This is Food Safety week and the underlying message this year from the Food Standards Agency is about food waste.
We throw away seven million tonnes of food in the UK annually, costing each household an average of £470. That’s a flight to New York in my book.
Restaurants are tackling the issue as it now costs them money to dispose of excess waste. My friend Tom Hunt is a London-based chef who was over here recently cooking at the Comber Potato Festival. His philosophy is root to fruit eating. When he prepares a chilli pepper, for example, he will pull out the root and use all of the chili, as opposed to chopping off and throwing out the top.
Nose to tail eating is when we use every part of the animal and Tom has applied this philosophy to vegetables. He uses beetroot leaves, cauliflower leaves, carrot tops and potato peelings that would normally end up in the compost heap. If you chop the top off a strawberry, rather than pulling out the green top, it will amount to the equivalent of throwing out one punnet in 10.
When you buy whole vegetables you’ll get a better idea of their quality too. Carrot tops should be verdant and fresh but it’s harder to judge freshness from a scrubbed, cellophane packed carrot.
We’re all guilty of over buying and throwing out the excess. Freezing food is a great way of cutting out waste. It’s like pressing the pause button on sell by dates. When you’re cooking a soup or stew, make up more than you’re going to use and freeze for use at a later date.
As food becomes more convenient the more willing we are to chuck it. Years ago we made out and stuck to shopping lists and cooked from scratch. You’re more inclined to chuck something out you didn’t go to any effort making it. Now we’re bombarded in supermarkets by hard selling methods - attractive displays, multi buy “bargains” and slick selling. If you go to a butchers there won’t be any of this - just good food at a better price. Farm shops are wonderful places to pick up top notch quality produce at a cheaper price.
When you have leftover vegetables, making stock is a good way of using them up. A well made vegetable stock gives a unique, flavoursome taste to your soups and sauces. Make plenty and freeze the excess.
Fresh peas are in full flight at the moment. After shelling them use the pods for soup rather than disposing of them.
I’ve included a recipe this week for this with a crispy bacon and chive sour cream topping. For the actual peas I’ve included a recipe for pressed ham hock to serve them with a salad with mint and roast white of leek. The green part of the leek is in the soup. Ham hock is a relatively cheap cut of meat that gives you tender, mightily flavoured meat plus a fantastic stock. It takes a bit of cooking but the results are amazing.