Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Leftovers are of course the curse/blessing of a traditional Christmas turkey dinner, and I say that as a hardcore leftover enthusiast.  I love cooking a dish on one day and adapting and adding to what is left of it over the subsequent two or three days.  Stop me if I’ve said this before, but a Sunday roast for instance might lead on to cold roast beef and chips on Monday night (a strong candidate I’d have to say for my death row meal), the beef and bean salad in my title picture on Tuesday, maybe even a cottage pie on Wednesday.  Not to mention sandwiches.  Or a good old fashioned British beef stew could come over all Provencale with the addition of some red pepper and olives; with the addition of half a tin of tomatoes (or a good handful of cherry tomatoes), and some capers that then becomes a richly delicious pasta sauce.  I love the challenge of looking in the fridge at a random collection of leftovers and fresh ingredients and combining them in a way that makes a dinner quite distinct from whatever it was you had last night, but tasting as good as if it were what you had intended all along.  Very often the improvised adaptation of the leftovers will be tastier than the original meal, and gets tastier still in each successive incarnation.

Nevertheless, I consider it, on the whole, a side benefit of grouse for Christmas dinner that by December 29th you are not opening the fridge and feeling wearily, not to say queasily, obliged to have a grouse sandwich for lunch AGAIN.  Particularly as we didn’t have a whole family to feed all through those long, dark, empty days between Christmas and new year.  Having said that, though, I do kind of wish I’d done a bigger ham.  A few more ham, mustard and medlar jelly sandwiches would have gone down very well indeed…

Not that there were no leftovers at all from the grouse.  I scraped enough meat from the six carcasses to form the feature if not the bulk of at least three meals for the two of us, and then the carcasses themselves yielded a good 4 litres of pungently gamey stock which in turn formed the basis of a risotto and a game soup before the rest of it went into the freezer.  Grouse sandwiches (again with that medlar jelly) also made up one light lunch.

The risotto was made in the standard way, with shallots, celery and some thickly sliced mushrooms, the grouse stock, then a couple of small handfuls of shredded grouse meat, heated in the frying pan with a dash of sherry (or white wine would do) and a splash of the stock before being stirred through the risotto right at the end.  I served that up with a similar bitter leaf salad to that I served with the roast grouse for Christmas dinner, and that pickled red cabbage that I forgot to…

The soup was made with a soffritto of some diced smoky bacon, equal quantities of diced leek, onion, celery, red pepper, carrot parsnip and mushrooms, softened in olive oil with a little chilli and garlic and the strong grouse stock blended half and half with the softer, gentler pheasant stock that I’d taken out of the freezer in order to make the gravy to go with the grouse on Christmas day.  Again a handful of the shredded meat was thrown in at the end.  If you had any leftover roast veg (we didn’t), they could happily go in there as well.

Which brings us to the ham I wish there had been more left over of, and the stock left from the boiling of it, out of which you simply couldn’t not make pea and ham soup.  The quickest and easiest pea and ham soup to make is fresh (or rather frozen) peas, a generous portion per person cooked directly in the stock (allow about 300ml per person), and then blitzed, maybe with some shredded mint.  The flavours of clove and cinnamon in the stock this time though, would work against any such fresh, bright green mintyness, so dried split peas felt the appropriate way to go, and, partly to emphasise that this was not fresh pea soup, I went with yellow split peas rather than green.  I followed the proportions given in this Mark Hix recipe (for split pea and smoked haddock soup which sounds good although I haven’t tried it) and this one from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, but found the finished result just a little thin for my tastes, so I’d suggest increasing the quantity split peas from 200g to 300g for the 1.8 litres of stock I used.  Otherwise the technique is exactly the same as in those recipes, except obviously I used olive oil where they have butter.  Also, I soaked my peas for a couple of hours, although the packaging they came in suggested you didn’t have to. 

And that leaves the smoked trout, although this wasn’t strictly speaking leftovers, as it was something we ate before, not after, the main event.  I’d smoked 4 trout, to allow a fillet a head for 7 people, and then the 7th person dropped out, so I had one whole spare trout.  Which was the perfect amount to make a quick and easy and stress free pasta supper for Becca and I on Christmas Eve.  The quick and easiness of this dish is the key, it being something I came up with as the result of a kind of Ready Steady Cook challenge round at a friends house a few years ago, throwing together an improptu dinner out of whatever odds and ends she had in the fridge.  So don’t feel you need to smoke your own fish for this, the smoked trout fillets that come in packs at the supermarket are just fine, and indeed I stockpile them in the freezer whenever I see them reduced to clear, for just this purpose.  Regardless though of how quick and easy it is, and whether or not you use shop bought fillets, or smoke your own, this is a pasta dish that I would be happy serving to anyone, at any time.  It just seems quite fancy, sort of like linguine alle vongole, except without any of the faffing around with shellfish…

2 smoked trout fillets
250g cherry tomatoes
125g chestnut mushrooms
garlic, chilli, fresh flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons capers
1 glass vermouth (or white wine)
200g linguine (or spaghetti)

This whole dish can be made from scratch easily in the time it takes to boil a pan of water and cook the pasta.  Put your linguine (or spaghetti) in to cook in plenty of heavily salted vigorously boiling water, for ten minutes or whatever it says on the packet.  While that’s happening, simply halve your cherry tomatoes, and quarter, or otherwise chop your mushrooms to be about the same size as the halved tomatoes.  Finely slice a clove or two of garlic (this wants to be garlicky) and a small thumbnail’s worth of a fresh red, not too hot chilli pepper (or you can use a few dried chilli flakes, or no chilli at all, up to you).  Soften the tomatoes, garlic and chilli in olive oil then add the mushrooms, flake in the trout, add about a wine glass of vermouth (or white wine) and a grind of black pepper and a couple of teaspoons of rinsed capers, let it all cook together for just a couple of minutes, add some chopped parsley right at the end stir through the cooked and drained linguine (or spaghetti), and serve.  Serve it in oversized bowls and it’d pass muster as a fancy pasta dish in any Italian restaurant you care to name…

1 comment:

  1. I have since made the ham and pea soupagain, and, yes, upping the proportion of split pea to stock compared to those recipes is definitely the way to go. 300g to 1.8 litre of stock would be a minimum. Probably, if I were to set a rule of thumb, somewhere around 175g of split pea per litre of stock would seem to me to be about right.