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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Blackberry Crumble

Throughout this month I have been doing a lot of research about food waste for my forthcoming book.  I was horrified to discover that in the UK we waste 8 million tonnes of food and drink every year. That's a huge carbon footprint for absolutely no need!

Reading about food waste and its carbon footprint has certainly focussed my attention on trying not to waste food myself.  Any food waste I do have goes to my compost bin or my wormery and will then get used to grow future years' vegetables and for potting up my non-hardy plants to over winter them in my conservatory which has really just become a green house.

We will always have food waste, because even if we use our banana skins to fertilise our roses, it is still food waste.  I can't imagine we are ever going to eat our banana skins and I don't imagine we will eat our tea leaves and coffee grains either.  But much of our 8 million tonnes of annual food waste is thought to be avoidable.  That is, we are wasting food that we could have eaten.

I have actually bought very little since thinking so much about food waste.  My weekly shop is now tiny.  That is partly because I have a few vegetables in the garden but also because I am making sure I use up everything I buy.  A couple of weeks ago I bought two chicken breasts from the butcher's - proper whole chicken breasts - not the trimmed pre-packed ones we see in supermarkets.  I made a casserole with them which provided one main meal and then I used up the remaining casserole liquid as a pasta sauce and used the chicken in a sandwich, then in risotto and then boiled up the bones with some leek trimmings and onion peel to make stock for soup.  I'll admit that when my grandma asked me to stay for lunch and share the cooked chicken she had asked me to buy from the supermarket I had to suppress the 'Oh no, not chicken again' thought.  But it did make me realise that I had probably been buying and wasting far too much food.

Now I am buying much less and so I have much more chance of making sure that I use every scrap of food I buy.  But I also realised how much food there was around me that was going for free - just in my garden.

I have often joked that my best vegetable crop is nettles, but I rarely use them in cooking, though I did make a batch of mini quiches with some nettles I pulled up from around a row of carrots and they were delicious.  But all in all I have always thought that there is a lot more in my garden that might be edible and so  I decided to invest in a little help in the form of Richard Mabey's Collins Gem book, 'Food For Free'

I had no idea that you could eat so many leaves and berries, that fat hen can be cooked and used like spinach and that mallow leaves can be deep fried into crisps!

My experimentation is yet to start.  I haven't exactly been adventurous with my harvesting this weekend. Yesterday I combined a bit of gardening with some blackberry picking, so now I'm off to make a crumble.  But, the carrot peel and other vegetable trimmings from this evening's roast dinner are in the stock pot awaiting the chicken carcass and I'm planning to use the resulting stock to make some nettle soup and next weekend I'm going to try out Richard Mabey's recipe for 'Autumn Pudding'.