I read an article in the Guardian last week that said millennials waste more food than their grandparents generation. The article lays some of the blame on Instagram (which if you remember from an earlier post of mine is also apparently the reason none of us read any more), but whatever the cause I don’t find it surprising that we are wasting more food these days. In fact, the most surprising thing in the article was the revelation that apparently I count as a millennial!
So why do so many of us waste food? There’s definitely a lack of education when it comes to cooking. I know I’m fortunate in this respect as not only did I grow up with two parents who cooked – and had both done so professionally at various points in their lives – but my school offered a well rounded food technology syllabus. We had fully equipped kitchens at our disposal and I was even able to achieve my basic food hygiene certificate as part of my GCSE in the subject.
Not only are many of us not taught how to cook, we’re also not shown how to manage a store cupboard; my dad always taught me to move old tins to the front and put the newer ones behind for instance. There’s also lots of bad information out there on use by/best before dates, and many people are overly cautious or afraid of eating something that will make them sick.
I think the final issue is a timing/planning one, and I know this is where I often fall down. Living with a spoonie makes it difficult to make a plan and stick to it at times. I know the virtue of meal planning, making sure everything gets used while it is fresh and incorporating one ingredient over a number of meals to use up whatever I’ve bought in. I do this to an extent, but try and reach a compromise where the mental health of those in the house comes first of course. Luckily I can afford to do this, but it still niggles at me when I have to throw something out because our plans have changed.
Here’s some of my top tips for reducing waste without sticking to a rigid or unimaginative menu like The Guardian suggests our grandparents did (Tuesday was always gammon and eggs, Friday was always fish etc).
Learn to love leftovers: I’ve talked before about my love of leftovers, and being prepared to eat whatever I had for dinner again for lunch the next day has served me well. It’s obviously important that you store leftovers properly and reheat anything thoroughly before eating if you’re having it hot.
Have plenty of recipes at your disposal: I have at least 10 recipes I love to make with butternut squash, so if I have one that needs using up, but I don’t fancy butternut squash lasagna, I could make soup, or curry, or roast it whole and top it like a jacket potato. This means I’m less likely to waste something because I wasn’t in the mood for a particular meal that day.
Be soup-er inventive: Almost anything can be turned in to soup. I definitely feel like I’m ‘hashtag winning’ when I look in the kitchen to find a solitary carrot, some wilting leeks and a sad potato and – voila! – 30 minutes later we are enjoying the warm hug of vegetable soup.
Be conservative: No, not politically or morally. I mean making conserves, preserves, jams, pickles – whatever. I’m yet to try pickling anything, but I did recently turn some sorry looking apples in to a jar of delicious apple sauce for my morning porridge.
Know how to store leftovers properly: okay tiny confession – I often eat leftover rice, reheated the next day. I know I’ll have some friends gasping in horror at this. There’s a lot of bad experience about rice – incorrectly stored and reheated rice can make you very sick, I know. But I also know how I should prepare things properly, how to store them, and to make sure things are reheated adequately. And it’s not make me ill yet. Read up, understand about temperatures and bacteria, and make wise decisions. Just maybe stay away from nuking that leftover egg fried rice until you know what you’re doing.
Plan for leftovers: We’ll have ‘rubber chicken‘ weeks – which I’ve mentioned here before. I’ll roast a chicken on the Sunday and we’ll have that in the traditional way, then the next few days are meals made with the leftover meat, usually culminating in chicken noodle soup to use up the carcass.
So there you have it. Do you have any recipes or meals you like to make with leftovers specifically? Please let me know in the comments.
This is one of my current favourite rubber chicken recipes – that is one of my many clever ways of using leftover meat from the Sunday roast. I don’t know about you but I feel ridiculously smug when I can make one bird feed us both for 4 dinners in a row.
Now as a rule I don’t like peanut butter, although my aversion isn’t as bad as it used to be. Luckily the husband loves it so we always have a jar in. Chicken satay is one of my favourite things to order from the takeaway, so making this always feels like a treat. Now that we’re supposedly heading in to summer you could even cook these skewers on a barbeque instead of in the oven, and as you’re using chicken that’s already cooked you don’t have to worry so much about poisoning someone – although do make sure it’s heated right through again, however you’re cooking it.
For the satay
2tbsp smooth peanut butter
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
Pinch chilli powder
1 cooked chicken breast
8 button mushrooms
For the accompaniment
1 tin coconut rice
1/2 tin long grain rice
Put all the satay sauce ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together in to a smooth paste.
Dice up chicken breast in to chunky cubes and put this in the sauce along with the mushrooms. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1hr.
While your chicken is marinating, soak 4 wooden skewers in water. This stops them burning during the cooking process.
Once your satay mix has had enough time in the fridge, preheat oven to 180c
Skewer the chicken and mushrooms. Lay the skewers over a shallow baking dish so that none of the food touches the bottom. Reserve any leftover sauce from the bowl – you can use this for a dipping sauce after cooking.
Put your skewers (on their baking dish) in the oven and bake for 20 mins
In the meantime, empty the tin of coconut milk in to a pan and add your rice. Bring to boil then simmer until liquid is absorbed & the rice is cooked and sticky.
At the last minute, stir-fry some green beans with a little soy sauce to serve on the side.
I hope that sounds as delicious to you as it tastes to me! Do let me know if you try this, or if you have another trusty recipe for leftover chicken.
Today for the Tuesday Quickie I’m going to share my ultra quick fajita seasoning with you. Do you ever order fajitas at a restaurant just because they are so satisfyingly noisy when they arrive? Then, trying to make the fillings last put too little in your first couple tortillas so when you get to the last one it’s too full to close and you’re dropping bits of pepper and cheese everywhere and making a mess. Or is that just me?
My recipe below is a one size fits all kind of thing. Whatever you like to put in your fajita, you can use this seasoning for it. I like chicken and strips of red pepper, but you can keep this completely veggie and go for courgette, cherry tomatoes, wedges of red onion, mushrooms – anything really. This also works well as a rubber chicken recipe – that is using up some leftover meat from the Sunday roast as part of your filling.
Tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole – to serve
Chop your chosen fajita filling in to chunks, and spray lightly with oil.
Pop the sugar and seasonings in to a large bowl and shake/stir to combine.
Toss everything in the seasoning mix. Spread out in an ovenproof dish and bake at 200C for about 25 minutes (or until any meat is cooked and your veggies are soft).
Serve on soft tortillas with fresh salad, grated cheese and condiments of your choice – guacamole and sour cream for me!
This flavour mix bakes in, so there’s no need to marinade for ages beforehand. I got in from work tired yesterday and had delicious fajitas on the table within 40 minutes (most of which was me watching Big Bang while the oven did its thing).
If I roast a chicken for Sunday dinner, I can make the leftovers from that last most of the following week. I’ll shred off any leftover meat I can reach and make pie, croquettes or risotto – I might even have some in a sandwich for a quick lunch. I call this rubber chicken, because it stretches so far.
When it looks like there’s no more conceivable meals to be had, I’ll take the carcass and perform one more magic trick – my chicken noodle soup. This is just as satisfying for dinner as it is for lunch, and so easy to do it’s almost a folly to call it a recipe, but here we go!
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 roast chicken carcass 3 pints water 1 vegetable stock cube 2 ‘nests’ egg noodles (I use fine, you may prefer thicker ones) 4/5 spring onions, finely shredded 100g frozen peas Salt & white pepper, to taste
Place your chicken carcass into a big stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil.
Add the stock cube (you could use chopped carrot, celery and onion to flavour the water, but I find a stock cube easier), turn the heat down so the water is simmering and cover with a lid.
Leave for 1-2 hours, but check occasionally and top up the water if it gets too low – keep the chicken covered.
Strain the broth from the chicken; put the broth back in the pot. Shred/pull any edible meat from the chicken carcass and add it to the liquid.
Put the pot back on a medium heat and break in the noodles. Add the frozen peas and simmer until the peas and noodles are cooked.
Taste the broth and season with salt and white pepper as needed.
Serve piles of the noodle-y, chicken-y mixture with ladlefuls of broth. Scatter the spring onion on top just before serving. If I’m feeling under the weather I like a good shake of chilli flakes over my soup too.
Sounds good, right? And much more thrifty/clever than just throwing away that last bit of chicken. I’m constantly surprised how much meat comes off in the soup, even after I swear I’ve stripped the carcass clean before.
It’s National Curry Week , so it seemed as good an excuse as any to share with you my curry recipe.
Okay, I know this curry is a slight cheat in that it uses curry paste, but I don’t cook curry well enough or often enough to warrant a cupboard full of spices. So, this is my take on a quick and easy curry that tastes amazing anyway.
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
3 small red chillies, chopped (I took ones from my kitchen plant)
1 or 2 large carrots, cut into strips (julienne)
4 spring onions, julienne
1 bell pepper, julienne
2 tablespoons curry paste (choose a spiciness to suit your taste)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300g button mushrooms, whole
1 tin coconut milk
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in your pan and sweat off the onion, garlic and chillies.
Add the carrots, spring onion and bell pepper, and fry gently for a minute, before adding the curry paste and cooking off for a further 2/3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and coconut milk and simmer (without a lid) until the sauce reduces and thickens (about 15 minutes).
Serve with rice & whatever trimmings you like.
Sound good? Of course, the recipe is easily adapted to suit your tastes. Don’t like mushrooms? Swap for cubes of butternut squash or sweet potato (adjust cooking times to make sure these are cooked through). Devout carnivore? You could include some diced chicken breast in the mix – simply ‘brown’ off the chicken in the pan first, remove and set aside while you cook everything else, then add in along with/instead of the mushrooms and make sure you cook until all the pink is gone from the chicken. Or make it extra thrifty and rubber chicken – that is strip some leftover meat from your Sunday roast and chuck it in. That way you only need to warm the meat through as it’s already cooked.
So, what’s your favourite curry folks? Do you like to cook them, or are you more a takeaway menu kind of curry connoisseur?