mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Dinner

Smashed Potatoes

Potatoes, butter and salt. Sometimes cheese. There are so many ways to combine this sublime collection of ingredients that there are whole cook books dedicated to the pursuit – not any of which are in my collection. I have some vague feeling that I read about this method in a newspaper article by Jill Dupleix, back in the days when newspapers were made of paper instead of pixels. Remember that?

This would probably work for most varieties of potato, but I prefer cocktail potatoes because of the smaller insides to jacket ratio. I work on about three potatoes per child. Boil them until you can stab them through quite easily and their little skins are starting to split like startled frankfurters. Drain them, then put them back in the pot with some slices of butter and toss them around until they are coated. Dump them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, or not if you have someone else doing the washing up. Get out your potato masher and gently smash them.

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Don’t go overboard, you want them to retain their identities for serving purposes. Actually, they taste just fine even if you smash them to smithereens but that makes them harder to serve. Sprinkle them with Himalayan salt that has been infused with hand pressed alkaline kale powder. Bake at 180 degrees for about half an hour, or until it’s all crispy.

Actually, only do that second last bit if you’re a complete prat.

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Chicken Stock

I can’t believe that people are charging fourteen bucks a litre for chicken stock.  I can’t believe people are paying it!  Do you know how much it costs you to make your own?  So close to zero I can’t even be bothered working it out.  It’ll take maybe ten minutes of your time, and most of that is bagging it.   You must make chicken stock!

There’s a zillion recipes for chicken stock on the internet, possibly even a zillion and a half, so you can pick one that looks good to you.  Many are a lot fancier than the one I’m making today, but this is your basic add it to couscous or a stirfry stock, although it’s also an excellent soup base.

You need a chicken carcass.  You’ll find that you have one if you can’t be bothered cooking and go and get chicken and chips.  Or if you’ve roasted a chicken.  Save all the bones and skin and bits that people won’t eat in a bowl in the fridge.  You’ll also need some flavoursome vegetables, the classic three are celery, carrot and onion.  You don’t need to peel them or chop them neatly, and they can be in pretty much any state.  The celery I’m using today is the leaves and inner bit of a bunch I bought for the kids to dip into peanut butter.  Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.  You can use any limp carrots you find at the bottom of the crisper.  You don’t have to peel the onion, just chop it roughly.  Put approximately one each of those three veg in a large saucepan (or just the tops of one bunch of celery) and if you’re feeling fancy sautee them in a bit of butter until they have brown bits on them.  I really wasn’t in the mood today, so I didn’t.  Chuck in the chicken carcass and skin and fill the saucepan about three quarters full of water.  Bring to the boil and simmer covered for quite a long time, an hour minimum if you lack planning ability and rather feel like chicken noodle soup for dinner, three or four hours if you’re hanging about the house sewing soldier’s tunics and paying musicians.

You can add other flavours to the stock, today I’ve shaken in some peppercorns and a clove of garlic.  I’ve also put in those incredibly desiccated bay leaves that even the nicer spice brands put out, I’m never terribly convinced they’ll add much flavour.  About fifteen minutes before you have to go pick up the kids, strain the stock into a large bowl.  Leave the bits in the strainer to hang over the bowl to drip while you’re out.  When you get home, stick the bowl in the fridge.

The next day you can skim off the fat and bag the stock.  I seem to use about half a cup at a time, so I’ll measure half cups into little ziplock freezer bags.  Put those in the freezer.  If you are that kind of person you can write the date and contents on the bag.  Some days I am that person, some days not.  Now how easy was that?

Corn Fritters

Tonight is one of those nights when the man of the house is out. This means the rest of us kick off our shoes and don’t put them away and eat in front of the TV, sometimes without using utensils. Something I started making for the kids when they were very little is corn fritters, and they still often want them on a Tuesday night. It’s really just a savory pikelet, and if that’s enough information for you then feel free to move in with the rest of your day. If not, here’s how it’s done.

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If you’re not living somewhere where it’s springtime, get yourself a 410 gram tin of corn. It always seemed like an odd measurement to me, I presume it has been converted from bushels at some point. If you have access to the spring glut of fresh corn, get yourself a few cobs and start slicing the kernels off. This isn’t a job I enjoy, as they bounce everywhere, but I guess that means the dogs get some fibre in their diet. Two or three cobs should do, it’s a very rough recipe.

Transfer the corn to a bowl and mix in two eggs. Also some grated parmesan cheese, I always have some left over from a previous night’s pasta, so anything from a quarter to a half a cup can go in. I don’t let the Moose see, as he has this odd belief that he doesn’t like melted cheese. He’s wrong, of course, everyone likes melted cheese. Then you stir in a cup of plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Then as much milk as will make a thick batter. Don’t ask me how much that is, you should be able to stir it pretty easily, but it shouldn’t be runny.

You can do that much a couple of hours ahead of time, for instance before picking up the kids from school. At eating them time, heat up a frying pan over moderate heat and melt some butter in it. I think butter makes it crispier than oil. Start hoiking in soup spoons of batter. When bubbles start appearing on top, turn them over. You’ll need more butter for every pan full. Repeat until all batter is gone, at which point you turn to the plate you’ve been putting them on to find it empty. It doesn’t really make enough to feed three growing children, so you should also plan to find some leftover fried rice in the freezer to fill up the corners. Or cook them some cobs of corn, it’s really cheap at the moment. You can never get too much corn, just ask any American.

Wonton Wrappers

The problem with going shopping when you’re hungry is that many many things on the shelves of the supermarket look like a good idea. Not Coles, everything there looks appalling and I hate them, but that’s a whole other rant. I’m talking about Harris Farm. Wonton wrappers are amazingly cheap and come in a neat little cube, and I have a thing for the square form. So I’ve had a packet of wonton wrappers sitting in my fridge now for nearly a month and it’s time to either use them or write off that two dollars seventy.

First I tried baking them as tart cases, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them used like that in the a gourmet Traveller magazines I read at the physio. I have a pan from my Nanna’s kitchen that I think you’d use for jam tarts. Twelve depressions, smaller than muffin size, with a rounded bottom. I spray the pan with oil, line the depressions with wrappers, then spray again. After fifteen minutes in the oven they’ve all puffed up in the middle. I think if you sprinkled them with salt or brushed them with teriyaki sauce first they’d make a rather tasty snack. Still, there’s enough that are vaguely tart shaped that I can later fill them with the bacon and egg that the Horror has requested.

Next I chop up chicken, celery, leek and mushrooms and stir fry it with chopped ginger, chili paste, teriyaki sauce and a chunk of palm sugar. Then I have to pick up the boys from their various afternoon activities, and that kind of neglect does make a wonton wrapper dry out a little. I salvage enough to line the pan again with another twelve wrappers and drop spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the middle. It’s very easy to pinch the wrappers together at the top with wet fingers and they look rather delectable. I spray them with oil, then bake them for twenty minutes. You just need to crisp them up, they’re cooked on the inside.

The next lot I’m going to line the tart tray and fill with left over BBQ chicken. I’ll bake that for fifteen minutes then top it with chopped lettuce and capsicum, because that’s what the Moose and the Muffet have requested. I’d better get cracking because I have a committee meeting to get to. I can go with my head held high, because I did manage to get that Treasurer’s report written after all.

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Chicken nuggets

So it’s going to be one of those afternoons of children going hither and yon and requiring food that doesn’t need to be eaten with a knife and fork. Sausages aren’t too bad for this kind of evening, but today they’re getting chicken nuggets. Nice ones. Made with identifiable bits of chicken.

Here are my tips for making chicken nuggets:
1. Don’t go buying your chicken on pension day. The IGA was a seething mass of nonnas, taking turns at manhandling the artichokes and pushing in front each other at the deli counter. I had to elbow one in the ribs to get at the butcher’s fridge.
2. Don’t put them on a baking tray lined with foil unless you really want to increase the aluminium in your diet.
3. Use thighs rather than breasts as they’re a bit more tender. The baking dries them out a bit, and breast is a bit too worthy in this context.

And here’s how.
I chop up six thighs into about twelve pieces each. Then they get the schnitzel treatment, and mine goes like this : dipped in cornflour (REAL cornflour), dipped in egg and milk mix, dipped in breadcrumbs. If you’re going to use Krummies, you may as well buy frozen chicken nuggets, either make your own or get nice ones from a bakery or deli. Lay them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and liberally sprayed with oil. This didn’t occur to me the first time, but they’re not biscuits so they don’t need room to spread, you can pack them in. Spray over the top with oil, again with little or no stint. It’s going to be a lot less than frying them. I’m still not sure how long to bake them, I think I did forty five minutes last time, but I’ll pay attention this time.

And here’s a picture

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We had a birthday party on the weekend, and as I am a thrifty housewife, I saved the leftover chips in a Tupperware container. I whizzed them in my miniature food processor and added them to the crumbs. Where would I be without Tupperware?