Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cheap Eats: Why big roasts give you big flavour and big value

I know I've gone on before about the value of a good roast over buying bits and pieces of meat, or heaven forbid some instant meal, but I thought I'd expand a little on my point. 

The reason I started this blog was because I tend to roast a large piece of meat on a Sunday, in true English style, and then use whatever is leftover for food for the rest of the week. Nothing exactly unusual about that - hell, my grans (were they still about) would be surprised if I didn't - but it doesn't seem as common as it used to be.

I reckon I can sum it up in a few points as to why big roasts are a great choice, especially given the current financial climate:

  • By buying a big roast you're getting lots of different bits of meat in one package, so you get variation in flavours and textures just from one piece. 
  • Buying a larger piece is just about always better value than buying separate smaller pieces, as you're not paying for someone to do the work involved in cutting bits up.
  • Making things with the leftovers saves you loads of time - the meat is already cooked, so you can usually turn around dinners during the week in about half an hour or so using leftovers.
  • The value is amazing - I reckon I only spend at most £1 on meat per meal per person, and that's not some sort of supermarket value meat (like some poor bastard chicken from a huge hen house) but good quality meat from local farms
So to do we do with leftovers to make it stretch so far? Here are some examples:

Breast meat is lovely in sandwiches of course, but also great in salads.
The thigh & leg makes wonderful curries.
Just about everything from a chicken can go into a risotto!
Stuffed pancakes or stronganoff - just add some slow cooked onions and mushrooms, a little creme fraiche and you've got a really tasty sauce for just about anything.

Rib of Beef
The rare middle is used for sandwiches or turned it into little steaks.
Tender bits between the ribs themselves can be used for things like salads.
Tougher bits like the meat on top are cut into centimetre cubes and frozen ready for curries or stews.
Anything else left over is minced up and turned into cottage pie or bolognese.

Making curry from leftover rib of beef

Spare Rib
Makes great Schintzel's, tend to have more flavour than the real thing I reckon.
Cubed meat is great for curries again, or pork casseroles.

Shoulder of Lamb
Probably my favourite. I like cubes of it cooked in with rice. You fry up a little onion and garlic in big pieces, add the rice and the lamb and toss around a bit, then in goes twice the amout of water as rice, a little salt, and seal for about twenty minutes until rice is tender. Comfort food!
Also good for curries (reading this you'd think I live off curry!).

Anyhow - enough for now. Just one more thing though - bones! I always try to get meat on the bone, as they make such great stock once you've got the meat off. That stock can be used for soup straight away, but also adds loads more flavour when used for all the dishes above (well, except for sandwiches perhaps).

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