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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quick 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- One substantial portion of noodle soup or two smaller ones.