The ‘value of food’ is something that everyone should think about

Cauliflowers'MSMP Cauliflower
Cauliflowers'MSMP Cauliflower
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The author JRR Tolkien once said: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Never has the food part of this been more pertinent. Today sees the start of European Waste Week with the focus on “dematerialisation” and everyone encouraged to do more or make more with less.

The “value of food” is something we should all be thinking about, especially coming up to Christmas.

We tend to get into siege mentality and buy enough food for a small army, forgetting that the shops really only close for a day.

I’ve seen the wheels of shopping trolleys nearly buckled under the weight of food and drink being bought for one day’s cooking.

The sad statistical reality is that nearly a third of what’s purchased will end up in the bin. Love Food Hate Waste (www.lovefoodhatewaste.com) have excellent practical ideas and recipes on their website for reducing waste.

A friend of mine, who has two young children, has put a limit of £200 on herself to buy presents and food for the festive period. I admire her resolve, but I know of families where £200 wouldn’t even cut it as the budget for one child’s present.

Making gifts might sound a bit Barbara and Tom from the Good Life, but when I make chocolate truffles or shortcake to bring as a gift, it always goes down well.

People always appreciate a bit of effort being put in. There are still some sloes around at the moment and sloe gin makes a lovely gift.

Freeze 500g of sloes and the next day mix them up with 500g white sugar and a litre of gin in a kilner jar.

Give it a twice daily shake up for two weeks then leave and decant into bottles for Christmas.

Tom Hunt is a chef and food waste activist. He often does pop up restaurants using food that has been thrown out by supermarkets.

His website, www.tomsfeast.com has some amazing, seasonal recipes for using leftovers and making the most of the food around us. You mightn’t want to try his sheep head recipe but he has one for a mean beech leaf gin!

This week’s recipes use ingredients we tend to discard. Cauliflower leaves are bulky and take up a lot of room in the bin, but they make a delicious soup.

The key is to chop them up as finely as possible so they require little cooking. Some spice oil peps it up and crispy croutons made with leftover bread adds a crunch.

When we prepare broccoli, we tend to store the stump, with good intentions of making soup and then throw it out later.

Slicing it finely and pickling it takes it to a new dimension – it nearly has an asparagus like quality.

If you do want to make soup with it my tip is to chop the stump as finely as possible – when you cook it for a long time it takes on a grey hue. I worked in a kitchen, many years ago, where one of the chefs had broccoli stumps boiling for ages to make soup. It stank the kitchen out and looked horrible. He duly added quite a lot of green food colouring to improve the appearance! Thankfully it was assigned to the waste disposal and not customer’s plates!

Finally I always seem to have apples and pears, just a little past their best, in the fruit bowl.

The cake recipe here is very forgiving so if the apples are bruised, or the pears a bit past their best it doesn’t matter too much.