Wild About Garlic?

So I am now officially admitting defeat. I will never crack this ‘not wasting food’ thing – I’d have more success going for the ‘living in a hut in the woods and just chewing bark’ thing – I am just not organised enough. Well actually it’s not me…it’s them.

Take the other night – I am making dinner for six, The Ref, The Loafer, his girlfriend, the nearly teen and the little one – and me. So far, so ‘six defrosted salmon fillets’ good.

The little one gets invited to her friend’s for tea after school and is already being driven off as I’m composing the sentence ‘I’m not sure if that is very convenient this evening…’

The Loafer calls to say that he and his girlfriend have had a better offer, mostly consisting of staying in the pub.

The Ref dashes in, grabs his kit bag and says he going straight back out to a match –

‘But you didn’t tell me,’ I call after him.

‘Yes I did, last night  – just before you fell asleep on the sofa with that glass of Pinot Grigio in your hand.’

How come everyone always tells me stuff then?

‘So,’ I say to the Nearly Teen Queen and a tray of fennel roasted salmon, ‘it’s just the three of us.’

‘I hate salmon,’ says the NTQ, ‘and why have you put green stuff on it? Can’t I have toast?’

And the result of all this is that I have salmon for lunch every day for the next week.

The salmon went very well with the wild garlic I found recently though   – it’s great stuff – but very strong! I need to put in a bit of a disclaimer here and say please don’t go picking anything just on my say so – I’m not an expert and you need to make sure you know what you’re eating, Lily of the Valley is very similar looking, grows in the same places and is poisonous. Buy a good guide book such as Mabey’s ‘Food For Free’ImageHaving said that you’d have to be pretty dozey to mistake anything else for this as it has such a distinctive onion/garlic smell. Or put another way – it really stinks!

Wild garlic has a pretty short April/May season, and it’s fun to get it when you can. Use it in cheese sandwiches, braised like spinach or make wild garlic pesto  – which is Little E’s favourite, she eats it by the jar. There are plenty of recipies about but I just use equal weight of wild garlic leaves, nuts – you can use pine nuts but they are so expensive I just tend to use sunflower seeds or cashews, and parmesan or similar hard cheese. Blitz it all together (grate the cheese first or it takes forever to break up by which time everything else is mush – experience talking here) and add good oil (I think just extra virgin olive is too strong – go half with something milder) to the consistency you like. Just make sure you don’t need to speak to anyone for six hours after eating!

Parsimonious Parsnips?

???????????????????????????????I am starting to realise there are some situations which make it almost impossible not to throw food away.

At the start of the month we had a birthday sleepover for a group of  8 & 9 year olds. Leftover party food is not very appetising the next day. Just as bad were the results of a group baking session. All those 9 year old egos doing battle for kitchen supremacy , wresting ingredients from each other’s hands and squabbling over who gets to break the eggs – fun to watch but very definitely a case of too many cooks spoiling the cupcakes. As far as not wasting food goes – well let’s just say the chickens had a party of their own next day.

Once I started looking properly was amazed at how much food we actually have in our house, in the freezer or in tins and jars or even still in the garden. The Ref found two whole rows of parsnips when he started digging the plots last week – the chickens must have eaten the greenery off the top and we kind of forgot they were there. I am thinking of maybe writing a book called ‘100 Interesting Ways with a Parsnip’ – this could be a follow on to last summer’s ‘1000 Interesting Ways with a Courgette’ … maybe.

I am also getting very possessive about my fridge, along the lines of ‘Who ate that old slice of bacon – I had plans for that!’ as my whole evening’s finely honed menu is thrown into disarray. Similarly I have had to get very dictatorial about shopping lists and things, as the Ref will insist on coming home with random ‘bargains’ he has found whilst popping into the supermarket on the way home to buy some essentials (well, okay, beer).

‘Look,’ he proclaims proudly, dumping a bag of sprouts and a slightly stale baguette on the kitchen worktop, ‘Half price!’ I am of course supposed to be pleased, in the same way as a Neanderthal* wife was supposed to be pleased when her husband dumped a bison carcass in her cave kitchen, I suppose. Although I’m sure she thought much the same as me, ‘Great, what am I supposed to do with that?’

Although he has now redeemed himself by making up a really great parsnip recipe (only 99 to go). Mash parsnips with cream and grated parmesan, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little more parmesan and bake till crusty  🙂

This afternoon I am making nettle soup. Because my daughter asked for it! Apparently I made it a couple of years ago and she really liked it.  Perhaps we could make some at her next birthday sleepover – now that would be fun to watch!

* Don’t write in. I don’t do history.

The Real Reason They Don’t Eat Their Crusts…

The Waste Nothing challenge has had a major setback this week as the Loafer returned to University. What was simply a matter of smothering anything that needed finishing up in Reggae Reggae sauce and leaving it within arms’ reach of the sofa, has now become a full on planning and logistical trial.

Beginning with shopping at Sainsbury’s:

Clearly to give us the longest amount of time to eat everything, I need to get the longest sell-by dates. Although I often glance at these I have been amazed at the variation in dates on the same packages of food now I have started to look more closely. Nearly all the fruit and veg I bought was available in sell by dates which varied by several days within the same display, up to a week on some things like satsumas. The same with milk and bread (actually found out of date bread on the shelves). Yoghurts and cheese had even bigger variations. This may sound pernickety but I also picked up their free magazine on how to save money and make food go further. Which makes me wonder if the money wouldn’t be better spent on training their staff in better stock rotation.

The most bizarre find though was the sticker on their loose red peppers. Those long bendy ones which taste better and last longer, well so I thought. Trying to find a sell by date I noticed the sticker which said. ‘Eat within two to three days of purchase’. It’s a pepper! Why would you need to eat it within three days – and anyway, how do they know when you are going to purchase it? With their stock rotation system it could have been on the shelf for a week or a day.

I did find a most fantastic pear though! A box of them, all very lumpy and ugly, much more interesting than their very sensible neighbours.

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So last night I made Pear Tatin with some left over puff pastry from a turkey pie I made earlier in the week (yes, it was Christmas turkey but panic not, it had been in the freezer!). This necessitated buying more Crème Fraiche though – as basically the pastry and the pear was just an excuse for me to eat spoonfuls of the stuff.

Talking of cream: On Sunday we finally finished off the Christmas double cream in some creamed spinach – a very impressive 20 days past it’s use by date and still perfectly good.

Talking of Christmas leftovers: The Ref and I decided not to buy any wine or beer in January, this was meant to make it a month of abstinence, but I decided in the spirit of the challenge that using up Christmas drinks does not count – and it is quite surprising how good homemade cherry brandy is after a dry week.

The other thing we have leftover from Christmas is a jar of candy canes. Not even the kids like these, don’t really know why I bought them except they look cute. So next year I won’t! For anyone with the same problem I found this.

http://www.mamalovesfood.com/2010/12/peppermint-candy-cane-dust.html

Although I will probably just give them to the Ref to take to work and leave in the staff room – this is a place of last resort, similar to throwing the crusts to the chickens.

Talking of crusts:

At breakfast this morning I discovered why, despite begging, pleading and deep reasoning I still cannot get Little E to eat her crusts.

‘It’s because if you leave them Mum, you can spell LOL on your plate.’

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Some battles are just lost.

What’s Lurking in Your Fridge?

So…New Year…new blog.

Don’t you just love those great anti-consumerist ideas people have for a blog? ‘My Year Living on One Penny a Day’ or ‘My Year of Not Buying Clothes,’  ‘My Year of Living in a Caravan in the Woods and Chewing Bark.’ I love them! Every year I think I wish I’d thought of that– so this year I tried to think of one.

‘My Year without a TV’? Been done, anyway the family said they would rather I went than the telly.

‘My Year of Not Going to the Supermarket’? Very tempting but currently totally impractical.

A week into new year I was still trying to come up with an idea and deciding I had probably missed the boat for this year and that ethical living might need a bit more forward planning.

The problem is that, as much as I hate the consumerist quagmire we are all sucked into, we as a family are a perfect example of the way the system self-perpetuates. My partner and I work too many hours in order to earn the money to live and therefore never seem to have the time to find an alternative solution. In truth we do try, we have for many years grown a lot of our own food, we keep hens and burn scrap wood for extra fuel but we also run two cars, shop at Tesco and close our eyes to the fact that the kids cheap school uniforms have probably been made by another kid missing out on their own education.

So what could we as a family do (alternatively read, ‘I, as a tyrant impose’) that would make a small difference and still be manageable for a whole year?  We have three children aged 8, 12 and 19. The 8 year old is at that lovely age where she still has a smidgeon of enthusiasm for things her parents suggest. So when, last week, I suggested we make New Year’s Resolutions the older two rolled their eyes and slid under the table, but little E said ‘I’m going to make a resolution to finish everything on my plate so it doesn’t get wasted.’ Her Dad and I smiled hopefully at each other, smiles which said ‘Maybe it will be third time lucky’.

Perhaps because I was having an indulgent parenty moment I didn’t listen to what she was saying but this morning those lovely, lovely people at  the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (I love writing things which have never before been written) sent forth a survey which chimed with her 8 year old wisdom.

The survey found that:

    Overall between 30%and 50% of what has been bought in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser

Institute of Mechanical Engineers Global Food Report

I may no longer be 8, but even I know that this is bonkers and quite possibly, actually evil. Then, finally, I had my lightbulb moment.

‘My Year of Not Throwing Any Food Away.’

I love it!

This year we will endeavour to eat everything we buy. We will not allow crumpets to go mouldy in the breadbin, bananas to go so black that even the smoothie maker refuses to eat them or half eaten tins to lurk around the back of the fridge with their other half eaten tinny friends.

It seems sensible to start with a perishable foods survey: i.e. What’s in the fridge that should have been eaten already? (My fridge has a distinctly post-Christmas feel)

A small amount of leftover cooked lamb which is three days old

Two opened jars of pesto

Half a camembert (out of date four days ago)

A large slice of St Agur with a couple of days left

Three slices of cooked ham

Some crème fraiche, opened

Some leftover Christmas double cream, 10 days out of date but tastes ok

Some plain yoghurt, out of date yesterday

A pot of brandy butter

A jar of pasta sauce opened yesterday

Half a pack of coriander

Half a small onion

Everything else in the fridge is fresh or well in date but we also have lurking in the kitchen:

Four crumpets

Two crust of bread

A black banana

I am enlisting the help of Little E in this as she is tenacious and scary. Tonight we will tell the rest of them – Nearly Teen Queen will no longer be able to eat half a piece of toast before tossing her head and declaring ‘Marmite is so yesterday.’ The Loafer  (who to be fair does eat almost everything that crosses his 19 year old path,  provided it is placed between him and his computer screen) will no longer be able to consign a can containing three baked beans to the fridge to save him having to rinse it out and put it in the recycling bin. As for their Dad, the Ref (because he is, and if he wasn’t everyone would think he was anyway  –  and the other alternative was OCD Man but I thought he might get twitchy about it) well he might like to consider that it is not actually physically harmful to eat the same thing two days in a row…alright, I may have my work cut out there.

And me? I’m just pleased that there are still plenty of chocolates left over from Christmas that need finishing off..

Progress report tomorrow.