It must have something to do with the disposable wealth we had in the early naughties – if you chucked out a few potatoes you’d happily buy some more. I think it also has something to do with eduction. I cringe when I hear people saying “these apples are out of date, I’d better thrown them out” ! Stop, I think, are they mouldy, do they still taste ok? Couldn’t you just make baked apples and serve them for dessert with ice-cream?
Today, we cannot afford to throw food out, not just to help our pockets but to reduce landfill – not to mention to heal our conscience as millions of families around the world starve. But at the same time, I know it is hard – I find it very difficult not to waste food. It is twice as hard when there are two of you, packets and portion sizes seemed to be designed for four.
The trick is, of course, all in the planning. And to illustrate this point I’ve come up with a range of dishes using crème fraiche. I only started using this ingredient more recently and found it fantastic to use, bin fact in many ways it is better than cream because it keeps in the fridge once opened for a few weeks.
But the problem is you only need a spoonful of the stuff for most dishes, perhaps to enrich a sauce, or as a blob next to a rich chocolate cake. So you need to plan ahead to make meals that involve crème fraiche three or four times in a fortnight to ensure you use the whole tub. You can apply the same method for any ingredient. See my post a few years ago for using up a whole savoy cabbage http://bit.ly/o7tl41
On top of these recipes don’t forget you can use crème fraiche to serve alongside desserts, or instead of yoghurt with fruit. I find it also works as a good substitute to sour cream, for instance with fajitas or enchiladas. If you’ve got some good recipes with crème fraiche,let me know.
French chicken, with lettuce and peas
(This recipe was from BBC Good Food magazine, here I have changed the quantities to suit two adults eating) This is an absolutely delicious dinner that is perfect for a midweek supper, but I think would impress friends at a dinner party as well. The sauce it creates is garlicky and salty and very tasty indeed.
Six rashers of smoked streaky bacon (or mostly I use the packs of cubed pancetta)
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
300ml chicken stock (half a stock cube is ok)
200g frozen peas
1 whole little gem lettuce, roughly shredded
2tbsp crème fraiche
1. In a large frying pan that has a lid, fry off your chicken pieces until golden on both sides. Remove and set aside.
2. Add your bacon or pancetta to the pan and fry until beginning to crisp, add the garlic and spring onions and fry for two minutes more.
3. Return the chicken to the pan and add the hot chicken stock and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
4. Remove the lid and add the frozen peas and lettuce. Return the lid and cook for a couple of minutes more.
5. Turn the heat off and stir in the crème fraiche. Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread to dunk in the juices.
Creamy leek and mushroom pasta
This is a deliciously creamy and indulgent pasta dish, although if you are trying to watch your weight you could use half-fat crème fraiche and reduce the amount of cheese.
2 leeks, sliced
1 pack of pancetta, cut into pieces (or get the packs of cubed pancetta)
150g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3-4 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
Handful off cheese (your choice, cheddar is fine, as is parmesan)
200g pasta (penne is a good shape to choose)
1. Put your pasta on to boil.
2. Gently fry your leeks in some butter for around five minutes until soft, remove from the pan and set aside. Increase the heat and add the mushroom and fry for a few minutes to get some colour on them. Remove and set aside with the leeks.
3. Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until starting to go crispy. Add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes, then return the leeks and mushrooms to the pan.
4. Dollop in three or four tablespoons of crème fraiche and stir to combine. Drain your pasta and add to the pan. Throw in the cheese and stir until it has melted and created a creamy sauce. Serve.
Simple hot smoked salmon salad with lemon and crème fraiche dressing
This is a meal you can literally make by opening a few packets and assembling. The warm crispy potatoes are a great added extra and turn this salad into an evening meal. If you have some cold, cooked new potatoes in the fridge you can just sauté them in a pan with some herbs for five minutes to make them crisp.
Pack of two hot smoked salmon fillets
Bag of washed watercress
4-6 new potatoes, halved or quartered depending on their size
1. Put the new potatoes on a baking tray with some olive oil, salt, pepper and some woody herbs such as thyme or rosemary (or use some dried herbs). Roast at 200 degrees for around 30 minutes until crispy.
2. Divide the watercress between two plates and flake the salmon over the top.
3. Mix about 3tbsp of crème fraiche with the zest of half a lemon and about 1tbsp of the juice, mix in with some salt and pepper and stir in some finely chopped chives.
4. When the potatoes are cooked, place them in the salad and drizzle with the dressing. Adorn with borage flowers if you want to make it pretty.
Creamy feta dip with warm flatbreads
These make great nibbles at a party or even a starter before a Mediterranean meal. I can give no specific quantities, just make as much as you like!
For the dip: Mix about the same amount of crème fraiche and feta cheese together. Use a fork to break the feta down as much as possible. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and lots of chopped herbs; chives, parsley, mint and basil work well.
For the pitta: Melt some butter in a small bowl and add some slices of garlic and thyme leaves. Mix together and using a pastry brush, rub over the top of the pitta. Place under a grill until starting to puff up, turn over brush again and grill until starting to go golden. Slice into quarters and serve on a platter with the dip.