Every Last Crumb

A week or so ago, I saw a lot of twitter debate about the BBC Food and drink programme entitled Every Last Crumb which involved Michel Roux and Mary Berry offering their own food waste tips. One of the main areas of debate was that more expensive food keeps better and that if food were more expensive, we would waste less. I disagree with this, I personally agree with Michel Roux, who argued that regardless of how much food costs; the attitude to wastefulness is the most important factor in reducing food waste.

Mary Berry who lived through rationing, argued that the reason the younger generation waste more food is down to lack of education and in part I’d agree with this. I’m a self-taught cook, who has learnt how to use up various ingredients through trial, error and experimentation but at the same time I don’t ever remember my mum throwing anything away. Roasts were made to last a couple of days with the left-overs served up on a Monday, the dark meat that no-one wanted to eat was thrown into a curry and a large proportion of the weekly shop went straight into the freezer to ensure that the food was preserved as long as possible.

In part I think that some of the problem comes from the huge choice and availability that we have in supermarkets. As a child dinner was generally meat and two veg, dishes that didn’t require huge amounts of ingredients. The food revolution and the abundance of TV cookery programmes has meant that people have become much more inventive in the kitchen. The problem with world cuisine and restaurant quality dishes is that they often require multiple unusual ingredients that can’t necessarily be used in every day cooking. The act of planning one meal at a time hinders the ability to reduce food waste.

This is where meal planning comes to the forefront of reducing food waste and it was great to hear Mary Berry talk about this. The action of looking through your fridge weekly to see what needs using up and planning a meal with these ingredients before heading out to the supermarket is the key to ensuring that the majority of perishables are used up.

Another key point that came out of the programme was that it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute ingredients. If a recipe calls for a particular cheese or herb, there’s nothing wrong with substituting that ingredient with something that you already have in stock. This is something that I do regularly, for items such as dried herbs, a quick Google will tell you what alternatives can be used for something that you don’t currently have in the kitchen cupboard. Here is a great table to get you started. For shallots I use onions; sometimes a stir-fry calls for chicken but I only have beef or pork in the freezer, the list is goes on. This might not be how it’s done in restaurants and it might alter the taste of a dish slightly but remember restaurants are cooking for multiple diners and buy only the quantities they need. Before you buy a large batch of a particular ingredient ask yourself will you use it? If not, can it be substituted?

Regardless of some of the debates that the programme raised, it’s great to see prime time TV putting a focus on how to reduce food waste. It’s not just the BBC giving airtime to the issue; Channel 4 is now in its second series of Jamie’s money saving meals, where recipes are made from leftovers, the show is also filled with tips on substituting & preserving ingredients.

Also in the media is Sainsbury’s make your roast go further campaign, championed by the wonderful Jack Monroe. With this increasing focus on thriftiness and wastefulness, hopefully attitudes and habits to food waste will change, as we are all capable of making small changes that will help reduce the growing problem of food waste.

Too Much Turkey?

This is only the second Christmas where I’ve been in charge of the shopping and the cooking and the first time it’s at my house. I’m really keen to make it extra special but  I also want to make sure that no food gets wasted.

To make things more difficult, it’s only a small gathering of three people but I still wanted a full turkey with all the trimmings. I couldn’t bring myself to resort to a turkey crown which would be much more suitable for a small gathering, it just wouldn’t be Christmas for me without a big bird stuffed on the table.

The smallest turkey I could find says it serves 6-8, and even with my gluttonous family, we won’t manage to scoff all 5kg down in one sitting, so it’s a good job that one of my favourite things about Christmas is the turkey left-over concoctions. I used to love sitting down to turkey butties on Christmas evening, already stuffed from lunch, the whole family would always manage to find room for a turkey sandwich in front of the TV, the final indulgence of the most indulgent day of the year.

Christmas is all about tradition and Boxing day tradition at my parents normally involved a trip to the football match. Lunch before we headed off would be simple cold cuts of turkey with some oven chips. Now this might not sound like a gastronomical delight but as a child it was probably my favourite meal of the festive period. The best thing for mum was that having slaved over the oven for the entirety of the previous day, no cooking was involved.

The other child-hood dish I remember that rose out of the turkey remnants was a turkey curry for dad. Mum used to freeze all the dark meat and then a week or so later dad would be in for a treat. The best thing about a curry is if you’re feeling extra lazy you don’t even have to cook it from scratch. There’s no shame in picking up a jar of already made curry sauce for a quick evening meal.

I’ve become a bit more adventurous with left-overs in recent years, boxing day now normally involves a salad; something a bit lighter to give the stomach a rest after the big day. An all round pleaser from recent times has been Jamie Oliver’s Asian inspired turkey salad. A quick simple and palette refreshing salad that not only makes use of the left-over turkey, but also other festive ingredients such as clementines, pomegranates and nuts.

This year, keeping with the festive spirit, we’re going for more of a Waldorf based salad using up turkey, cranberries and walnuts, but the salad munching possibilities are endless. The mantra really is “anything goes”.

In terms of the remaining turkey, I’m definitely going to follow in mum’s tradition and get a curry on the go, the spices in a curry make a nice change to the other flavours ingested over Christmas. We also received some lovely Japanese Ramen bowls for Christmas so I’m hoping to come up with a turkey ramen inspired recipe that I’ll keep you posted on.

There are thousands of recipes that call for left over turkey;  casseroles, pasta bakes and soups can all be created from left-overs. A few simple dishes that you can cook up, keep in the fridge/freezer and keep the family fed over the festive break.  It’s also not just the turkey that can be re-used, left over vegetables can be frozen, turned into soups or rostis.

Nigel Slater, recently had a great programme on BBC where he used all leftovers imaginable to create a wide variety of dishes including bubble & squeak patties and a delicious sounding perky turkey salad. I also saw a fantastic post from Recycle for Greater Manchester that spent the twelve days of Christmas using up all the leftovers.

There’s so many resources available, on-line, on TV and in print that there really is no excuse for food waste over Christmas and in my opinion you never really can have too much turkey.

So get cooking and it would be great to hear about any left-over concoctions of your own.

UK families throw away almost a meal a day!

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while, but could never quite motivate myself to get started. The motivation came last week, when yet another news story broke about the insane amount of food wastage in the UK.

According to statistics in the Guardian, the average UK family is throwing away  almost a meal a day, a cost of £60 a month. When converted to food quantities, the numbers are mind-blowing (86 million chickens, 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes….). In a country where food poverty is on the increase, as is the reliance of food banks, it’s staggering to think that the solution to these problems, may partially lie in our own kitchen cupboards.

In my experience, most food wastage in the house occurs due to over-buying, poor planning and a lack of cooking skills. We’ve all seen the Jamie Oliver campaigns on teaching the nation to cook and eat healthy meals, the consumer programmes advising how to reduce food waste & shopping bills, alongside the media criticism of the supermarkets’ contribution to the problem via BOGOFF offers and use by dates.

This blog, on the other hand, isn’t meant to be a campaign or a lecture. It isn’t intended to be a criticism of other peoples habits, it’s simply a narrative of how me, as a busy working professional, keeps food waste to the minimum. I’ll be updating people with weekly meal plans, shopping lists and attempts and failures at new recipes & ingredient combinations, for any one who’s interested in not only reducing food waste but also food in general.