Tag Archives: food

Zero Waste Week: Use it or Lose it

This week has been zero waste week, I’ve been remiss in marking it on the blog but not at all remiss in observing my part of it at home

I think I might even be an Ambassador for ZWW which makes my shame all the greater.  Quick go over there and check out the cool stuff I keep forgetting to blog about!

The view from our local park.

The view from our local park.

I chose to focus on food because whilst I work hard to reduce waste there are always things I could do better and new tips and tricks to try out. This culminated in an ultimate Zero Waste Meal that I am incredibly proud of because almost all the ingredients were grown or made by me!

The meal was Potato and Kale stew and my ingredients looks liked this:

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Shallots (grown by us)

Garlic (grown and preserved by my Dad)

Cavelo Nero (grown by us)

Potatoes (grown by us)

Borlotti Beans (grown by us)

Parma Ham (grown and made by us)

Leftover shredded chicken (remnants of 4 chicken carcasses I used for stock)

2 cubes of chicken stock (made by me, reduced until concentrated and frozen in ice cube trays)

1.2 litres of whey (leftover from cheesemaking I used it to rehydrate the stock cubes)

Smoked Paprika (shop bought)

Olive Oil (shop bought)

The method was pretty simple after that..

Fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until softened and add the potatoes and ham.  Then add the paprika, chicken, whey and stock cubes and simmer for about 20 mins or until the potatoes are done.  Then add the cavelo nero (destalked and roughly chopped) and the beans – cook for another 10 mins.  Voila!

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It was incredibly flavourful and highly nutritious with all the extra protein from the whey and of course that Superfood darling – Kale!

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Growing your own food is really waste saving in so many ways, there is no packaging and no air miles, you only pick exactly what you need so nothing rots in the veg drawer and any trimmings can go on the compost heap to be put back into the soil.

Over the week I’ve been looking out for more food waste saving tips to pop down here:

1. Chillis – my chilli plants failed this year so I’ve had to buy them from the Supermarket.  I always get more than I need in a pack.  So I read online that you can just throw chillis straight in the freezer in a container and when you need them, get them out and use them as if they were fresh.  I have about 4 chillis in the freezer right now!

2. Milk – I over ordered milk recently and ended up with double what I needed.  I froze one of the bottles and use the other to make Paneer Cheese.  I used this blog post and the final recipe in it is for Queso Blanco which (as it turns out) is the same as paneer!  I used some of the whey in the above stew instead of water and the rest I’m freezing in portions for baking.

3. Preserving – as a Gardner with a lot of fruit trees at this time of year I am rushed off my feet trying to preserve the harvest.  Currently I’ve made two plum cakes, 7lbs of Damson Jam and nearly 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial.  There is much more to come this weekend.  There are lots of good jam and chutney recipes online and if you use homegrown or foraged produced they will often cost pennies.  Our 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial cost under a £1. I can’t bear to see blackberries rotting in the hedgerows near to a supermarket where they are being sold at £1.75 for 150g!

4. Pizza Sauce – I love this idea by A Girl Called Jack for making pizza out of leftovers.  I often have a couple of tablespoons of veggie stew, chilli, bolognese leftover and nothing to do with it.  How come I didn’t realise I could use it as pizza sauce!

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Taking Time to Enjoy the Good Life

We moved here as part of a larger plan to change our lives and live more of the Good Life. In many ways the Good Life means more and harder work (especially with a young baby) but it is called the Good Life because of the rewards.  One of the keys to living this way is making sure you squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of your life.

(Actually that is just a key to life isn’t it…)

So this weekend I have been relaxing, pottering and really enjoying the life we have made.

This is my short post of good things we have enjoyed this weekend.

1. Shallots

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All the shallots are harvested.  About 1/3 of them are dried and the rest are drying.  We’ve got an ok crop this year (but very good for our first crop in a long time!).  I’ll pickle a small amount (because homemade pickled onions are delicious!) and we’ll use the rest in cooking.

Knowing I don’t have to buy onions for a couple of months feels surprisingly good!

2. Barbeque!

The weather this month has been incredible.  In fact both the Summers since we moved to Derbyshire have been glorious and I love hot weather.  (I liked it less last year when I was recovering from a c-section and trying to breastfeed – then the hot weather was a lot less nice.)  But knowing that I didn’t get the most out of it last year has meant I’ve really appreciated it this year.

When we bought the house we noted there was a brick built barbeque but we didn’t think much about it.  How wrong we were not to realise it’s potential.  For some reason this lovely brick built thing makes it a million times easier to have a lovely BBQ in the Summer months.

Josh made marinated lamb steaks and we had Abel & Cole Chipolatas, homemade rye bread, salad, and marinated anchovies.  It was all delicious!

3. First Cucumber

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The BBQ also saw us eating our first cucumber of the year.  The others on the plant are all tiny but this lovely sized one was just right.  I’d never really appreciate how amazing a home grown cucumber is before we did our own a few years ago.  They are less wet and slimy and much more crunchy – which I totally prefer.

4. Borlotti Beans – first pods

I’ve never grown these before so when I was feeding the pigs this morning I was so excited to see these two pods peeking out from the leaves! I’m hoping to eat a few fresh but mostly dry them all for the Winter!

They are all small things, but they were all relaxing, simple, fun and pretty inexpensive to enjoy (and yes I do realise they are all food related – but that is just how my mind works!) I hope all of you are taking the time to enjoy your Good Lives and I’d love to hear more about them below.

Westwick Ham – the Grand Unveiling

Over the weekend the 4 month wait to sample our own Parma Westwick Ham was up.  It was a very exciting moment and really lovely that my Dad who helped us make it 4 long months ago was here to sample it.

Westwick Ham

Westwick Ham

Soon after they arrived I took it down from the Verandah ceiling.  It was as hard as wood which I took to be a very good sign.  No squishy bits and no foul smell. When I unwrapped it it looked less than inspiring, a bit of mould on the outside but again nothing to indicate it was rotten or otherwise good to eat.

Looking underwhelming at first.

Looking underwhelming at first.

I think in this day and age where most food is neatly packaged in plastic, looking completely sterile the idea of eating meat that has not been cooked and in fact has been hanging in my verandah miles away from a fridge or freezer is… disconcerting.  But I trusted to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the millions of farmers (especially Italian and Spanish) who have been there before me.  I am so pleased I did.

I gave the ham a good sniff and it smelled like… well like Parma Ham. Then we tasted it.  It was delicious,  salty and just like Parma Ham!

Looking better.

Looking better.

We carved up a big batch (that took forever by hand (this stuff really is like wood!) to take to my Uncle and Aunt’s House warming party and paired it with some dried apricots to take the edge of the saltiness of the Ham.  It was a huge hit and it was totally exciting to contribute something so unusual that we had made.

Next time we will be making double the quantity and we are thinking of looking for a second hand meat slicer because it really was very hard to slice.

 

Use it or Lose it Recipe – Breadcrumbs

Shelling peas in the sun.

Shelling peas in the sun.

Today had its ups and downs (R took a little bit of a tumble, nothing serious but a bit of a shock and a sore bump for an already cross, teething baby). But there was a moment in the sunshine when I felt very happy and at peace.  I’d just picked our first pea harvest; mangetout are the yellow ones and Dwarf Early Peas the green ones.  I sat and shelled them by the veg patch so that I could toss the pea pods into the pig pen.  Pigs love things like that but they can’t eat food scraps that have been in a kitchen because of cross contamination.  So I made sure I shelled the peas in the sun, by the veg patch and the hedgerow while the pigs wuffled in the background.  It was lovely.

I’ve decided to make Use it or Lose it Recipes a regular feature on the blog.  I talked a little bit about food waste in the first Use it or Lose it Post.

We make our bread in a bread machine and whilst we use most of it up, there is often a crust or two leftover.  I save them up and then blitz them in the food processor for breadcrumbs.  Then I freeze them.  Breadcrumbs last ages in the freezer and if the bread is sufficiently stale they don’t seem to freeze together in one clump – this means you can take out one portion at a time and leave the rest of the bag in the freezer.

This recipe is for using up stale bread. There are lots of ways of using up stale bread as it happens and I’m sure I’ll come back to this particular type of leftover in the future. As a child my Dad made the most amazing stuffing for Sunday lunch.  He experimented with all sorts of flavours and herbs from the garden but my favourites were the sweetcorn stuffing and his mushroom stuffing.  The other day I was thinking about the huge bad of breadcrumbs sitting in the freezer and remembering the stuffing of my childhood.  I realised that stuffing doesn’t have to be relegated to a Sunday lunch side dish but would make a great lunchtime dish – especially as a good finger food for fat little baby hands. At the same time someone posted a recipe up on a baby-led weaning group on facebook which was basically stuffing and with a bit of tweaking from me I think I’ve got something just right.

So this is my Lunchtime Special Stuffing – good for using up stale breadcrumbs AND wilted veg from the fridge.  Doesn’t that sound appetising? I’m sure Nigella Lawson would describe it as the mouth-crunchingly-perfect miniature beads of bread with juicy sweet carrots and sunshine-jewelled sweetcorn kernels.

Tasty lunchtime meal.

Tasty lunchtime meal.

This should serve 2 adults and 2 children for lunch with a salad/fruit.  It makes great picnic food for going out and about as well.

Ingredients

230g of shredded or finely chopped vegetables/herbs (I used carrots, sweetcorn, fresh basil and fresh parsley)

30g grated cheese (e.g. cheddar)

2 big handfuls of  breadcrumbs

2 medium eggs beaten

tablespoon butter

2 and 1/2 tsp of mixed dried herbs/spices

(I used 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp marjoram, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika but use what you have – this is supposed to be a recipe about using things up – not buying lots more things)

Bowl of ingredients ready for mixin'

Bowl of ingredients ready for mixin’

Method

Preheat the oven to 190c/180fan/Gas Mark.

Mix all the above ingredients together until well combined.  Then either shape into individual patties or press into an oven dish. Personally I usually press it into an oven dish.  Sometimes I have the time to make ultra-cute baby sized portions of things, but this mixture is fiddly and messy and easier to put in a dish.

If you do make one big oven dish then dot the butter over the top.

 

Dotting with butter

Dotting with butter

Bake for about 25 mins until golden brown on top.

If you used an oven dish then now is the time to cut it into slices, otherwise just serve with fruit and salad.

 

Use it or lose it… food waste

So one of the areas we are working on is food waste.  I’d like to think we are pretty good about this and yet it often seems that a bit of hummus or a bowl of leftovers ends up going to waste.   I hate the idea of throwing away food especially since out of the 15 million tonnes of food the UK throws away annually – half is from households!  But on a personal level, throwing away food is  throwing away money and I can’t be doing that.

Statistics are from the excellent “love food, hate waste” website which is a goldmine of useful information and recipes.

Now we are growing more of our own food (especially the meat!) waste seems more and more unpalatable.  This food represents something more valuable than money, it represents our time and in the case of our animals it represents their lives.  These are big incentives for me and I’m proud to say that in the case of our pigs we have been careful to really stretch the meat and use every bite.

It is shop bought food that suffers worse though.  My main offenders are bags of herbs (some it always goes off before it is used), celery (why does every recipe call for one or two sticks only!!!) and bowls of leftover meals – good intentions literally gone bad.

So one of my goals in the coming months is to get our food waste down to nothing (or as close to nothing as we can get it).

To this end I’m sharing today’s Use It or Lose It Recipe.

Milk – it is feast or famine with milk in this house.  We either have loads about to go off or I’m popping over the road for a cheeky pint from the expensive mini-Tescos.  Eventually our milk consumption will level out (I hope!) or we’ll work out how to order just the right about.

I had about 300ml left of some full fat milk which was two days out of date today (but NOT off.  When I have too much milk I usually make one of two things Pancakes and Yorkshire Pudding.  This is probably a cheat since in a way a Yorkshire Pud is like roasted pancake.

Today I made Orange and Vanilla Pancakes for breakfast.

 

Tasty breakfast ready to go.
Tasty breakfast ready to go.

Makes 3 pancakes the size of dinner plates – enough to feed 2 adults and 2 children.

Ingredients:

2 medium eggs whisked together

1 mug milk

1 mug flour (plain or self-raising whatever you have)

zest of one orange

1 tsp of vanilla extract/essence

butter for frying

Whisk together the milk, flour and eggs until you have a smooth batter then rest for at least 30 mins and add the vanilla and zest.  The resting time allows the flour to absorb the liquid and apparently makes it nicer. Either way I’ve always done it and feel superstitious about the resting time.

Breakfast parts about to be assembled.
Breakfast parts about to be assembled.

Melt some of the butter in a large frying pan until hot.  Then add enough of the batter to cover the base of the large frying pan (about 3 ladles for me). You should get 3 giant pancakes using this method.

We ate ours with the rest of the orange cut into slices and some strawberries that were about to go off.

Making a giant pancake cuts down on cooking time and I hate standing around making pancakes for ages whilst they get cold and soggy or whilst other people are eating them and I’m cooking.  Make 3 really big ones then cut into slices as you need to like a pizza.  Less cooking time, less gas/electric used, less stress.

 

 

Homemade Nutty Butter

We eat a lot of nut butter. Not so much peanut butter as it tends to be high in salt/sugar which isn’t good for R, but cashew and almond nut butter are regular fixtures.

Tasty, toasty nuts

Tasty, toasty nuts

We have it on toast, on rice cakes, sometimes they get added to chocolate vegan fudge ball thingys, sometimes they get added to homemade Hummus when we run out of tahini (we eat a LOT of homemade Hummus).

But I’ve been pondering for a while if there is a cheaper way to get our fix because if you buy something other than cheap peanut butter it gets expensive, fast.

Then someone pointed me to this link for 7 homemade nut butters.

Some of the recipes in the link seem a bit fancy – I don’t need my nut butter to contain vegan chocolate or, indeed, any chocolate!  But the principle of oil + nuts + lots of food processing seemed simple.

So I decided I’d just try cashew nuts and a bit of coconut oil for starters.

Ingredients

150g toasted cashew nuts (£1.50 from Sainsburys)

20g melted coconut oil (£0.40 from Sainsburys)

I toasted the nuts in a frying pan for a couple of mins until they got a few specks of golden brown on them and then I melted the coconut oil and whizzed it all up in the food processor.

The coconut oil did help to solidify the mixture… but a bit too much and a bit too early. I ended up having to add rapeseed oil to loosen it up enough to continue processing it into a nice spreadable paste.  But a good spreadable consistency was achieved and it tastes pretty much like I’d expect (slightly more grainy but I really doubt anyone will notice or care). I potted it up in an old Meridian jar and it should keep in the fridge for quite a while.

Ready for spreading.

Ready for spreading.

Total cost of 170g homemade nut butter is £1.90.  Total cost of the same weight of Meridian Cashew nut butter is £2.39.  So a definite saving here and I’m sure I can shave another 20-30p off that price easily since next time I won’t bother using the expensive coconut oil. If I can find a good local source for the nuts I can probably do it even cheaper.

Finest Nut Butter know to anyone!

Finest Nut Butter know to anyone!

All in all, I really impressed with the results.  It was quick, easy, cheaper and being able to make my own means I can get really inventive.  Next stop Pistachio Nut Butter!

Of course if the squirrels leave us any walnuts on our walnut tree then we could be making walnut butter for just the cost of the oil and it makes me even more determined to plant a hazelnut tree in the orchard now.

One more thought – I often make foodie presents for gifts and have been thinking about making Christmas Hampers for a while.  These would be perfect!