What’s in your freezer? Probably less than there was a few weeks ago, thanks to coronavirus and shortages of some foods. You perhaps only have a tiny icebox at the top of your fridge but if you live miles from the shops like I do, the chances are that you have a fairly big freezer and you are unearthing a few surprises, especially if the label’s fallen off.
In the last few weeks we’ve eaten wild boar and goat, fallen with cries of joy on pats of butter that were hiding in corners and been thankful for home-made ready meals, stews and the like, that we popped in the freezer for a rainy day. I know we’re lucky to be so well off for food and I don’t take it for granted. But there are only two of us and we’ve also got some big joints of meat bought for when the family comes to stay. I never thought I’d look at an enormous lump of beef with something approaching dismay.
Short of hacking it into smaller pieces with my husband’s chainsaw, the solution is to take a leaf out of my parents’ book. When we were kids (bear in mind my mum and dad lived through wartime rationing and weren’t rolling in money) we’d have a joint on Sunday, eat it cold on Monday, then for much of the rest of the week we’d be eating it in the form of cottage pie, shepherd’s pie, chicken pie with a shortcrust top or maybe rissoles. These days we are more cosmopolitan and might turn the leftovers into curries, ragus, or chiles. Batch cook, eat what you need and re-freeze the rest.
So far, so obvious and pretty much what we do normally anyway, albeit with smaller pieces of meat. But I left the freezer door ajar the other day and although I discovered my error in time to avert disaster, I had to defrost it properly and found a lovely smoked gammon recently acquired from Rob The Pigman, aka Scottsfield Pork. It’s quite hefty but as it’s likely to be months before the family can visit again I took it out to eat. That beef joint will have to wait its turn.
With my mother in mind, I’m going to serve the ham hot with parsley sauce. We ate this a lot when I was a child: it’s not exotic in the least but it is delicious. Plain boiled potatoes and some greens are all that’s needed on the side. Be lavish with the parsley and make the sauce quite thick.
So now you know what we’ll be eating for supper tonight – and for most of the coming week. We’ll perhaps eat the rest of the gammon cold, with buttered new potatoes and lettuce (salad cream optional, we never had mayo); with a poached egg on top for breakfast; in omelettes, a hash, a pie with leek and potatoes, a pasta sauce, a quiche or in toasties with cheese; if I’m feeling fancy, in a terrine, spiked with gherkins and capers; and having saved the cooking water for stock, in soups. The possibilities are endless.
I started this feeling a bit gloomy and uninspired but I’ve cheered myself up just re-reading what I’ve written. Put your key ingredient in the search box here on Mrs P and see what pops up, re-read your cookery books, check out the numerous videos and live online cookery demos from well-known chefs and food writers, or ask Mr Google. You could even ask your mum. There’s always something out there to fit the bill, whatever your cooking quandary. Just don’t get frostbite.