaves … if you can pick it up and eat it with your hands, it’s a sandwich, people! Try to pack your choice of wrapping separately from the leftovers in question, and assemble just before you eat for max crunch, and the smug satisfaction of showing your co-workers how organised and industrious you are.
Images and text from In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky. Photography by Ben Dearnley. Murdoch Books RRP $59.99’.