Wine Ice Cubes

On the 8th day of Christmas…

Wine Ice Cubes

Following on from yesterday’s post for using up leftover prosecco to make jellies, here is another alcohol inspired tip.

If following the new year your liver can’t quite face finishing off any leftover wine but you can’t bear to throw the final dregs away, a good idea is to freeze the remnants into ice cubes that can later be used for cooking as and when recipes call for it. Not only does this mean you get to avoid tipping any leftover wine down the sink, but also that you don’t have to open an entire new bottle when a recipe may only call for a splash.

I freeze any leftover wine in ice cube trays, once frozen I tend to remove from the ice trays and store in freezer bags. If you’re a meticulous cook, you can always measure the volume of each ice cube  so you now how many to use in a recipe, however I must admit that I always just throw in an indiscriminate amount of ice cubes when needed, either taking them out to defrost in advance or sometimes just throwing them in still frozen.

It’s a great tip that can also be used to freeze items such as leftover stock, curry pastes or lemon/lime juice. In fact I’m a big advocate of freezing ingredients when I’m unable to use them up before they’re likely to spoil and have written about this previously  here, if you’d like some further ideas.

Cheese Pinwheels

On the 5th day of Christmas…

Cheese Pinwheels

As it’s almost new year and almost time for yet another party, I thought I’d post a recipe idea that can be used as quick and simple dinner party nibbles.

Cheese is another ingredient that we seem to buy in abundance over Christmas; when else is it acceptable to essentially create your own cheese room.

If you haven’t managed to demolish the mound of cheese in your fridge over Christmas, cheese pinwheels are a wonderful way of getting through it and provide either a yummy snack, a dinner party canapé or a handy lunch for later in the year as they can  be frozen when cooked.

If you google cheese pinwheels you’ll find hundreds of recipes but simply put you will need pre-made puff pastry, tomato puree and of course cheese.  Other ingredients such as herbs, ham and vegetables can also be added for other variations.

All you have to do is take a sheet of puff pastry, smother it in tomato puree, sprinkle with the cheese and any other additional ingredients and roll. To create the rolls, cut the topped pastry into strips of around 2-3cm thick, roll into a pinwheel and bake according to the puff pastry instructions on the packet.

Simple, cheesy goodness.

Christmas Pudding Trifle

On the 4th day of Christmas…

Christmas pudding trifle

Every year for as long as I can remember, my sister has baked christmas cakes for the entire family.

A couple of years ago I decided that I should get in on the tradition and contribute to the festive feast as well, deciding that puddings would be my thing.

I was met with a lot of groans; apparently Christmas pudding isn’t the favourite desert amongst my family, however they’ve now been converted by Nigel Slaters recipe which can be found here;  a golden, fruity and light version of this traditional christmas staple.

Despite its deliciousness, there always seems to be pudding left over after Christmas day and as I wasn’t paying attention to the recipe properly this year, I ended up with a lot of Christmas pudding that was surplus to requirements (see below).

20141229-221833.jpgHowever I’ve managed not to have a pudding meltdown as it’s a desert with an incredibly long shelf life, and what’s wrong with Xmas pudding for Easter?

For a slightly more inventive way to use up the leftover pud and create an impressive and simple desert that would be a great addition to a new years eve party, why not turn it into another festive staple with a twist on the traditional trifle?

Last year, I followed this recipe from BBC good food and it’s so tasty I’ll be repeating it again this year. Not only does the recipe use up any leftover Christmas pudding but it’s also incorporates that mountain of clementines that you probably have lying around since you replaced your 5 a day with chocolates over Christmas. It also uses cream, orange liqueur and you can even make use of the flake out of your  chocolate selection box by sprinkling it over for the topping.

Overall, this is an absolutely fabulous and original desert and none of your guests will be any of the wiser that it’s made from leftovers.

Parsnip & Potato Rostis (from left-over veg)

On the 2nd day of Christmas…

Parsnip & potato Rostis

It’s not just the Turkey that gets left over after Christmas Day, and here’s a great idea of what to do with the leftover veg.

The Food Waste Diaries

Glancing in my fridge on boxing day I was met with a huge array of left-overs giving me plenty of ammunition for a few experimental dishes.

We’d cooked far too many vegetables to accompany Christmas dinner, a common mistake when cooking up roasts, but being determined not to waste a morsel I’d kept all the surplus in the fridge. Some of the left-over vegetables had made it onto my boy-friends turkey sandwich – ‘a roast dinner sandwich’ (or a manwich in his words), which was pretty delicious but it hadn’t made a dent in the left-over roast potatoes, parsnips and baby carrots.

I’d seen Nigel Slater cook up some Bubble and squeak patties so I decided to do something similar with my left-overs. I mashed up all the potatoes, parsnips and carrots but the mixture was very dry, so for moisture I added a dash of left-over turkey stock…

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Too Much Turkey?

On the 1st day of Christmas….

Too much turkey…?’

Christmas is a glorious time of overindulging, over-feasting and overbuying. It’s the perfect time for me, with an overstocked fridge, to fully get into festive recipe invention mode. So, over the 12 days of Christmas I’ll be sharing some of my favourite Yuletide leftover recipes with you to help you clear out the fridges and recuse your Christmas food waste.

The Food Waste Diaries

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 want 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…

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Dips Away

In my last post I made a Tzatziki in which I substituted the traditional Greek yoghurt with Crème Fraiche, I also commented on how I much prefer to prepare my own dips as opposed to purchasing ready-made shop ones.

The main reason for this preference is that homemade dips are a great way of using up leftover ingredients; in particular yoghurt, cream, citrus fruits & fresh herbs. Dips don’t have to follow a set recipe every-time and you can experiment with different concoctions until the results suit your palate.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show how your own fair hands can quickly and easily prepare some of the most common dips.

SOUR CREAM

Possibly the easiest of all dips to make; simply take some cream (or crème fraiche if you’re trying to be a bit healthier) and sour it by stirring in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

SALSA

The base of Salsa is obviously tomato and you can create your own by using any type of tomato you like; tinned, cherry or plum tomatoes all work great and will each individually create salsas that differ in both sweetness and texture. To form the base of any salsa, mix together chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion. From here you can add a whole host of ingredients to suit your taste, the most common additions are chilli for a bit of a kick, a squeeze of lime which adds a bit of zest or herbs such as coriander or parsley, depending on your taste. I have even heard of salsas being made with all kinds of crazy ingredients including chocolate and almonds, although I’m yet to try either of these creations.

GUACAMOLE

What could be more simple than mashed avocado mixed up with a bit of lemon juice? This is a great accompaniment to Mexican dishes such as chilli or enchiladas and is the perfect use for avocados that are verging on over-ripe.

TZATZIKI

See my previous post but essentially, yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and lemon

PESTO

A fantastic way of using up fresh basil, simply toast some pine nuts and blend with basil, oil & Parmesan. This is more than just a dip and can be used as a delicious homemade sauce for many recipes. As an example, have a look at my recipe for Grilled Halloumi & Cherry Tomatoes with Mint Pesto.

HUMMUS

Now I must confess that this isn’t one I’ve tried myself but I believe it’s as simple as blending some tinned or dried cooked chickpeas, lemon, garlic and a sprinkle of paprika.

I purposely haven’t published detailed recipes for these dips, purely because you really can start producing your own  creations on a trial and error basis, why not have a look at ingredients you have left to use up and start inventing? I’ve always managed to come out with something tasty (or at least edible) when I’ve attempted a dip. I hope that the above ideas inspire you to create your own dips, they’ll be sure to impress friends at a dinner party or summer BBQ, and of course you’ll be reducing food waste by using up those leftover items you might have lying around.

No Shop Week

One of the fundamental factors of reducing food waste is to plan meals in advance before heading out to the shop. I’ve written about how to do this before in my blog post Fail to plan, plan to fail (the basics of meal planning).

This is probably the one thing that I do consistently every week. Even if I haven’t written the whole meal plan down, the ideas and ingredients are in my head before I go off on my weekly shop. The meal plan makes sure that I avoid the purchase of any unplanned items which later become items of food waste.

Now I’m not a chef, so I generally rely on other people’s recipes to help me use up the ingredients which I have in stock. This method of meal planning normally means that I need to buy additional items to create a finished dish. However, as it’s a new year, I’ve decided to be a bit more adventurous and create my own recipes where ingredients enable me to. An unexpected bonus of this is that I didn’t have to step foot in a supermarket for a whole week.

By using frozen items, leftover veg and store cupboard essentials I managed to create enough dishes to feed my partner and I all week.

The ingredients I had were as follows:

Frozen items
Pork mince
Salmon
Leftover Caerphilly cheese scones

Fresh items
Green beans
Baby carrots
Celery
Tomatoes
Potato
Coriander
Tomatoes

Store cupboard essentials
Ginger paste
Soy sauce
Worcester sauce
Sesame oil
Ketchup
Stock
Eggs
Cheese

And the Dishes created are as below: (Now linked to the recipes)

Pork and Potato Broth
Sweet chilli salmon with Asian Vegetables
Caerphilly cheese scones with poached egg & tomatoes
Cheese & tomato omelette

I know there’s only 4 nights recipes here but I was lucky enough to be treated to a meal out one night, hence only 4 week night meals to plan.

I found that knowing how to cook the base of a number of dishes such as casseroles and Asian dishes enabled me to be creative. Keeping in stock cupboard items such as chicken stock, soy sauce and so on, you should be able to come up with a few creations to use up the perishable ingredients in your fridge. Heck, it’s not always going to work out perfect, but taste as you go and over time your confidence will increase and become a chef if your own right.

Horror of the herbs

Fresh Herbs are probably one of my biggest items of food waste.  I’ve tried to grow my own but I’m not very green fingered and a top floor flat with no outside space, doesn’t seem to provide optimal growing conditions.

Where possible I try to substitute fresh herbs for dried but for lots of recipes dried herbs just don’t quite cut it. The shelf life of shop bought fresh herbs is extremely short and I find the packaged quantities just far too large to use up in one meal. More often than not, on my weekly clean up of the fridge, there’s normally some black coriander or some shrivelled parsley that’s headed for the bin.

I’ve got quite good at making pesto, a great use for left over basil.  There’s also a whole variety of  other condiments and dressings that can be made from various herbs. Fresh herbs can be mixed with oils to create marinades for meat or added to dairy products such as butter and cream for a bit of a twist.

Despite these ideas I still manage to incur an abundance of throw away herbs each month and so I decided to turn to the internet to research what other options are available. It transpires that there’s a whole host of ways to extend the life of herbs. You can freeze them, dry them, infuse oils with them and so on…all ideas I’d never have thought of. Hey, there’s even websites dedicated solely to care and storage of fresh herbs.

These ideas aren’t my own but there’s so many websites, including wikihow that show you how to do all of the above ideas. I think my preferred option is the freezing idea and although this takes away freshness and means that the herbs can’t be used for garnishes, I imagine that the herbs would still taste fantastic mixed into many dishes.

So after a little bit of googling I now have many herby experiments to try and can hopefully reduce my food waste even further. I’d be really interested to know if anyone’s tried or tested the freezing of herbs, or better still if any readers out there have any additional ideas of how to use up these pesky leftovers?

Turkey and Potato Bake – The Last of the Turkey

6 days into Christmas and the turkey battle ensued  but we were finally down to the last couple of portions of the 5kg turkey. Other ingredients left over from Christmas day included half a bag of potatoes and a pot of double cream. Being a big fan of dauphinoise potatoes I decided to use this as a base for the final turkey throw down.

First of all my sous-chef (aka Mr Foodwaste) par-boiled 4 potatoes for 10 mins and left to cool. Whilst they were boiling I fried up an onion for a couple of minutes in a large saucepan before adding the last pieces of turkey. After a couple of minutes I added a good glug of white wine (a half open bottle that shock-horror, we’d somehow failed to finish). This was simmered at a high heat until it had reduced slightly before the leftover cream was added (I probably had about 200ml left). I also added in some chicken stock to ensure all that all the turkey mix was covered and to slightly thin out the creaminess. For a bit of extra flavour I threw in some leftover thyme.

After bringing the mixture to a boil and simmering for 5 or so minutes I added the leftover cranberries and simmered for a further 5 minutes before seasoning to taste. The sauce was incredibly rich and the cranberries quite bitter so I was a little concerned about how the dish would turn out.

Using a large casserole dish I thinly sliced potatoes and layered on the bottom of the dish before adding a layer of the turkey mix. I continued the layering until all the turkey mix was used up, finishing with a layer of potatoes. For extra creamy goodness I’d recommend saving some of the liquid from the turkey mix and pouring over the bake which will then filter down through all the layers.

For an extra bit of fatness I topped the bake with a few small slices of camembert cheese before placing in  the oven (200c) for 40 minutes by which point the bake had turned a beautiful golden brown.

The oven baking seemed to have taken away some off the richness from the initial mix and the bitterness of the cranberries had reduced as well. All in all the dish was a very calorific winner, so much of a winner that Mr. Foodwaste couldn’t wait to tuck in, leaving me with a picture of a half eaten dish.

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Turkey Soup – Asian Style

I mentioned in my Too Much Turkey? post that I’d received some beautiful Japanese ramen bowls as a gift from a very kind sister. So with left-over turkey and some new bowls to use a, turkey ramen seemed like a must make.

The best thing about making this was that I didn’t even need to pop to the shops as christmas leftovers and store cupboard items granted me all the ingredients needed.

My boyfriend has decided to get in on the whole food waste thing and he had made a delicious stock from the turkey bones the previous day. To make stock, simply chuck all the turkey (or any meat bones) in a large sauce-pan with a carrot, onion and a couple of celery sticks (the veg is fine-cut into big chunks, and there’s no need to peel the carrot). Top with water, bring to boil, pop on a lid and simmer for a few hours, skim off any scum that collects on the top of the pan during the process. Once the liquid has reduced by about a third, sieve into a container or another pan and hey presto homemade stock.

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Now I didn’t follow a recipe for the ramen but I cook a lot of Asian style food where the base commonly contains ginger, garlic and chilli, all of which I had in stock. Heating a tbsp of olive-oil in a large saucepan I fried the garlic, chilli and ginger up for a couple of minutes, before adding the leftover turkey. This is a great recipe for getting rid of some of the darker, tougher meat as it adds more flavour and the turkey softens slightly as it flakes up in the soup.

After about 3-4 minutes I added in the pre-prepared turkey stock and gradually brought to the boil. I’m never sure on how much simmering time to allow but as my stock was already marvelously rich and the turkey already cooked, I figured 20 minutes of a low simmer would be plenty of time to allow the flavours of chilli and garlic to infuse into the stick.

Normally in an Asian soup I’d add in vegetables such as bean sprouts and Pak choi but my Christmas leftovers consisted of baby carrots and fine green beans so in they went.

I chopped the chantry carrots into lengthways slices and added into the simmering stock for 5 minutes before adding the fine green beans in  for the last two minutes. The final step of the stock was to add in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and a dash of white wine vinegar to taste.

Whilst the stock was simmering I separately boiled  and de-shelled two eggs (medium/hard-boiled – about 6-7 mins) and some fine egg noodles which were tossed in soy sauce before being added to the soup. The outcome was an absolute delicious and refreshing soup which made me forget I was eating turkey for the 4th day in a row.

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If you fancy recreating a similar soup yourself, it will work well with most leftover meats, especially chicken and pork. If you don’t have the bones or the time available to make your own stock, shop bought stock will do just fine. Also any vegetables can be added, whatever’s left over in your fridge, just adjust the cooking time for however many minutes that particular veg takes to cook.

The ingredients I used in my ramen can be found here for inspiration but why not get soupy and go create your own.

 Ingredients

1 x tbsp vegetable oil

1 x clove of garlic

2 x chillies

1x tsp grated ginger

1 x onion

2 x handfuls of cooked turkey

750ml turkey stock

Handful baby carrots

Handful green beans

2 x blocks of fine egg noodles

2 x eggs

Soy sauce

White wine vinegar