Waste not, want not

I like to think of myself as an inventive cook, able to whip something up from a Mother Hubbard-style cupboard at a moment’s notice. Of course, sometimes this is easier said than done, but after a week of nearly constant entertaining and menu planning it’s fun to mix and match leftover ingredients. (A much nicer job than mixing and matching leftovers!)

So last week, when the fridge held a tiny packet of salmon trimmings and half a bottle of cream, I knew just what to do. The cream went into our smallest saucepan, while I filled the biggest pot with hot water and set it on the heat.

Once the water was boiling I threw in enough dried spaghetti for two (about 250g, we have hearty appetites in this house) and enough salt to make the water “as salty as the Mediterranean”.

I heated the cream (about 150mls) to a gentle simmer, then tossed in about 200g of fresh salmon, sliced into batons. I used the skinny ends of tail fillets, but you could use any cut you like. After a minute or two I added a handful of frozen baby peas and a few ribbons of lemon zest, then turned off the heat.

Then it was just a matter of draining the pasta, adding the creamy salmon sauce to the big pot and hey presto, dinner was ready. Economy gastronomy – and hardly any dishes.

The VIP dinner guest…

An Important Personage is coming for dinner. In the days of Jane Austen this would be the new vicar or a wealthy landowner, but in these, less rarefied times, it is simply the Boy Wonder’s new boss. There are things I have learned about the new boss that cannot be repeated, but we are rolling out the welcome mat and laying the best white tablecloth (thank you, St Vincent de Paul) all the same. The funny thing – well, funny to me, anyway – about the Important Personage is that he has gout, which is just the sort of affliction you would expect him to have.
Anyway, we are going to eat Shin of Beef with Ginger and Soy (from River Cottage Everyday), with udon noodles and steamed bok choy. Then, a Greek Orange Syrup Cake, which I haven’t made for years and years. A little note next to it in my recipe book says I first made it in 1999 for Vanessa’s birthday. Shamefully I can’t even remember the last time I spoke to Vanessa. But the cake looks good!

PS River Cottage Everyday is every bit as lovely – and useful – as you might expect. You can find more River Cottage inspiration at http://www.rivercottage.net/, including videos of Hugh making this very dish.