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CHAFF: "1: the husks of corn or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing.

2: worthless things; rubbish." Oxford Languages

Well hopefully not rubbish in this instance, just little bits and pieces.

We all know that phrase "to separate the wheat from the chaff" - well that's what they are literally doing here. First of all they bash the wheat - threshing is the technical term, and then they toss it in the air - winnowing. Although looking at the picture you would wonder how it all separates. Maybe the fine chaff gets blown away on the wind and the heavier grain falls to the ground.

"In cereal crops like rice, barley, oats, and wheat, the seed — the part of the plant that we eat — is surrounded by a husk. This waste material has been called chaff since the twelfth century at least, but the word has a long history as a metaphor meaning "objects and ideas of little or no value," as well."

And anyway is chaff rubbish? Almost they say, although I would have thought that at the very least it could be used as mulch. I did find the tantalising words below on The Daily Telegraph site but they are behind a pay wall, so I got not further and could not find anything elsewhere either:

"Chaff burgers" made from crop waste will be a reality within five years, according to the boss of Quorn... The Telegraph

Quorn by the way makes vegan food.

But chaff is not completely useless as it can be turned into sileage and fed to animals, or used as biofuel. So not at all useless.

Of course it's American - it couldn't be from anywhere else could it? And still on the 'waste not want not' theme because we are talking about spent corn cobs here, not ones with all their kernels on. Although if there are a few hanging on that's alright, and you can actually add a few kernels to the final jelly anyway. So as you use your corn cobs keep the cobs and store them in the freezer ready to make this. (Or just add them to soups and stews for extra flavour - like Parmesan rinds - although the kind of background taste is different of course - sweet corn, umami cheese.) Tom Hunt whose recipe this is above (found in The Guardian) calls it vegan honey and indeed the end product seems to be more of a syrup than a jelly.

However, it's a standard southern American thing and there are lots of recipes out there. They don't all have the jalapeno in them and Tom Hunt added a tiny bit of turmeric for colour too, but you don't have to. This one here is a genuine American recipe from Allspice Blog, and, as you can see is a quite different colour. Fundamentally you boil your corn cobs to get all the flavour from them, for quite a while. Strain the liquid, add sugar and then boil until the required setting point is reached. Some people seem to add pectin as I'm guessing the corn doesn't have much.

Pasta Mista

"ends of packets rounded up like unruly children and put in one place." Rachel Roddy

I seem to be on a 'waste not want not' kick today. This one is from Rachel Roddy's An A-Z of Pasta book. What we are talking about here are all those remainders from pasta packets mixed together. I don't know about you but I always seem to have little bits left over from a packet, so I really warmed to the idea of collecting them all together into one jar until you have enough to do something with.

It's a Neopolitan thing - well it's poor food and the south of Italy is traditionally the home of the poor. It is also the place where, they say, the best pasta is made - in the town of Gragnano just south of Naples.

And so:

"The high-quality pasta coming out of Naples was also expensive and unaffordable to many of the residents in the surrounding areas. So pasta makers would collect the scraps—the broken bits, the jagged corners—into bins or drawers and sell them by weight at a lower price (pasta was sold by weight for most of its history, even into the ‘70s)." Pasta Social Club

But yes, even the expensive end of the pasta industry still produce pasta mista. I guess it means that there is no waste from the factories, but you can do it much cheaper at home. Although I suppose if you are buying expensive pasta even leftovers won't be cheap. They won't get wasted though.

You need to be a little bit careful with your mix, because some pastas cook more quickly than others, although Rachel Roddy seems to think this is part of its charm. Really?

"slight differences are part of the beauty. The corkscrew of fusilli firmer than a u-bend on maccheroni, the almost cruchy, ruffled mafaldine rubbing up against an inch of bucatini, all of them at home in a dense minestrone." Rachel Roddy

Soupy things seem to be the preferred options for this kind of pasta, so here are two options - Pasta mista with confit tomato and caramelized eggplant from the Pasta Social Club which I have to say looks gorgeous, and Pasta e patate Napoletana from Rachel Roddy. Potatoes (and beans) are apparently a popular partner to pasta mista.

I'm definitely going to start a jarof the stuff though.

I'm going with a stream of consciousness here, but a slight change of direction - well a tiny one. I saw this Rachel Roddy recipe lately and was very tempted by it. I adore potatoes and also lemon and olive oil and I would definitely always have some zucchini in my vegetable box in the fridge if they weren't so expensive. I really should go to the market or perhaps I should have one more go at growing my own. Anyway the key thing about this dish is that the vegetables are braised very slowly in the oven with a large amount of olive oil. A kind of confit.

"if dishes that include oil lack oil, they are dismissed as νεροβραστο (nerovrasto), which means “water boiled” or “insipid” – the ultimate degradation for any vegetable to undergo. Now is also probably a good moment to remember that olive oil is not just a cooking fat, it is a principal ingredient with a deep flavour, like liquid herbs." Rena Salaman/Rachel Roddy

Rachel Roddy compiled the recipe from four different sources - an Arizona cowboy called Ernie who gave his recipe to a cook called Deborah Madison; Carla Tomasi and Rena Salaman, both of whom have written cookbooks and she used their advice to tell us what to do with them when the dish was complete:

"Serve Ernie-style with a steak, Rena-style with a spoonful of egg and lemon soup (avgolemono), Deborah-style with crisp breadcrumbs or hard-boiled eggs, Carla-style with white beans or twice-cooked greens, or Rachel-style with bread and too much wine."

Lincolnshire roofs

Alas I can find no picture of this baked sandwich/roll from Claudia Roden's Picnic. I noticed it the other day when I was looking for something to cook from it. It sounded, shall I say, interesting, quaintly and old-fashionedly British. Anyway it was obviously not enough of a local speciality for it to have reached food tourism worthiness. It's a recipe from Mrs. Leyel who wrote in the 1920s. I wonder whether there are any Lincolnshire housewifes still making it?

"Freshly baked rolls are split and the soft inside is taken out. They are then liberally buttered and filled with chopped hard boiled eggs mixed with anchovy paste, butter and pepper. The halves are then put together and baked till very hot and crisp. Wrap them in aluminium foil and put them on a gentle fire."

Did they have aluminium foil in the twenties? A hundred years ago.

Mango and rhubarb jam

Bingo - here it is and it didn't take long. Five small jars, although we had to mix in a bit of the reaminders in a plum jam jar to make up the last one. I haven't really tasted it, but I may have stuffed it up slightly, but then again maybe not. The recipe I found suggested 3/4 of the weight of the fruit in sugar, which I thought was a lot, so only added about half the weight. But to my mind it still tasted too sweet, so I added a fair amount of lime juice - real lime juice but out of a plastic bottle so not quite real - and not Australian either. Which I don't understand. Surely we can make bottled lime juice here? We shall see if I did make a mistake when we eat it.

Last thing (almost)

I can't quite remember where I found this now, but it caught my eye. A notice in a deli, and food for thought:

"Your order:

  • Can be fast and good, but it won’t be cheap.

  • Can be fast and cheap, but it won’t be good.

  • Can be good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.

Pick two—because you aren’t going to get it good, cheap, and fast."

My thought is that this is surely not true? Of course you can have it all - good, cheap and fast. Like mango and rhubarb jam - it really didn't take long. The rhubarb was free and the mangoes were from a tray in the Queen Vic Market - ridiculously cheap.

Salmon for dinner

Tonight's salmon and asparagus won't be cheap but it will be fast and good. Fish is horrendously expensive these days - at least in the supermarket. I won't be using this recipe from a website called Plays Well With Butter, Sheet Pan Salmon and Asparagus with Crispy Smashed Potatoes & Lemony Dill Yogurt Sauce; although I'm thinking about it, because it's all baked in the oven. I was going to fry, but maybe not. Baking it all together might be a good idea. Garlic, oil, lemon and dill will be the flavour enhancers - as here really.

Of course I could also try en papillote but I fancy some crispy potatoes, whether smashed or just roasted. We'll see. I fear the asparagus season will be over soon, so I am grabbing it when I see it.

And I really should go to the market. The fish especially is to die for and we haven't been eating much fish of late.


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