The Good, The Bad, And The Perishable

I do not like throwing food in the bin, I do not like it one little bit.

It feels like a defeat (boo!) when my perishables expire before I can put them to good use and, conversely, a victory (yay!) when I have successfully cooked and/or eaten my way through the latest contents of the fridge.

A recent survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells me that I am by no means the only person who feels this way. 97% of people, when asked, said that they were bothered by food waste. Thing is though, almost half of those people confessed to doing little or nothing to prevent it. So, really, they can’t be that bothered by it, can they?

Perhaps the EPA’s Stop Food Waste campaign, which aims to heighten awareness among consumers and provide commonsense tips on how to avoid food waste, will prod more people into taking action.

At the launch of the campaign this week, some familiar foodie faces were on hand to lend both their support and their use-it-don’t-lose-it recipes.

Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, with a little help from TV3's Aidan Cooney

As she whipped up a dumpling-topped pork casserole with consummate ease, Rachel Allen named soups, frittatas and casseroles as her top three use-up-what’s-in-the-fridgeables.

Kevin Thornton

Kevin Thornton works his culinary magic

Michelin-starred Kevin Thornton talked about our skewed sense of value when it comes to food. We might baulk at paying top prices for, say, a prime whole fish, but if, as Kevin ably demonstrated, you can make a succession of dishes from all of its usable parts, that fish starts to seem not so expensive anymore.

Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan keeps things simple

While it is more than aspirational to expect the average consumer to start producing Thornton-style magic at home, Donal Skehan’s recipes are well within the reach of the masses. Give that young man a chicken and he’ll give you several days worth of easily made dinners, with a herby roast chicken providing the basis for subsequent pasta and noodle-based dishes, as well as chicken stock. It’s not a bad place to start if you want to become cannier about using all that is available to you, foodwise.

When all is said and done, though, I can’t help but wonder how much impact the Stop Food Waste campaign will really have. It is all very well to provide waste-aware tips and recipes, but the elephant in the room is the still-common perception that food is, and should be, a cheaply available commodity. It is something that comes to us conveniently packaged and is, ultimately, disposable. As we grow ever more distant from the source of our food, its real value to us becomes diminished. So perhaps we pay less attention than we should to getting the most out of the food we have. If we had a real connection to the people producing our food or if, indeed, we were producing it ourselves, we would be far less inclined to waste a single scrap.

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Quick Asian Noodle Soup

Asian Noodle Soup

This is adapted from one of the recipes demonstrated by Donal Skehan at the Stop Food Waste launch and is based, he told us, on the idea of instant noodle pots as made by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – a homemade (and significantly healthier) alternative to the pot noodle.

The execution couldn’t be simpler: soften some rice noodles with boiling water or stock, stir in your flavourings, vegetables and other ingredients et voilà. Of course it’s a good idea to chop or otherwise prepare and assemble all of the ingredients before you pour the water or stock over your noodles so that you can add them quickly without things getting too cold.

You’ll need:
  • 1 tblsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1.5 tsp honey
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 0.5 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated root ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 50g fine rice noodles
  • 350ml boiling water or use chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
  • finely sliced fresh red chilli to taste (optional)
  • approx. 75g Chinese cabbage (i.e. napa cabbage), finely shredded
You’ll also need:
  • A pyrex or other heatproof bowl for putting the soup together.
The Steps:
  • In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, lime juice, tomato purée, toasted sesame oil, grated ginger and grated garlic.
  • Place the noodles in your heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water or stock.
  • When the noodles are soft (probably around 2 minutes or so) stir in the soy sauce mixture along with the spring onions, chopped coriander and sliced chilli (if using), reserving some spring onions and coriander for garnish. Finally stir in the shredded Chinese cabbage. Serve scattered with the reserved spring onion and coriander.
The Variations:
  • There are many things that you could stir into this as the mood takes you: shredded cooked chicken or pork; cooked prawns; or a plain 1-egg omelette, cut into ribbons. Lightly steamed slices of broccoli and/or mange tout would also work well, as would crushed toasted peanuts.
The Results:
  • One substantial portion of noodle soup or two smaller ones.
Comments
  • We do NOT like tossing food. We always find a way to use it up, even if it’s a strange recipe. You can come up with interesting dishes by combining different ingredients. Great campaign! Hope it continues to make a big difference.

  • Hey Duo, I’m with you on that. I have certainly made some strange things by putting together whatever is left in the fridge. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend all of the possible combinations, but it does sometimes lead to interesting results!

  • That looks so wonderful… easy… and tasty. Very fresh tasting and (here’s something amazing!) I have all of those ingredients in my cupboard today!

    Now if I could just get off work in time to go home and cook it up!

  • I’m definitely in the camp that doesn’t like to toss out any food. We compost as much as we can, but I need to do a better job of using up scraps like veggie pieces for stock. Looks like a very informative event and what a great recipe!

  • Marti: Thanks so much for stopping by – this soup is all of those things you mention, and it really does take very little time, so I hope you get a chance to put it together for yourself after work!

    Lori: I do try to compost where I can (and composting is one of the things they are encouraging as part of the campaign) but I could also do a better job of making things like stock from what’s hanging about in the fridge. I think that getting into the habit of clearing out (and using up what’s in) the fridge and freezer on some kind of a regular basis is not a bad habit to get into.

  • I agree that soups, frittatas and casseroles are the Holy Trinity of Using Up Stuff. To that list, I humbly add “stir fry.” Nice to see a very public push for reducing food waste. Thanks, DS!

  • Ah, yes, stir fries, of course! And, thinking about it, using up what you’ve got really goes hand in hand with learning not to be strictly bound by recipes – which would be right up your alley, Jenni :)

  • I also follow Donal’s blog & his recipes never fail me!! Of course, I am also a big fan of Rachel’s!!

    It is good that they show the people how not to waist food in your fridge!

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Daily Spud!

  • Hey Sophie – you would have loved the event I’m sure. And while I can’t imagine that you’d have any problem with figuring out what to do with the food in your fridge, it’s a good thing to get more people thinking about it.

  • This is an excellent and very important issue to bring up! Like you, I hate to waste food but I often set myself up for the problem because of overabundance. Too often, I would buy fresh ingredients on whim, without any idea as to what I would actually cook with them. Interestingly enough, now that we have moved to a much, much smaller space, where there is simply not enough storage in the fridge or cupboards, I am planning our meals ahead and with more deliberate thought, and therefore buying only what is needed at the moment.

    Many thanks for sharing this event and campaign with us!

  • Funnily enough, TN, I, too, am now operating in a much smaller kitchen space than before, with much less storage and, more to the point, much less freezer space, so I do have to do more ‘on demand’ food shopping. I’m still prone to buying veg and other fresh ingredients on a whim but I try not to go overboard.

  • [...] Asian Noodle Soup inspired by The Daily Spud serves [...]

  • [...] Asian Noodle Soup inspired by The Daily Spud serves [...]

  • I made this with Savoy cabbage today in an effort to use it while fresh. It worked well (I shredded into very fine strips and steamed it for about 5 mins) thougth maybe not as nutritious as the chinese stuff as some of the cabbage juices were lost in the steaming water. Still I was very pleased and ate the lot (eventhough it looked like a huge amount, it’s very light and tasty). I feel full of vitamins now! :)

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