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Tired salad soup

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It has been party time so my sister and I both raided our veg patches to pick salad leaves to accompany a bbq.  My sis has green fingers and she brought loads of salad. The good thing about salad from your garden is that it will last ages. Think about this… how many days ago do you think your supermarket salad was picked by the time you buy it? It could easily be a week old. I hadn’t really thought about this before so I was pleasantly surprised that a week after the lettuce was picked for the big birthday party it was still nice a fresh.

Lettuce keeps best when it is just lettuce …variteies of lettuce and herb leaves included… but without the addition of tomato or cucumber for instance and without dressing of course, so I always serve the dressing separately.

Ten days later and some of the leaves were still good so I picked those out for dinner. By now there were a few leaves looking a bit brown and floppy though.

Anorher of my salads was a combination of cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions and radishes so the leftovers of that were also looking tired within a few days, the cucumber being the least hardy.

Time for some salad soup and some buttered radishes.

The buttered radishes is one of the lovely recipes in Leftover Pie, sent by Tom Hunt, author of The Natural Cook.

It is so yummy … it is a must try.

So I picked out the radishes from my salad bowl and followed Tom’s simple recipe.

Meanwhile I cooked up some vegetable peel stock , then added in the radish leaves, the brown floppy lettuce leaves, and the slightly mushy mess of chopped cucumber, tomato and spring onion.

A bit of salt and pepper into the mix and a whizz up with the hand blender and my tired salad was now a delicious soup.

I had a slight problem with my buttered radishes though… They really are so yummy that I kept tasting one more and then one more and then … oh well perhaps another one. By the time we sat down for dinner there were hardly enough radishes for one person, never mind two. I then recovered a bit of discipline and I did give the remaining radishes to Mr Pitt and confessed to my pre dinner radish munching.

If you don’t want to eat your soup straight away you can freeze it in portions for when chillier weather returns.

 

Serendipity Soup

SerendipityLast weekend when the weather was still cold and miserable, we had our usual roast dinner on Sunday evening.  We generally plan to have leftovers, that we can use up throughout the week.  On Tuesday I foraged in the fridge for some lunch and found the leftover veg.  I thought it was odd that there was no gravy left, but I ate my veg gravy-less and enjoyed it none-the-less.

The next day I found the gravy! When I say “found” …well it was in the fridge staring at me as soon as I opened the door.  I can’t think why I had overlooked it the day before, but that “can’t see for looking” expression comes to mind.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up the gravy as I didn’t really have anything to go with it.  My usual way of using it up would be to eat it with leftover meat and veg, just as a second opportunity at roast dinner, or to make it into a pie. The classic Pitt family “Leftover Pie”, of course!

On Thursday I was walking past the market at closing time so I seized the opportunity to buy up some cherry tomatoes and romano peppers that needed a home – way more than I would normally buy, but there are lots of ways of using them, so I knew I could save them from being wasted.

One of the things I love about having a mindset of using everything up is that you get inventive and sometimes you end up with a new recipe through lucky accident. Like my serendipity fig rolls (page 209 in Leftover Pie), I now have a serendipity soup.

On Friday, I made a curry with plenty of pepper and tomato in it, and as I was chopping the peppers I was reminded, for some reason of an asian style noodle broth I’d had with romano peppers in it.  Ah! That might be a good way to use up the gravy!  It certainly was and it was so simple and delicious I will have to do it again.  Here’s how..

I reheated the gravy – there was about 300ml, so I added about 100ml of water to it.  I popped in some egg noodles, then the diced romano pepper, some strips of white cabbage and half a tin of sweet corn that I had left over from lunch the day before.  It took me less than ten minutes to make.  Definitely one to remember.

 

Banana Skin Crisps

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Since the start of the year, The Pitt family has taken up the challenge of not buying anything in single-use plastic packaging. We first did this for a month in 2014 – not quite during Plastic-free July, but just after, as a practice run for a year long challenge of living without single use plastic packaging for the whole of 2015.  We’ve kept many of the habits we formed during that year, but we noticed that plastic packaging was creeping back into our lives. Time to renew the vows…  But oh dear! That meant no more crisps.

However, while on holiday with my family last week we had a temporary reprieve of our ban on eating crisps – or “illegals”  as my family now call them. The decision was taken because we had quite a stock of “illegals” leftover from birthday celebrations last year and from Christmas, that were not being eaten.  I don’t want to waste food, clearly! So I decided to raid the cupboards for illegals and add them into the holiday baggage.  I didn’t think they would even outlast the journey, but they did!

As we came to open them up, we found two packets that were beyond their “Best Before” date.  We only noticed this, because they didn’t taste very good. They were perfectly crunchy enough, just not particularly nice.  We decided they would be better used added to nachos or a pasta dish as a topping, so they came back home with us.  Strangely, having forgotten about that by the time we got home, we unwittingly gave them second chance and the flavour had opened up bit and they had definitely improved. Now that doesn’t usually happen with crisps, does it?

The second “out of date” packet was perfectly fine.  That’s the thing about “Best Before” dates – food will often perfectly fine well beyond the date.  It is not in any way a health and safety date, but it is an approximate guide to help us enjoy whatever the product is, before any deterioration in colour, texture or flavour.  I often call them “Best Ignored” dates.  If I find something out of date, I try to make a point of using it as quickly as I can, but I will never just bin it.  I will open it, smell and taste it, and then if it needs a little help I’ll use it as an ingredient to make something of it.  Hence the crisps as pasta topping.  It reinvigorates soggy crisps!

But what about the banana skins?  We saved our banana skins throughout our week away, to make a banana skin curry.  We had more than we needed for the curry, so we fried up the rest as our pre-dinner snack.  Lorna Hall has a lovely recipe for banana skin crisps in Leftover Pie (page 184) along with other suggested uses of banana skins, such as curries. We didn’t have fresh chillies or spring onions, so our recipe was a simplified version of the one in the book, using olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika.  It worked well. As we had eight banana skins, and three were enough for the curry, we needed to cook the crisps in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.  After cooking up a couple of batches, we decided to experiment with cooking them in the oven, so the remaining skins went into an oven-proof glass dish, were drizzled with oil, and sprinkled generously with salt, pepper and paprika and then left to their own devices in the oven at 180 degrees, while we ate our curry.  I think they were probably in the oven for around 40 minutes, with just a brief glimpse at them after maybe thirty minutes. When these were cooled I put them into a tupperware container in the hope they would be still good the next evening. The good news is they were and they had actually crisped up a bit more as they dried out. Good to know.

I haven’t cooked enough skins before to have any left to find out how they keep, so this is a new one to me.

In case you were wondering how we were accumulating our banana skins day by day, we just put them in a bowl in the fridge and we were on day 6 of our holiday when we cooked them. If you don’t eat bananas often and want to save up a few to make a curry and some crisps you can pop them in the freezer until you want to use them.

 

End of term soup

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Last day of term at my daughter’s house and we had nothing much left in the fridge. A bit of cabbage, an onion, some broccoi stalks and a bowl of peels and veg offcuts: onion skin,  parsnip peel, carrot peel, potato peel, the ends of the parsnip and carrot, the end of a courgette and the core of a pepper.

First of all I went through the bowl and took out the onion skin, the carrot and parsnip tops and the pepper cores and put these in a pan, covering them with water. I put this on to boil. I peeled the onion and added the skin to the pan.

I roughly chopped the onion and fried it in the oil left from a jar of sundried tomatoes, scrapping in all the bits of herbs too.

When the stock pan came to the boil I turned it down to simmer. I kept the onion on a very low heat and stirred occasionally. After about 15 minutes I poured some of the stock into the onion and added the peels so they would start to cook. I put more water into the stock pan as I knew there was more flavour to add and we wanted enough soup for two people for two days. After about 20 minutes the peels were soft so I whizzed that with a hand blender then added the rest of the stock. Then I tasted it and seasoned it. I do this several times… season, taste, season taste …

I like to do it gradually as you can add more salt but can’t take it away of course!

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Tasted pretty much like parsnip soup. Just what we needed to warm us up while we hope for some spring sunshine.

 

 

 

Store cupboard tomato soup

I’ve just walked down to my nearest shop to find, not surprisingly given the beastly weather, there’s no fresh produce left. So I thought I’d post this nice little winter warmer made entirely from things most people have in their store cupboards. I would always recommend having a stock of a few tins of tomatoes and a few tins of beans of whatever variety you favour or even better … a mixture.

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Serves 3

1 tin of tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes)
About 1/3 of the tomato can of water
1/2 a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
1 tin of beans (I used cannellini beans – but a tin of baked beans would be fine)
a pinch of salt and generous twist of black pepper

Open the tin of tomatoes and empty into a saucepan, and fill the empty can about 1/3 full with water, swish around the can gently to get all the tomato juice into the water then pour into the pan. Add the herbs and Worcestershire sauce then whizz with a hand blender or chop up the plum tomatoes into bits roughly with a knife. Once whizzed or chopped, add in the tin of beans with all the liquid too. Heat through, stirring occasionally, then season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This is a heart-warming and filling meal in itself thanks to the beans and should save you from venturing out to the almost empty shops.

Finding Your Feet

I have just been to see the lovely film “Finding your feet” and adored everything about it, except for one scene.  I’m not going to give too much away, in case you haven’t seen it yet.  Suffice to say it involves our beloved darlings of the stage and screen WASTING FOOD! You can probably hear my scream as you read this.

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One of the huge problems we face in tackling the food waste mountain is that we see images in the media of people wasting food as if it is absolutely fine and all the cool people do it. Years ago I am sure most of the role models in tv and in films would smoke. Not now. So maybe we need to take a look at how we portray food waste in the media?  Maybe Hollywood has bigger fish to fry right now, but I do think it is an issue that needs to be highlighted.  Do you agree?

Shortly after this lovely touching moment pictured above (from the very lovely official trailer) two of the company gathered there are scraping large amounts of food off plates into the bin.  I squirmed in my seat, but you’ll be glad to know I didn’t shout out “Get a tupperware box and pop it in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch!”  Okay, in my head, I did…but just in my head.

Is it time we took a look at this? Is it time film makers thought about the messages they are subliminally giving us?  Aren’t they saying that food waste is an acceptable and inevitable part of today’s society. I think it is time for new messages. Do you?

 

Here’s the official trailer for Finding your Feet. It is a great film 🙂

A lovely book review reminded me of this…

I was recently sent a copy of a book review for my first book, 101 ways to live cleaner and greener for free, so I thought I should share it here.  Thank you, Alona, for sending me this, and it was great to know that you are passing on your copy to a young person… You said: ‘it may help her to understand that the things I talk about are not just my eccentricities but simple tips we can all do.’

That made me remember why I like to make my books collaborative. I’m aiming for the “people like you and me are doing this” kind of behaviour change.  Maybe it sometimes feels like a bit of a slow process, but it does work.  And I love hearing about how people are making small changes to reduce their waste.

This morning someone said to me that she had recently started to take my advice and serve out dinner all in the centre of the table and encourage everyone to take what they felt they could eat. Her children are 3 and 5.  She said they didn’t take as much as she would have liked them to, but they ate it all. They had quite a bit left in the serving dishes, but it all went back in the fridge and became ingredients for another meal.  But, another day, her hubby served out the dinner, putting out what he thought they should each eat.  This time everything that was left was all mixed up and messed about with and all went in the food waste.

So then they talked about it and now on they are going for serving dish and everyone serving themselves. This is a small organisational change that costs nothing but could save quite a bit of money.  I remember some wise words from my aunt when my children were little:  “Children don’t starve themselves.” Serving ourselves has always been our habit and it has served us well.  We encourage clean plates and second helpings and that way every has enough to eat, but not too much and anything left will be the basis for another delicious meal.

Wasted!

I’m looking forward to getting together with some of the wonderful contributors to Leftover Pie this evening at The Roebuck in Borough for a screening of Wasted!, followed by a panel discussion on practical suggestions on how to reduce food waste in kitchens. and an opportunity to buy signed copies of Leftover Pie.

Wasted Film

The panel will be chaired by Peter Hemingway of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and joining me as panelists are Jareth Mills, head chef at The Roebuck, Dean Pearce from SWR UK, and Simon Boxall from Southwark Food Bank.

 

Talking about food waste

Yesterday, I had my first talk of the year.  I was invited to speak at The Bush Club, a volunteer-run weekly lunch club for the over sixties in Bampton, Oxfordshire.

This is the third time I’ve been asked to speak there. On my previous visit, I demonstrated one of my family favourites for Sunday lunch dessert, a Tiramisu made from stale cake – something I sometimes have leftover from making  tea for my local cricket club.  At this talk I also explained what happened to food waste in Oxfordshire and talked about the importance of separating food waste, recycling and other waste in order to make best use of it and minimise impact on the environment. It was interesting to hear that many of the members did separate their food waste, but didn’t actually know why they needed to do so, and what happened to the food waste after collection. Less surprisingly, I found that many members said they hated to see food wasted and rarely wasted anything themselves.

Although I was asked there to talk about my new book, Leftover Pie, I wanted to do something a bit different for them. So I decided to turn things around and ask them how they thought we had got to the stage we have got to, that I unreservedly call food crisis point. We had a great discussion and so I thought I would outline some of the opinions and suggestions that came up during our talk.

We talked about one of the big issues of our day, lack of  time, but we also thought that this was in many ways a modern perception:

  • “I am too busy to cook anything from scratch.”
  • “I am too tired when I get in from work to make a meal for my family.”

Looking back at their own childhoods, most did say that there was someone who went out to work and someone at home whose job it was to look after the home and prepare meals for the family. We discussed the fact that change does bring new challenges, but there’s always a solution if we look for it. We then got onto the subject of quick and simple things to cook from scratch like omelette, “quicker than a takeaway or a ready meal”.  We also covered batch cooking. This is certainly nothing new, they said, and was a regular thing they used to do years ago. The precursor of the ‘Ready Meal’. If you are making one meal, why not double the quantities and make one batch for the freezer so you save time and effort another day.  That way you have a ready meal, that you know exactly what you have put in it.  It will most likely have less salt and less sugar than many shop bought ready meals, it will be the right quantity because you know how much you eat and it will have no packaging. Another thing that was mentioned was finding balance.  Why are we so rushed that we can’t find time to cook a meal?  For our health and wellbeing, don’t we need to take a good look at our habits and check that we do have balance in our lives?

It is not unusual that several people felt supermarkets were a big part of the problem, specifically because of the way produce is packed.  Someone mentioned tangerines packed in a net so you are obliged to buy six.  She said, “By the time I’ve got through three of them, I often find at least one has gone mouldy.” Another mentioned that she found it hard to buy single portions of anything, which was annoying and occasionally she ended up buying more than she could use.

Someone else mentioned the ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offers in supermarkets and said they felt people grabbed two without even thinking that they wouldn’t be able to use both.  WRAP have been working hard to change this and many supermarkets have now agreed not to make these offers on fresh short life produce.

Another big issue I had to agree with, from what many people share with me, is that young people these days aren’t taught cookery enough at school.  Many of my audience yesterday spend a whole day every week learning about food and cooking when they were at school.  They also felt that they spent time learning cooking skills from family.  From my own experience, my daughters both had cookery lessons for an hour a week for half a term when they were about 14.  Time was fairly pressured after school so they rarely helped out in the kitchen.  We used to do a lot of cooking together when they were at primary school, and they did a fair bit of cooking in the time between finishing school and going to university.  They can both cook.  But many of their fellow students knew very little about how to prepare and cook food from basic ingredients.  Again, this probably results in a diet of food that is more expensive, higher in sugar and salt, and producing more packaging waste than a diet of meals cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients.

People felt that shopping more often for less food was also a good thing we should perhaps go back to.  That used to be the normal thing, they pointed out, before the days of fridges. Food was just kept in a larder and you only bought what you needed.  Simply buying too much food was thought to be one of the big problems of the day.  Shopping locally every few days, like they used to and their parents used to means you have a better idea of what you have, you can see it all more easily and things don’t get forgotten and then wasted.  There was a lot less packaging too.  We have gone packaging crazy these days.

I always think we can learn so much from looking back a bit, rather than always rushing forward. Maybe we have taken a few wrong turnings?  It is perhaps time we slowed up a bit to have a think about what we can learn from our parents’ and grandparents’ less wasteful lifestyles. And let’s take the best bits back into our lives today.

 

 

 

Did you make the most of your turkey?

The festivities are behind us and what remains of the turkey carcass is in the food waste bin ready for collection.  But we made sure we got the most out of it first.

Boxing Day lunchWe have a lot of people to feed over Christmas and New Year and our turkey was a big beast, weighing in at 8 1/2 kilos.  It fed 15 on Christmas Day as the main event for lunch.  Then 15 of us again had turkey and stuffing sandwiches in the evening.  On Boxing Day, we fed 22 along with an array of salads and, of course, bubble and squeak, so before I even started stripping off the carcass we’d made 52 meals from our noble bird.

turkey carcassBut then it was time to see what else we could get from it.  As you can see we did a pretty good job of using up the breast meat and the yellow plate shows all I could scrape together – just enough for a couple more turkey sandwiches if you go easy on the turkey and heavy on the stuffing!

There was plenty of dark meat left though, which is ideal for curry and stews.  We went with the curry option.  The first pass had the accompaniment of Brussel sprouts – which may have seemed an unusual choice of veg for a curry, but was delicious.  This did dinner for 6 on 27th.  The rest went in the fridge for making more curry to stock up the freezer.  The curry is now made and we have 10 portions in the freezer so that the daughters can take some back to uni with them and we will have a few portions too.  This curry was bulked out with lots of sweet veg like parsnip, carrot and butternut squash to make sure everything was used up, and then I added in some red lentils to make it go further.  A few other little surprises in there were the cooking water from making candied citrus peel and a rinse out of the remains of a jar of sweet chilli sauce.  I’m looking forward to that turkey curry very much.

Once the meat was entirely stripped from the bones, we popped the carcass and the skin and knobbly bits and pieces of joints and tendon and all that into a huge stock pot and covered it with water.  We added in some onion peel from the onion I used in the curry, plus the tops and tails of the carrots, parsnips and the butternut squash peel.  Mr Pitt has been making daily soups for us and I’ve put some ready for the freezer, plus plenty more for tomorrow.  My estimate is 22 bowls of soup consumed so far, and another 15 bowls full ready for the freezer.  Have I totted this up correctly? … our turkey has made 105 portions of food over the week.  That is what I call making good use of the turkey.