Thursday, 19 February 2015
What to do with spare tomato juice
I didn't used to be the thrifty kind, someone who hated the idea of waste, but as I got older (and perhaps more aware of how the earth's resources were getting more slender) I have become very willing to do my bit to avoid throwing away foodstuffs that could yet be made into something nice to eat. This impulse has for some time also extended to recycling materials, and so I am conscientious - if it is convenient - about popping plastic bottles, glass bottles, tin cans, and cardboard into my recycling bin at home. Conscientious, but not obsessive: I am not entirely convinced that glass and plastic really matter from the recycling point of view, although I do see that it's much better to separate them out from the stuff that will rot down naturally in a landfill site.
Anyway, back to food that shouldn't be thrown away. I've now trained myself - once back from shopping - to split up packets of food I've bought, and pop meal-sized portions into freezer bags for later defrosting and cooking. For example, one pack of six bacon rashers becomes three little potential meals, repacked into three sealed freezer bags. And I'll cut a big fillet of fresh fish into two, bag up the pieces, and freeze them for later. It takes only a little extra effort, and it completely sidesteps the problem of half-used fresh food going off in the fridge.
I still have an occasional problem with fresh vegetables. If they are to look great in proper meals, they need to be eaten quickly, and an unexpected spate of eating-out with friends generally leaves me with sad-looking carrots and parsnips, and green stuff past its best. I am now thinking about using the best bits of yellowing broccoli and dodgy-looking green beans in home-made soups - a new venture for me - and the prospect is exciting. I haven't done it before, because of the preparation involved (it's as much trouble as putting a casserole together) and the problem of what to do with all the soup made. It can't be consumed all at once, so how to store it? But recently I've found some unused kitchen gadgets in the kitchen (things that Mum had, but didn't get round to using) and some handy sealable plastic containers of the right size, and I think I will soon be in business. Lucy's Hearty Homemade Chorizo, Manchego and Onion Soup...mmmm! Lucy's Hearty Homemade Smoked Mackerel, Parsnip and Leek soup...it all sounds good to me!
Which brings me on to tomato juice. Not bought as such, but the thick fluid you get in a tin of plum tomatoes from any supermarket. The tin costs very little. It usually contains four plum tomatoes (well, Waitrose tins do). I will spoon out two of these per meal, whether it's a breakfast (cue a breakfast shot with bacon and coffee)...
...or an evening meal (as here with liver, courgettes and potato)...
..or even with chicken, red peppers, mushrooms and noodles...
As you can see, I like to cook meals with vivid colours in them, and tinned tomatoes provide an eye-catching splash of red! But I don't want splashes of tomato juice as well, or at least not too much of it, and so for a long while I tipped away the unwanted tomato juice, which was often one third of the contents of the can. It seemed such a pity.
Then, just before last Christmas, I made up my mind that drinking and driving had to be taken seriously, and I considered what I could enjoy at the pub that was alcohol-free. I needed to go no-alcohol after my initial large glass of wine. And I rediscovered Tomato Juice and Worcester Sauce (spiced up even further with a dash or two of Tabasco). It's not to everyone's taste, but I loved it. And I soon wondered whether I might make up my own version at home, from the tomato juice I would otherwise throw away. And so, once a week, or sometimes oftener, I now open a tin of plum tomatoes with a non-alcoholic evening drink in mind, as well as two cooked meals.
So that's the scene. One opened tin of Waitrose plum tomatoes, already rinsed out and ready for my recycling bin. Two plum tomatoes in the pan for gentle heating as part of tonight's meal. Two in a former conserve jar (the Bon Maman ones are perfect for this), to pop in my fridge, ready for another meal very soon. The 'unwanted' juice in a second jar for the fridge, but with a delicious cool savoury drink in mind.
And maybe that very evening, or the next, I'll get out the tomato juice, add a little water to make it runnier, shake in some Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce - then a dash or two of chilli sauce - and stir it all up with a long spoon. And start sipping.
Fabbo! What a lovely drink. Smooth and cool, and yet with a hot kick. And I'm sure it's diet-friendly.