When society demands culinary sophistication but the bank account demands nourishment of its own, there is nowhere to turn but leftovers. Your housemate ate the last slice of pizza and you’ve chucked out the mouldy soup you promised you’d use last week – what can we do when all that’s left are soggy minutiae? It turns out, with meagre offerings and a little creativity, we can forge wonders.
Welcome to the field-tested, last-minute guide on Fine Sharehouse Cuisine (as in, it’ll be perfectly fine to eat, considering pay day is tomorrow).
Let’s check our fridge:
- One Sad-Looking Onion
- One Bread Crust
- Two Steamed Take-Away Dim Sims?
- Three-Quarters Of A Tomato
- Maybe A Cup Of Milk
- One Egg
- Slice Of Ham / Shriveled Old Hot Dog / Something, God, Anything
- The Dregs Of A Frozen Vegetables Bag
- One Spotty Banana
- Bulk-Value Rice
- A Dab Of Butter / Oil / Something Slippery
- Whatever Spices Available
WARNING: Cautiously inspect food on the brink of decomposition. If it’s not the colour you learnt it was in primary school, don’t eat it (unless they’re capsicums, in which case, you’re dealing with immortal entities).
This is an exercise in experimentation, so if you don’t have this exact criteria, then that’s even better – improvisation is fun. Ration well, and put oil or butter on any hot surface you’re using (be it saucepan, oven tray, or car dashboard in January).
ENTREE – “Dim Skins” and “Salsa”?
Peel the doughy skin from the dim sims in large strips and spice it. Daunting as it seems, there are only five true spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chilli flakes and the biggest bottle of mixed herbs on special at the shops. Get these, and you’re Gordon Ramsey for six months. Chuck them all onto your skins with a binding agent (like milk or egg, but you’re saving those – a dab of water and they’ll stick just fine). Shallow fry or oven bake until crisp.
Blend the tomato, or mash it violently with a spoon into a watery paste. Slap it into a small saucepan and fire shots of pepper and chilli flake into it because you’re fancy now. Simmer, stirring with the spoon until thick. Scoop onto a plate with the skins and leave to cool. Congratulations – you’ve got crunchy treats to enjoy with open-minded buddies. (This also works with crusty old tortillas, sliced into triangles.)
MAIN – “Spicy Fried Rice”
No bases better represent the Lego-like versatility of home cookery than the cheap thrills of rice (and pasta). They’re like delicious cable ties, inexplicably holding things together that shouldn’t be.
Dice the onion, ham and the filling of those dim sims into small cubes – the smaller the cubes, the more you can space them in the dish for maximum flavour coverage. Boil some rice, accepting that there is no possible way to cook less than twice as much as you need. Pour water into a cup and mix some garlic and chilli spice in. Fry the onion, ham, dim sim and frozen vegetables in a frying pan. Follow with cooked rice, drizzling the spiced water on top. Simmer until golden. Eat twice as much as you need. Regret this in ten minutes.
DESSERT – “Banana Purée Crumble”
If that banana’s going squishy, good – that’s what they make banana cake from. Take that gorgeous, soft mush and squeeze it from the skin like tar from a lung on an anti-cigarette commercial. Don’t think about that image too much. Save your appetite.
Disintegrate bread crust into tiny crumbs. Brush melted butter on them and fan bake until golden brown. Mash the banana and some milk with a spoon and simmer until combined and thick. Serve in a bowl, generously heap bread crumbs on top, and eat with a plastic spork because you used all the clean spoons for cooking.
BREAKFAST – “Omelette”
It’s a bright and early afternoon, and you’ve woken from a fried-rice-induced coma. You get paid this evening, and it’s time to reward yourself for your culinary prowess. Check that the egg’s okay to use by putting it in a cup of water – if it floats, we have an issue, but if it sinks, then we’re golden. Whisk them in a bowl with a fork (because whisks are unnecessary tools for class division), adding dashes of salt and pepper. Pour into a hot pan, presumably still stained with chilli-seeped oil.
Have you got any ham left? Hot dog? Onion? Salsa? Tortilla crumbs on the coffee table? You have earned freedom from the binding chains of judgement. The enlightened need not explain their actions to housemates or significant others. Funnel literally anything you have left evenly into the pan. Cook on one side and fold in half. Transfer your omelette (or “Victory Disk”) to a plate and savour, dreaming of the bright future filled with take-away and instant Mi Goreng that awaits you.
Photo: The Simpsons.