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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Food Philosophy

Yesterday I read this interesting article called 7 Small Ways to Begin Your Journey to Sustainable Eating posted by @ReFreshfood on Twitter.

As I read the article, I thought: "This is pretty much my own food philosophy".

1 Meatless Mondays
 We do like to have a roast dinner with all the family on a Sunday, so for us, Mondays often involve eating up the leftover meat from Sunday's joint.  But then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as long as I've used up all the meat I will then try to keep the meals meat free on at least two out of three days.

2. Buy food with less packaging
I always buy my meat from the butcher in my village.  I take my own containers so there's no plastic packaging.  I also know that my meat isn't going to leak juices all over my fridge so that's an added advantage.

I bulk buy food like flour, dried fruit and nuts, couscous and pasta, again taking my own containers.

I buy veg and fruit from a small greengrocer in a nearby town.  When you buy their produce, which is locally sourced, you will get all shapes and sizes, but it is loose, so you can pick out the shapes and sizes that you want.  If I know I'm going to chop up the fruit and veg, then I'll pick out anything that's a bit wonky, because I want to support them and support local farmers in cutting down waste.  Most of the time, I'll be chopping it and cooking it so I really don't often need it to look pristine.

3. Buy sustainable meat
As, I mentioned, the meat I buy is from a local business, and they source locally.  I make sure I use up every scrap of meat that I buy.  If I want some chicken, then usually I will buy a whole chicken rather than buying chicken breast.

4. Forgo Fish
I do eat fish and seafood, but I look for sustainably sourced and don't eat it often.  I do get my fix, though, if I am by the sea, picking local fish and only where I can sea that wherever is serving it they have a sustainable sourcing policy.

5. Eat seasonally
Absolutely!  As far as I'm concerned, you can forget strawberries most of the year.  Seasonal eating is what makes it special.  The one exception might be that I usually manage to freeze a few batches of blackberries from the abundant supply on my hedge at this time of year.

6. Eat locally
I think we've covered that one already!

7. Lose the bottled water
It is probably getting on for three years now since I bought water in a plastic bottle.  I have a couple of different water bottles and I always take one filled with good old Oxfordshire Tap every time I go out.

And then I thought about one more thing that has become really important to me. So here's my step number 8...

8. Forget the packaged snacks
Last year (2015) my family took on the challenge to go for a whole year without buying anything in single use plastic.  Although we didn't succeed 100%, we did pretty well.  One of the things that I had to do to succeed was to ditch the idea of ever buying packaged snacks out on the go.  This is a habit that we've developed over the last few decades, I'm sure.  I look around me and I see people eating snacks, everywhere, whatever time of day or night.

I'm sure I used to do the same too.  But not now.  I do buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk in my own containers and if I know I'll be out for a while and I'll be likely to get hungry then I will take a container with some fruit and nuts out with me.  But recently, I'm dong that less.  I just came to the realisation that if I'm eating properly, 3 meals a day, there's really no need for the snacks.

Snacks are often just empty calories, full of sugar and salt and SO OFTEN they are packed in non recyclable packaging - my pet hate! So I don't bother (unless I've taken my own.)

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Zero Waste Week -2016 - Day Five

I have been away for two days so my living out of the fridge and freezer for the week had to go on hold. I feel a bit cheated (only by my self, of course). So I plan to extend the eating from the fridge and freezer over the weekend and into next week. 

Yesterday we walked 16 miles along the Thames Path and then took four trains to get back to the car .. oh yes and getting to the station meant another mile and a half of walking. We discussed options for dinner that are quick and easy, but decided on fish and chips.

We are experimenting with gluten free for Mr Pitt so he chose chicken rather than fish. The chicken turned out to be a bit dry. So rather than risk wasting half of it he cut off a piece and put it back in the serving dish. We had planned to have chicken in white wine sauce on Monday night so we will add it to that and use a bit less of the chicken we have in the freezer. I decided to save a bit of my fish, which I put in a tub in the fridge. I ate it as a fish sandwich for brunch with some tomato ketchup this morning. We didn’t eat all the chips either, but we have long since had the habit of saving any spare chips to re-fry for another meal. You can even freeze them.

Today I took the apple sauce cake and the banana skin curry to our love food hate waste event.   A few people liked the idea of the apple sauce cake for their stock of apples - several of us have an apple tree in the garden and in one of the villages the parish council planted fruit trees along the road for people to help themselves to.

I was intrigued about the banana skin curry, but rather pleasantly surprised because having spent a couple of nights in the freezer and then been defrosted and reheated, all the flavours have come together beautifully.  Someone suggested making it with whole bananas which I think would work really well.

Day 4 waste - 60 grammes
Day 5 waste - - 16 grammes
A bit of tough chicken skin - pre-chewed 
Next week, I'm going foraging in my freezer.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day Four

Yesterday's waste weighed in at 158 grammes. I had a cooking morning so there's  always a bit of waste as the by-product of that, even though I try to get every last bit of goodness out of everything.

Yesterday's baking

But yesterday as my fridge became clearer I found my first fridge casualty, a small piece of haloumi cheese that wasn't properly wrapped and had gone mouldy.

This amounted to around a third of the day's food waste. And this could have been avoided. I also found a couple of individual milk cartons.  I have no idea how these came to be in my fridge. I drink black coffee and herb tea so no milk required when out and about. I only have tea with milk if it is not from a plastic pot like this as I feel it is unnecessary waste. These pots rattle when I pick them up and I don't think they are meant to be milk powder. I will investigate tomorrow.

Fridge Lurkers

I had a bit of a delve in my freezer. It definitely needs some reorganisation even though Junior Daughter and I had a use it up session this summer. But I am away now for 2 days so that will be for next week.

My banana skin curry and apple sauce cake are for my Love Food Hate Waste event on Saturday when I meet up with the other LFHW champions to talk about what we have learnt over the year from events we've held. So last night's supper was a sausage casserole from the freezer which was taking up too much space in an over sized tub. That made room for the vegetable peel stock and some soup that made to use up the last of my broccoli including some extra stalks, some cauliflower and the rest of my lovely Oxford Blue, rind and all.

I served yesterday's casserole with some horseradish mash, so that was another jar finished. I had almost forgotten the delights of horseradish mash. Yummy!

It was very pleasing to see my dishwasher full of empty jars too.

It is great to see that loads of people are downloading Leftover Pie. I will be back to finish off the complete book on Monday. In the meantime please do let me know what you think. Here is the link again.

Yesterday's Food Waste - 158g

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day 3

Yesterday's food waste amounted to this, weighing in at 90 grammes.

But, there was also the tops and bottoms from some onions, the top and bottoms from carrots, and the 'core' of a couple of peppers from yesterday's vegetable curry, which I don't count as waste just yet as these are the kinds of things I cook up to make vegetable stock for soup or risotto.

Today it is all about bananas.  I had half a dozen bananas ranging from speckled brown to completely black, so I made the most of the information in the Zero Waste Week email today.

For breakfast, I tried out Rachelle's recipe for banana pancake.  I mushed up two very black and quite small bananas and then beat in one egg.  I then fried it dry in a pancake pan and had it with some jam - I have a lot of jam at the moment.  That is definitely one to do frequently. I wish I had known about this when Junior Daughter was doing her A levels.  She spent long hours revising at the dining room table and I would make her meals regularly because although she was perfectly capable of doing that herself, she was going for long periods saying she'd eat something in a minute.  I think if you are around and can plonk some nutritious food in front of your teenage children when they are revising it can only be a good thing.  Banana pancakes would be perfect for that.

Banana pancake with jam

I decided to have a morning away from my computer as my eyes are hurting from so much screen time.  So I used the time to catch up with the Be the Change podcasts that Rachelle Strauss has put together and to potter about in my kitchen, with a main aim of working out how to use up some of the jars that had been breeding in my fridge.

Inspired by the topic of bananas, in today's ZWW email, I wanted to have a go at a recipe from Shane Jordan's excellent book Food Waste Philosophy for banana skin curry.

In my talks about food waste in schools, when dealing with the concept of avoidable v. unavoidable food waste, I often used to say that only giraffes eat banana skins. I had no idea that they were edible food for us too.

So today was the day to try it out.  I looked at Shane's recipe, but oh dear.  I didn't have some of the vegetables in the recipe.  I had no leeks and no peppers, but I decided not to be put off.  One of the things that I've really tried hard to do in my new book, Leftover Pie : 101 Ways to Reduce your Food Waste is to encourage my contributors to use the term recipe loosely and I hope I can help people get into the idea that you can swap and change as long as you keep the proportions consistent and you give a thought to the basics of sweet, sour, salty, then all will be well.

I scurried off to my rapidly emptying fridge to see what I did have.  I had a sweet potato, a couple of courgettes, a yellow chilli, so I decided to give this a try.  I love the combination of herbs and spice in Shane's recipe and I did have all of that.  I knew I'd need to cook my curry for longer than the recipe states as I was cooking sweet potato which takes longer than peppers.

Ingredients for banana skin curry. I did peel the onion skins this time as
 I'm going to use them to make a vegetable stock.
I let my curry simmer for a good long time, and tasted it occasionally.  I felt it lacked a little sweetness.  While the curry was cooking I had been having a look at my mass of jars.  I had three jars that each had a bit of homemade apple sauce which I decided to use up to make an apple cake, like the recipe in my book, but with apple sauce on the bottom instead of apple slices.   It won't look as pretty, of course, but it will still taste good.

There was another jar, that looked a bit like apple sauce but maybe a bit more set than normal.  I tasted it a few times, wondering whether I could use it to add sweetness to my curry.  For some reason, I couldn't place the taste.  Yes it was sweet, but I wasn't convinced it was apple.  After a few goes at trying to work it out I realised it was mango chutney, which would be perfect for the curry.  It has worked.  The balance of sweet and spice is nice now.

Yay! That's another jar gone.

I took out yesterday's bits of peel that I'd put in a tub in the fridge and then combined with the onion peel I covered it with water and made some stock for the freezer.

Back to the bananas though, I cut up one of the bananas and popped it in the freezer, to make some of Many Mazliah's nice cream, which is in Leftover Pie.  I used another two bananas to make some banana and oatmeal cookies from a recipe on Wendy's Moral Fibres blog post.

Oh, yes, and I was planning to do a tuna mayo for lunch, but I had some iceberg lettuce left and I'll be out and about for the rest of the week so it needed to be eaten.  I spruced it up with some parsley and some basil leaves and lavender flowers, topped it off with some pesto croutons made from my gluten free bread disaster and had it with some cheese, oatcakes and the remains of another of the jars - some unidentified chutney.

Salad lunch today
I had lots of ideas from the Twitter Zero Waste Week discussion about what to do to make my gluten free bread disaster edible:  bread and butter pudding, croutons, bread crumbs etc.  The pesto croutons were delicious, despite the bread disaster, so I'm going to blitz up some of the loaf for breadcrumbs and cube the rest to turn into croutons another time.  These can go in the freezer until I need them.

Gluten-free bread disaster
One last think though, does anyone know how to make gluten free bread in a bread maker? What's the secret?

Oh yes, the book... Leftover Pie: 101 Ways to Reduce your Food Waste - you can get the first two chapters and eight lovely autumnal recipes. plus you can find out the inspiration behind my flowery salad.  Click on the link here and the special Zero Waste Week edition will be emailed to you for free.

Don't worry, I won't then send you loads of emails - if you read this blog, you know that I'm an infrequent blogger, except during Zero Waste Week when I make an extra special effort, so I'm not going to start news-lettering as well.  I hope you enjoy Leftover Pie!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day Two

So today is all about using your loaf and clearing out the fridge.

My food habits changed a lot since the last Zero Waste Week all about food in 2013.  I learnt a lot from taking part and from being part of a group on a mission and it was a lot of fun because my daughters were both at home and we cooked up all sorts of things to use everything up.  Some things have since become regular family recipes.

But there's one habit that doesn't seem to have gone away... and that's the jars that breed in the back of my fridge, well all over my fridge actually.

Just look at what I'm faced with today!!  What am I going to do with all this lot, I wonder?

I woke up really early this morning despite a very late night (working on that little surprise that Rachelle and I have planned for you).  So when my ZWW email arrived, and I saw the zero waste week challenges for the day, I decided that I'd have to empty my fridge of jars to see if there was indeed anything lurking.

The bread challenge was easy.  I keep my bread in the fridge if I'm going to use it up soon, or in the freezer sliced, ready to pick out the exact number of slices I need.  I know people say you shouldn't keep bread in the fridge but I have never had a problem with it.  I do have a problem if I leave it out in the kitchen when my Rayburn is lit.  The kitchen gets very warm and cosy and just as I like the warm and cosy kitchen so does the bread mould.

I only had two crusts of bread in my fridge left over from cricket tea so I had those with toast and jam for breakfast.

While I was clearing out the jars from my fridge, I got out the rest of my spring onions (it's ok, no dentist appointment today) and some red pepper, a green chilli and a few other veg.  Yesterday I was going to make a vegetable curry, inspired by the #ZeroWasteWeek Twitter-Chatter .

But then I started worrying about all the milk I had, so opted for pasta with a cheese sauce, some fresh tomatoes from the garden and black olives and basil.  It was yummy!

Lunch is sorted in the form of the very round-about version of mushroom soup that I made yesterday to use up all my salad bits.  It just goes to show how much the eyes contribute to our perception of taste.  Now it looks like something familiar, I'm tasting it and finding it delicious.  So much so that I tasted it three or four times just now before I realised I was almost going to be eating my lunch just from taste-testing.

Looks like mushroom soup now!

That means, I'm going to cook up a vegetable curry for tonight.   I'm going to start it off sometime this afternoon so that I can enjoy the smell and let all the spices infuse nicely while I work.

In the meantime, when my mind slips away from the work in hand, which it is known to do on occasion, then I'll have a little think about what to do with the breeding jars!  Ideas please...

Monday, 5 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day One

Yesterday I spent the day at Wychwood Forest Fair at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, talking about how to reduce food waste and how to compost at home with the help of my colleagues, the Master Composters.

It was a long day, and I had something important to finish off yesterday evening.  I think it was about half past ten when I eventual took off my walking boots and my Love Food Hate Waste apron (standard uniform for talks about food waste in the middle of a field!) and fell into bed.

Why did I wake up feeling like a six year old child on Christmas morning? Yes, because it was the start of Zero Waste Week 2016, which is all about reducing your food waste.  And this year, Zero Waste Week will be a bit different for me, because it is the first time I will be reading the emails for the first time each morning.

For the last few years I've seen the emails in advance, discussed them, lending my editing skills and my humble opinion and generally helping out in preparation for the week.  But this year, I've been totally in the dark about what's coming up in the daily emails, because I've been busy cooking up a little something... all will be revealed later in the week!

Earlier in the year, along with the rest of the merry band of Zero Waste Week blog ambassadors I set out my pledge for ZWW 2016.

I pledged to go "shopping in my fridge and my freezer" for the entire week.  My plan was to avoid buying any more food and just to see what I could rustle up with what I already had.

That, along with weighing and documenting any food waste is now my challenge for the week.

Wanting nothing to go to waste, I scurried off to the kitchen before an early start at my desk, to forage around for a waste saving breakfast.  There was a lonely scone, a bit past its best, but twenty seconds in the microwave, and some butter and home-made blackberry and elderberry jam and I was sorted.

Scone for breakfast? Of course, why ever not?
I read the Zero Waste Week email for Day One before even getting out of bed, so I knew that salad was on the agenda.  That couldn't have been more perfect for me, because guess what I had loads of in my fridge other than way too much milk.

My fridge on day one of Zero Waste Week- Hmm! that's a lot of milk.
I also needed a very quick to prepare lunch so I pulled out a tub of pre-cut salad of spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and peppers and added a handful of green salad leaves of various sorts from one of the many tubs of salad leaves (left over from that thing I'm "cooking up" for the middle of the week), pulling out a few leaves that were starting to wilt.  Inspired by today's blog post suggestion of salad soup, I decided to pop these wilted bits into a soup from the rest of the salad - a mix of leaves and herbs picked last Wednesday from my garden. I looked at the soup recipe, grabbed an onion, thought about peeling it and changed my mind. I roughly chopped it, peel on and sweated it down in some olive oil.  I then went to pull out all the bits and piece of salad from the fridge and look for anything that was a bit past its best in the salad drawers.  I shaved off the slightly browning edges of a cabbage and the same for a quarter of an iceberg lettuce.  I kept the rest of the iceberg lettuce for tomorrow, but popped it into some water to keep it fresh. I found some potato peel that I was saving up for making crisps and decided that would be quicker than chopping a potato but do the same job.  One thing I didn't have was any stock, but I did have some apple juice (left over from that project I've been working on for the middle of the week!).  I remembered that my aunt used to make a very nice leek, lettuce and apple soup so I thought I'd give it a go as a replacement for stock.

Salad lunch with a pot of dressing that was lurking at the back of the fridge
 from a pizza delivery a while ago, that Junior Daughter shared with her friends.
 There are carrot sticks hiding under the salad leaves, perfect for eating with the dressing.

Back to my desk with my salad lunch, the smell wafting from the kitchen, notes of mint and fennel, was divine.
Soup ingredients

I then had to dash out to the dentist this afternoon and rather regretted the spring onion!  When I got back I went to taste the soup - fortunately I'd remembered to turn off the hob before going out!  It was ok, but not delicious.  I tasted it a few times to try to detect what was wrong with it and decided that it had quite a kick of lemon grass and was slightly acidic.  What to do?  I decided to add a bit of sea salt and black pepper, and cook it a bit longer which improved things greatly, but it was still lacking a little something.  The recipe I'd remembered was leek, lettuce and apple but I had only added some onion and the green tops from some spring onions as I didn't have any leeks in the fridge.  But then I remembered that I'd saved some green tops from some leeks and a quick rummage in the freezer and I found a bag of these.  I popped these in just as they were, added a half teaspoon of chilli powder and left it to simmer while I went back to work.

When I went back to have a look at my soup - well have a taste really, I found it much improved, but there was still something wrong.  It did taste nice, but my head was still telling me it wasn't delicious and I realised the problem was the rather murky brown colour - green salad, brown potato skins and red onion is always going to end up a murky brown colour.  I felt it looked like mushroom soup, but with no mushrooms in it, the taste didn't fulfil expectation.

What to do?  Chop up some mushrooms.  I decided to leave them whole so it looked like an obvious mushroom soup.  I was a bit worried that I hadn't whizzed up the leek tops before throwing in the mushrooms - as the leaving them whole idea was an afterthought.  However, fifteen minutes later when I went to have another taste the leeks were totally cooked down, and the taste matched expectation.  It tasted of mushroom soup with a pleasant herby note on the finish.

I decided that would be tomorrow's lunch, as I was feeling a little stressed out by the four pints of milk in my fridge, one of which was dated today and definitely on the turn.  So I decided dinner would need to feature a cheese sauce: pasta with a blue cheese sauce, some quartered tomatoes from the garden and some black olives with a few leaves of basil on the top.

A quick use-it-up pasta supper
Total food waste today:

1 tea bag
the tiniest bit of the bottom of the onion
some olive stones

weighs in at 24 grams.