Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Tyranny of Abundance

No doubt dreaming of leisurely weekend breakfasts Stevie brought home a large plastic box of supermarket croissants two Saturdays ago. He didn't eat them, Bob didn't eat them, they sat sweating on the counter for a couple of days until a Greek chorus started up in my head: "Waste not, want not!" By Tuesday I could stand it no longer and toasted one, as I ate half of it the chorus divided: "You will be rewarded for this with enormous hips," wailed one section: "Wasteful, wasteful, wasteful!" the second section worked itself into a frenzy. I clutched myself and threw the rest of the croissant into the bin. I hate throwing food away. I hate throwing anything away. But I hate feeling full more, and it's possible I have an irrational fear of being overweight (I put on four stone when I was pregnant, and still remember the difficulty I had climbing stairs, I never want to feel too heavy for my legs again).

A few days later he brought home a large ciabatta loaf: "You like this ciabatta, don't you?" I do. I rustled up something moppably oily for supper. We ate half the bread with it. The rest joined the croissants in a corner of the kitchen. By Sunday I couldn't even think about the kitchen without the chorus starting up. It sounded like a thousand Kate Bushes singing 'waste not want not' over and over to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody (remember that?), as a mob swept broken glass with barbed wire brooms. I had to do something and that something could not be me eating half a loaf of brick stale bread and five croissants by myself, they had to be made into something the others would be glad of. But what? At the eleventh hour, just as I was about to throw myself from the tower, in she rode:

My hero, Ms L.

I got her latest for Christmas and have since read it from cover to cover. It's bursting with recipes I'm desperate to try, and it has a whole section on dealing with leftovers, including a recipe for chocolate bread pudding. I decided to make a version of this with the croissants. So after checking them for mold, or general mankiness

and finding them fine (which is in itself alarming given that they were over a week old, but I was able to disable that particular bell), I got to work.

I sliced them into fat rounds, as if they were salamis. Decided against chocolate and smeared them with butter and jam instead (I quite like the idea of finding the odd jam-free one in the dish so proceeded accordingly).

Squished them into a pie dish. Made some custard by whisking together in a jug: three eggs, a couple of teaspoons vanilla extract, 200mls double (heavy) cream, 400mls full fat milk and about a quarter cup of caster sugar.

Poured the custard over the jammy croissant discs and left them to become one for about half an hour. Into a medium low (gas mark 3) oven it went for an hour's baking,

after which it was crisply burnished on top

and moistly custardy within. Delicious. The raspberry jam and vanilla custard seemed to work particularly well together with the slightly salty croissants.

To offset the calories I made

a light supper of chicken Caesar salad. This not only made me feel less heavy, it dealt with the stale bread. That silenced the bastard chorus.


The Unbearable Banishment said...

I just drooled into my keyboard. Damn you. You owe me a new one. And those croissants never would have made it to Thursday in my house. I'm just sayin'.

The Pollinatrix said...

If that's not decadence I don't know what is. I have a terrible weakness for the combination of chocolate and croissants. It's a good thing I wasn't around when you made that.

I actually have a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding that calls for croissants, but haven't tried it yet. I think just knowing there's a chocolate version has ruined me for it. If I attempted to make the pumpkin one now I'd be thinking about chocolate the whole time.

Linnhe Mara said...

And there is the difference between us. You listen to that inner voice that gleefully reminds you of the perils of high calorie intake and avoid such pitfalls. I on the other hand ignore it and suffer many a crisis of conscience later. I would have scoffed all of the croissants then spent the next week scouring Moffat for a suitable wailing wall.

That being said, I may just have to reign myself in next time and try that pudding. ( I am making the 'Hannibal' sound as I type but I have absolutely no idea how to translate that to print! )

Scarlet Blue said...

I just glue left-overs directly to my hips. It saves a lot of bother.

Impressed by Nigella, though. I may get that book.

Kim Ayres said...

I think Scarlet's idea has potential - a new version of Lady Gaga's meat dress is surely ready for the making.

You get the stale croissants, and I'll get my camera :)

Alesa Warcan said...

I dig how the second voice vanished between the first half of the events and the second. ; j

It all sounds and looks tasty, and wastes nothing!
Bread pudding is a super classic way of using up old bread, and readily provides tasty results. And I love how you can make anything from this recipe, it lends itself to whatever leftovers and seasonal produce you have at hand. Cheese and smoked bacon... Tomatoes, courgette, and eggplant... Honey, lowfat yogurt, apples and currants...

One of my favourites is really similar to what you just made except it uses neither jam nor butter- and it has vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, and minimal amount of brown cane sugar for flavour. Then I devour it with maple syrup.
How is your photo hunting going?
The weather hasn't cooperated for outdoor shots over here... But I got some indoor shots. : 7

red-handed said...

Ah Nigella ... how often she's saved me (and not just with cooking).

Eryl said...

UB ~ I was quite startled they lasted here. If they'd been panettone that would have been a different matter.

Polli ~ make the pumpkin version but throw in a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips!

Linnhe ~ I haven't always listened to it but the older I get the more insistent it becomes. Perhaps we should find a suitable spot and build a wailing wall, I bet it would be popular!

Scarlet ~ the book is great, not just for recipes either, I've just rearranged a kitchen drawer thanks to it and am so thrilled.

Kim ~ I've seen that look in your eyes before!

Alesa ~ that voice is happy as long as it thinks I'm feeding other people.Your version sounds delicious and I have all the ingredients to hand! I once had a rather elegant version made with wild mushrooms and truffle oil which I've been meaning to recreate for some time, and I'm now imagining a pizza flavoured one.

Same here, and though I did get out on Monday I have all indoor shots, so far.

Eryl said...

Red ~ she's a woman of many talents.

Alesa Warcan said...

Ooh truffle oil, I keep reading about that stuff, but I have never tasted it... How strongly does it taste of truffles? And from your desire to recreate it, I'm guessing it wasn't redundant with the wild mushrooms?

Lol, in our household we often talk about our potluck pick-nick and who'd be invited... Peter O'toole, Toni Mitchel, Bhuda, Eleanore Roosevelt, my french great-grandfather, [..], and you! ; j

nick said...

That looks totally delicious. I know all it takes is a bit of effort and improvising, but sheer laziness has a habit of striking first. I know what you mean about waste. Even throwing away a carrot pains me when someone somewhere in the world hasn't eaten for days.

angryparsnip said...

I was just hoping you were leading up to a bread pudding.
One year for some reason I had several panettone left over as I am the only one who eats them in my home... so I made a bread pudding and all was devoured !

I must check out her book now! I love watching her on the Cooking Channel so I should check out her book.
I love The Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks myself. Easy and tasty.

cheers, parsnip

Eryl said...

Alesa ~ you have to be quite careful of the brand I've found, I once bought one that tasted of petrol. The good ones are very good and you need only a few drops to transform pasta or egg dishes and enhance anything with mushrooms. I wish I could remember the best one I've tried.

Feeling very flattered and slightly smug!

Nick ~ I get round the vegetable issue by having a couple of compost bins. I do think you have to develop a kind of routine when it comes to using leftovers, you need a cache of favourite recipes, and thus not have to think about it too much. Otherwise it all becomes a bit tiresome and fervent.

Parsnip ~ panettone is one of my favourite things in the whole world to eat. I love it toasted, spread thickly with butter, and drizzled with maple syrup. A bread pudding made with it would be bliss.

I don't know the Barefoot Contessa (apart from the film version), googling now!

Kass said...

This looks and sounds so good, my hips expanded scrolling down your blog. Why does everyone have something about ample hips? Now my mind is painting a picture of The Big-Hipped Woman striding down the lane, swatting people to and fro with her swinging hips (it could very well be me).

Golden West said...

That looks delicious, Eryl! I don't like throwing food away, either - I always feel guilty at being wasteful.

The raccoons around here come out at night and we avoid contact with each other. There is large field next door where they can roam for grub unhindered, along with the skunks, possums and the many neighborhood cats, gophers and countless birds. We feel fortunate to have a bit of wild space so close at hand, especially in "suburbia"!

savannah said...

oh my! i'll have to pick this cookbook up before the MITM gets home! xoxoxo

Charlie said...

It sure looks good to me, Eryl: I love things with bread and custard.

I like your idea of a wailing wall—I don't think one is enough for all of us who need to wail.

Pat said...

Yes I was going to suggest doing a slimming version ie sans chocolate. That should do it :)

angryparsnip said...

You mention her other cookbook often. Which other ones do you have and use more ?
When I see her on TV I just love the way she cooks.

cheers, parsnip

debra said...

I am suspect of foods that last longer that seems natural. When I am in the same situation as you, my chickens eat extra well.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! Old bread is made in a variant of "Armer Ritter", not sure how it is called in English.

Eryl said...

Kass ~ suddenly big hips don't sound so bad!

Golden ~ gophers sound even more fun than raccoons! Suburbia doesn't sound like it's quite the same thing in California as it is here, here a dog without a lead would have those curtains twitching.

Savannah ~ ooh, you'll have to let me know what you decide to make for him, X

Charlie ~ perhaps we could orchestrate a virtual wailing wall with space for everyone.

Pat ~ I hope so, I ate far more of it than I should have, X

Parsnip ~ I have them all, except the one on Christmas, and I have no idea which one I use the most. I think I have found her very first book, How to Eat and Nigella Express the most useful in terms of learning new tricks, though I use How to be a Domestic Goddess a lot because I like baking so much. The only one I can't recommend wholeheartedly is Feast, not for any solid reason, it just didn't seduce me in the same way. I really ought to have another go with it.

Titus said...

Huzzah! Looks brilliant, and when am I coming to dinner. Or even we, if you can stand it.
I love, love, love bread pudding, but I'm trad. - stale buttered bread, sultanas, lemon zest. Then it's an eggy/milk/cream mix, which equates to custard I guess. And lots of nutmeg.

nick said...

We don't actually throw past-it vegetables away, all food waste is collected by the council and turned into compost. If the vegetables are still edible, we find a recipe that'll use them. Nothing is dumped!

Eryl said...

Debra ~ now you have me wondering if my garden can accommodate chickens!

Mago ~ I will have to google.

Titus ~ when are you free?

Interesting that your trad version has lemon zest in it. My mother-in-law's was as yours except for the zest, my mothers had zest but cinnamon instead of nutmeg and I had always thought this was due to her asian roots.

Nick ~ brilliant that your council collects and turns food waste into compost. Ours will compost but we have to deliver to the tip, which I can't be arsed to do. I have quite a few flagging carrots at the moment, any suggestions?

MaryWitzl said...

I'd never stop cooking if I tried to use up all the junk that gets brought home! I thicken soup with old bread, turn bargain vegetables into soups and dodgy sausages into casseroles, but our bird table generally gets the brunt of it.

Croissants never make it past a day here at the most, but if they ever do, I'll be back!

Eryl said...

I've never tried thickening soup with old bread, will have to try it.

rochambeau said...

Oh SUPER YUM!!!! How delicious this sounds Eryl!!!!! AND LOOKS TOO!!!
Also your chicken Caesar. BUT BACK To your bread pudding. Bravo! It's so pretty and delicious sounding also, it's beautiful how the circles look!

Many years ago, my friend Frances and I would get together and eat a humongous Caesar for dinner and then make something super decadent to have for dessert. Thank you for bringing back the memory and idea!


The World According To Me said...

I've got that book! Well, I think it's that one, and made the toad in the hole last week!
Your pictures are mouth watering deliciously scrumptious looking!

Alesa Warcan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eryl said...

Constance ~ what a lovely memory! Salad followed by decadent dessert sounds far preferable to a heavy meal followed by fruit somehow.

Worldy ~ the toad in the hole is on my list of must makes, hope it was good.

Alesa ~ love chinese food and have yet to find a really good chinese restaurant in Scotland, so am slightly envious but in a good way!

No worries about being late, we have stormy weather today disrupting everything, my internet connection has been on and off all day. Hopefully you have my pictures now.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am grinning at the chorus in your head - lawd I know that chorus and those fears...dang.

Your bread pudding looks delicious and I don't even like bread pudding!