Saturday, 29 December 2012

25 Idioms About Bread and Dessert

Wheat — the staff of life — and the baked products derived from it invite many idiomatic associations. Here are references to bread and other flour-based products in phrases and expressions.

1. “Bread and butter” refers to the basics in life.
2. “Bread and water” refers to the bare minimum of food and drink, based on the traditional punitive prison diet.
3. “The greatest thing since sliced bread” is something considered revolutionary and indispensable.
4. “Half a loaf is better than none” means that one shouldn’t complain about not having everything, because it is better to have something than nothing.
5. “Half baked” means “incomplete” or “not thoroughly planned or conceived.”
6. To know “which side (one’s) bread is buttered on” is to recognise what is advantageous.
7. To “sell (something) like hotcakes” is to be very successful at selling something.
8. To “separate the wheat from the chaff” is to distinguish what is useful or valuable from what is not.
9. Something that is “as flat as a pancake” is extremely flat.
10. Something “as warm as toast” is very warm and comforting.
11. To “have your cake and eat it, too” is to have or accomplish something more than one way; the phrase often refers to an unrealistic expectation.
12. Something “as easy as (apple) pie” is very simple to do or understand.
13–14. To “have (one’s) finger in the pie” is to be involved, but to “have (one’s) fingers in too many pies” is to be committed in too many endeavours, thus reducing one’s effectiveness.
15. “Icing on the cake” is an additional benefit.
16. An activity that is “like taking candy from a baby” is very easy.
17. Something that is “pie in the sky” is unrealistic.
18. Something that is “a piece of cake” is extraordinarily easy.
19. To get “a piece of the pie” is to be among those who earn an advantage or reward.
20. To “sugarcoat” something is to put it into a deceptively or inaccurately positive light.
21. Something that “takes the cake” is significantly better or worse than other comparable things; the phrase often refers to an action or comment that is audaciously irritating.
22. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” means that what is referred to is an expected or typical outcome.
23. Someone or something “as nutty as a fruitcake” is crazy or ridiculous.
24. Something “as slow as molasses (in January)” is very slow.
25. Something “as sweet as honey” is very appealing.

Original post: 25 Idioms About Bread and Dessert

Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 MenuWatching Infographic

Have happened upon this interesting infographic from thefoodpeople, which examines menu trends in 2012.

One thing to bear in mind is clearly that the "popularity" means that the restaurants are offering, not that people are buying it. Although they probably wouldn't offer it if people weren't buying it. Hmmmm, a logical catch-22. I do wonder just who the hell does have ice-cram as pud when eating out though...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Edible Christmas 2012

I decided to do a present tombola this year for my family. Clearly, some home-made food presents simply had to feature. After much deliberation I went for:
  • chocolate dipped honeycomb - I've fancied having a go at making honeycomb for ages, simply because it just looks like fun;
  • nougat with white chocolate - I've always loved nougat (aka "nugget" or "noogar" for the posh) and  I was hoping the nut heavy recipe would be a treat for my Mum; and
  • lemon curd - I wanted to do some sort of preserve and I'd made it before
The honeycomb was was as fun to make as I expected (and also stupidly easy too). The dark chocolate added a luxurious present feel.


The nougat was a revelation. It tasted fantastic and had exactly the right texture. Thankfully the whole family agreed. I had slightly mis-underestimated the complexity and involved nature of the processes required but it was worthwhile.


Anyway, here are the recipes:

Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb (taken from James Martin's recipe)

Ingredients:
7oz caster sugar
2fl oz clear honey
1 tbsp liquid glucose
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
8oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method: 
1. Line a baking tray with a non-stick covering like little oil and baking parchment or silicon paper
2. Place the sugar, honey, glucose and  water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches 160°C (use a sugar thermometer).
3. Remove from the heat and quickly beat in the bicarbonate of soda, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture onto the lined baking tray.
4. Set aside until completely cool and then break into large pieces.
5. Melt the chocolate.Dip each piece of honeycomb into the melted chocolate and then place onto the lined tray. Leave for one hour until the chocolate is set and hard.

Nougat with White Chocolate (taken from The Complete Home Confectioner by Hilary Walden)

Ingredients:
Rice paper - this makes life a whole lot easier, I made do without but it made things much more complicated
14oz caster sugar
6oz clear honey
2 egg whites
3oz white chocolate, melted
5 3/4oz almonds, toasted
5 3/4oz hazelnuts, toasted
3 1/4oz pistachio nuts

Method:
1. Line an 8" square tin with rice paper.
2. Gently heat the sugar and 100ml water until the sugar dissolves. Cover and bring to the boil.
3. Uncover and boil until the temperature reaches 150°C.
4. Meanwhile, melt the honey in a bain marie until it reaches 49°C.
5. Whisk the egg whites until very stiff.
6. Slowly pour the syrup on to the egg whites, whisking constantly.
7. Pour in the honey in a similar way, whisking constantly.
8. Place the bowl over a saucepan of hot water and whisk until the mixture is very thick and firm (this takes a long time!)
9. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and nuts.
10. Transfer to the tin, spread evenly and cover with rice paper.
11. Place a board/saucer on top and place heavy weight son top. Leave overnight.
12. Turn out the nougat, trim the rice paper and cut into squares.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Winner!


Look what I got in the post today:


I didn't do too badly after all!

And I have got my London Food Waste volunteer training soon.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Food Blog Diary

The Food Blog Diary sounds like just what I need. 
The Food Blog Diary is the place to find up-to-date foodie challenges, giveaways and competitions.
I've been thinking about the fact that I haven't done any challenges or events for quite some time. Perhaps this site will help me get my act together

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Chocolate log cabin

I spent most of my Sunday making a log cabin from chocolate Fingers and Buttons and much melted chocolate.


7.5 man-hours to create a festive house fit for a Lego lumberjack. Sounds like time well spent to me...

Friday, 7 December 2012

Get me - guest blogging!

As part of taking part in the £ood Waste Challenge, I wrote a guest blog piece for the Mayor's blog. Here's a sneaky peak:

A tribute to my food waste hero



If I had only had one word to describe my food waste hero it would be dependable. Whatever the weather, through wind, rain, sunshine and snow, he’s always there in the corner of the kitchen silently protecting and preserving at a chilly -18°C.

He’s the MacGyver of my kitchen always ready, willing and able to help at a moment’s notice: maybe a little chopped chilli (put into stasis before it went off) to add a spicy kick, a few parsley stalks (otherwise destined for the bin) for the stockpot, or some baked item ready to be toasted straight-away and slathered in butter for an instant satiating hit.

He’s versatile too. I’ll take some mince or chicken thighs, say, preserved before the use by date, cook up a risotto, pilaf, hash or pasta meal then put the extra portions back in. He’s full of tubs and funny shaped bags filled with my own ‘ready-meals’. He’s a safety net for the ‘2 for 1’s and BOGOF’s that sometimes slip into my trolley but not my belly. There’s no way I’ll ever go hungry when he’s around.

I don’t look after him quite as well as I should. From time to time there’s maybe a little too much ice on his back. For that I apologise and I’ll try and do better.

He’s the cornerstone of my strategy for avoiding food waste and I simply couldn’t do without him. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my food waste hero: my freezer!

...

For more info on how to use your freezer to help reduce your food waste visit: http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/freezer-advice-and-facts.

Sign up for the £ood Waste Challenge on the Recycle for London website.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 14

The final day of the £ood Waste Challenge was a bit of an anti-climax as I ate absolutely nothing at home yesterday (not even breakfast).

Making my Grand Food Waste Total:

ZERO

So, I managed to do it. An entire week with no food waste. I'm quite pleased with myself. Not that I wish to brag, but it didn't really take much effort to do really, simply because it fits in with  my way of thinking about food anyway - I hate wasting anything!

I definitely know that I'd be lost without my freezer now. I hadn't really ever thought about how much I use it; practically every day. Everyone should freeze a lot more!

There are also a few other things which are easy changes to make that I'll try and adopt, like crisps made from peelings.

All in all a good couple of weeks, I hope I've contributed to helping a few people make a change (or two) and it's very much got me back into blogging far more frequently. It's a success all round really.

I'm looking forward to doing more as a London volunteer Food Waste Champion...

50 Idioms About Fruits and Vegetables

Food, one of the necessities of life, figures often in traditional expressions. Fruits and vegetables, specifically, account for some of the most familiar idioms, including the following.

Fruit
 
1. To compare “apples and oranges” is to uselessly compare unlike things.
2. The “apple of (one’s) eye” is a favorite or well-like person.
3. To say that “the apple never falls far from the tree” is to suggest that a person’s personality traits are close to those of the person’s parents.
4. “As American as apple pie” means that something is quintessentially representative of American culture or values.
5. “(As) sure as God made little green apples” suggests certainty.
6–12. To be a “bad apple” or a “rotten apple” is to be a bad person. Meanwhile, to say that “one bad (or rotten) apple spoils the whole bunch (or barrel)” implies that one flawed element or person can undermine an effort or a group, and to be “rotten to the core” is to be thoroughly bad or worthless.
13–14. “How do you like them apples?” (or “How about them apples?”) is a neutral or taunting comment, depending on the context, that refers to an undesirable state or situation.
15–16. To “polish (one’s) apple” is to flatter someone; a flatterer is an “apple polisher.”
17. To “upset the apple cart” is to ruin plans.
18. A “banana republic” is a weak or corrupt country.
19–20. A “second banana” is a subordinate, and the “top banana” is the leader.
21–22. To “go bananas” is to become excited or crazed, and “to drive (someone) bananas” is to annoy or irritate someone.
23. Something in “cherry condition” is excellently maintained or restored.
24. To “cherry-pick” is to select carefully.
25. “Life is a bowl of cherries” means that life is easy.
26. To “not give a fig” is to be unconcerned.
27. A “lemon” is a flawed or worthless item; the idiom often refers to a vehicle.
28. “Melon” is sometimes used as slang for head or, vulgarly, for large breasts.
29. To say that someone or something is a “peach” means that they are beautiful, excellent, or sweet.
30. When everything is “peaches and cream,” life is going well.
31. A “plum” assignment or job is a highly coveted one.
32. One is said to have “sour grapes” when one belittles something one covets but cannot obtain.

Vegetables
 
33–36. To be “full of beans” is to talk nonsense, and to “not know beans” is to be ignorant or uninformed. To be “not worth a hill of beans” is to be worthless, and to “spill the beans” is to tell a secret.
37–38. To “dangle a carrot” before someone is to encourage them with an incentive, and the carrot in “carrot and stick” is an incentive or reward. (The stick is the punishment.)
39. A “carrot top” is a red-haired person.
40. Someone “as cool as a cucumber” is very self-possessed under pressure.
41. To “pass an olive branch” is to make peaceful or reconciliatory overtures.
42. A “pea-brained” person is stupid.
43. Fog or something else very dense can be described as being “as thick as pea soup.”
44. To be “like two peas in a pod” is to be very close with or similar to someone.
45. To be “in a pickle” is to experience complication.
46. A “couch potato” is someone who spends an excessive amount of time seated watching television or playing video games.
47–48. A “hot potato” is a controversial or difficult issue, but to “drop (someone or something) like a hot potato” is to abandon the person or thing.
49. Something that is “small potatoes” is insignificant.
50. “Salad days” refers to the youthful period of one’s life.
 
Fruits and vegetables figure occasionally in figurative references to color, such as “beet red” (the color of embarrassment), or descriptions of specific hues, like “cherry red,” as well as other comparisons, including “pear shaped.” The words fruit and vegetable themselves appear occasionally in idiomatic phrases, including the following: 
  • To “bear fruit” is to produce results.
  • “Forbidden fruit” is something attractive but not allowed.
  • The “fruits of one’s labors” are the results of the person’s efforts.
  • To “become a vegetable” is to be rendered physically disabled or to virtually cease physical activity.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 13

Just a quickie tonight because today has been mega-busy, really not sure where it went. Fortunately there was enough time to eat and not generate any food waste.

Breakfast

No food waste. You get one guess how. Really? No, I did actually have breakfast and it was a weighed-out portion of muesli and a banana. Who'd a thunk it?

Lunch

No food waste. A bowl of celeriac and celery soup and a slice of toast both taken straight from the freezer. Well, the bread to make the toast came from the freezer. Then an apple.

Dinner

No food waste. Simple re-heated the portion of posh macaroni cheese from last night. I was too busy tonight to spend much time on food.

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO
 
Since I'm probably only going to eat breakfast at home tomorrow, it looks like I'm going to make it a zero food waste week. Woop! At least I might achieve one of my aims...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 12

A day of working at home today, which typically means grazing through the day with a "proper" dinner rather than three set meals. Thus plenty of opportunity to use up leftovers.

Daytime pre-dinner munching

No food waste all day. I had:
  • a couple of slices of toast made with bread straight from the freezer;
  • the "crisps" from last night;
  • a yoghurt;
  • a nutty bar; and
  • the fried-up left over from last night with a fried egg.
 
Maybe not the prettiest plate of food but tasty nonetheless.

Dinner

No food waste, as this was a planned meal: "posh" macaroni cheese. Essentially this is regular macaroni cheese with a few extras. I added a couple of rashers of bacon taken from the freezer which needed using, a brace of tomatoes and two weighted-out portions of frozen mixed veg. In the sauce I used up the Philadelphia from last week and some of the cream from Sunday. On top I put breadcrumbs made from two slices of bread (including the crusts!) and some Parmesan. I deliberately used enough pasta for two portions with the plan to eat half and save the rest for another day. Turns out that adding so many extras means it actually made three portions so I ate one, put one in the freezer and one in the fridge.

For afters, I had the remaining Yorkshire puddings from yesterday.


It would seem the combination of hot crispy and yet doughy batter and cream and Golden Syrup makes for a cracking treat. I'm tempted to try and refine them further. The ones I made with apple and muscavado were noticeably denser and slightly less flavoursome than I was hoping. I didn't have problem with the texture, more the lack of toffee-appleness that I was shooting for. Just means I'll have to try again, what a shame!

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO

All in all a good day, no food waste, plenty of leftovers used up and reasonably healthy (although slightly devoid of fruit, still its int eh fridge so it should keep for longer). Only two days left to go to avoid food waste...

Food anagrams

I have to thank the William Curley newsletter for pointing out that "stressed" is an anagram of "desserts". (To be fair it's not even an anagram, it's just backwards).

This got me thinking about other food-related anagrams (obviously) and thus a Google search was only mere moments away. Here are some of the best:

And Enchanted Learning takes a rigorous almost academic approach. What's not to like there?

Bored.com takes a phase approach to its food anagrams which is really quite fun:

Cornish charter pie: Protein rich search
Walnut and fig tart: Fatal rat dung twin
Rhubarb crumble: Rubber club harm
Cinnamon and honey wafers: Arson now enhanced infamy
Garlic mussels: Salesgirl scum
Stuffed sardines: Disaster snuffed
Fried noodles: Defines drool
Baked sweet potatoes: Wastebasket too deep
Bass Draught Ale: Head sugar blast

There's a pretty easy quiz on ManyThings.org

So essentially, there's loads of food type anagrams. I'm not sure the world is any better for me finding out about this, or telling you, but it was a diverting 10minutes. However, let me leave you with one last thought, is there anything more perfect than:


An anagram of one fruit into another. Utter joy.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 11

Right, I have a much more interesting day for you today and thankfully I'm still on track for zero waste - but I had to actually take some pro-active action today! Let's get the dull bits out of the way first.

Breakfast

No food waste. Can you guess why? Well done, I did indeed have a weighed out portion of muesli and a banana. Oh, and I might have had a cheeky nutty bar for elevenses before I headed out. I know, I know, I live on the edge!

Lunch

No food waste. Out at meetings today so it was a working lunch on the go.

And this is where things get a tad more interesting...dun, dun, dah...

Dinner

No food waste, but it took some effort. I had planned to have sausages and mash this week and the dull grey London skies and incessant drizzle suggested this was a comfort food day.

Firstly, I portioned up my pack of sausages. Having taken two for dinner, I packed the remainder, paired off (there's really some kind of Noah reference there but it's too late for my brain to work it out), into an old takeaway box ready for the freezer. The greaseproof paper layer means I only have to extract a brace of porky cylinders from their cold sleep at a time. Perfect for a cheeky sausage sanger at the weekend.
 

I also added the sausages on to my freezer list. I have a built in fridge-freezer so I am devoid of magnet action in my kitchen. Instead I have to make do with a little noticeboard. You can also see my shopping list (with my list of meals planned), plus a freezer life chart, some info on seasonal food and the recommended portions for 5-a-day from the NHS.


I'd be quite interested in a freezer life guide i.e. how long you can keep things in the freezer for from Love Food Hate Waste. I'm not sure where I got my list from but I do remember it was pretty hard to find/put together.

With my sausages I had mash using the potato and sweet potato leftover from Sunday. Now, clearly you can't have mash using the skins of potatoes. Thus the idea of generating food waste was a real possibility here. "What did you do?", I hear you cry. Well, thanks for asking. What I did was to gently fry the peelings in the fat from the sausages. As they were cooling I doused them liberally with salt and paprika. They, my friends, will be a tasty savoury snack tomorrow.


I quite fancied toad-in-the-hole, but after a long day, some culinary "playing around" with some batter rather than simply going down the traditional route seemed appropriate. I divide a portion of batter in to three. The first portion had grated apple (peel on, so no waste), parsley, sage and seasoning added (that's on the left). The next batch received the remaining grated apple and a dessert spoon of muscavado sugar (on the right). The remained was left unadulterated (they're in the middle and yes, I'm clearly not very good at dividing batter into three equal parts!). 

This gave me some interesting savoury options for dinner and an opportunity to try out sweet Yorkshire puddings, which I've heard about but never tried.


To finish off dinner, I'd defrosted a portion of braised red cabbage over night, so bunged that in the oven to heat through as the Yorkies were cooking.

In terms of portions, I'd normally just bung everything I'd cooked on to a plate and eat the lot. Resulting in no food waste, but a very fully tummy. Not exactly a bad state of affairs but maybe not the optimum state either!

Thus I just dished out what seemed enough red cabbage and mash (which was a serving spoonful), safe in the knowledge there was more if I was hungry. Turns out that was more than enough food for me. The leftover cabbage and mash have been refrigerated and are prime candidates for lunch tomorrow. 

Just a quick note on the flavoured Yorkshire pudding - very good but needs a lot more cooking because of the apple (I think). Will give you the recipe and verdict on the sweet ones tomorrow.

Having consulted the Perfect Portion Tool, 3 heaped tbsp (approx. 80g) and 2 heaped tbsp are the recommended portions of cabbage and mash respectively. So it seems that I eat way more than this usually and only be thinking about food waste have I prevented my self from over-eating: an unexpected bonus.

It would also be really helpful (as I think I've mentioned before) to know the un-cooked i,e, raw weight of a portion to help mew prevent cooking too much in the first place. 

Anyway that's more than enough for today, on to the most important thing:

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO

Monday, 26 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 10

Pretty dull day on the food front, I'm afraid, but Monday's are my culinary day off. Still managed a zero food waste day.

Breakfast
No food waste. I had a weighed out portion of muesli and a banana at work. Are you noticing a trend here?

Lunch

No waste. Not really a meal, more a continuous all day grazing on fruit and biscuits from the treat box. Oh, and a pork pie.

Dinner

No waste. Simply re-heated a portion of risotto from the freezer. (I got it out last night to defrost in the fridge).

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO

I'll try and be more interesting tomorrow

Sunday, 25 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 9

The second day of the second week of the £ood Waste Challenge has been quite busy as I've done my meal planning and shopping for the week. All the while taking my goal of a zero food waste in to account. So, with rather a detailed insight into my life, here's what I've done today.

Planning

I've worked out that for the upcoming week I'm out for dinner at least once, I'll plan to eat out of the freezer once and have pizza at the weekend, so that means I need another four dinners. However, I usually account for one less to give myself a little bit of flexibility, so that's just three dinners I need to buy for. Similarly I'll only need two lunches for work as I'm out an about on three days this week.

My main aim is to use up the Philadelphia so I'll have macaroni cheese one day. That's more than a suitable comfort dinner given the recent weather. I'll "posh" it up by putting in a couple of rashers of bacon from the freezer that need to be eaten also some frozen mixed veg I'll get a couple of tomatoes too. I'll make at least two portions of macaroni cheese eating one and freezing the rest.

I fancy chicken with tarragon cream sauce tonight (using some tarragon from the freezer) with some sautéed potatoes and frozen mixed veg. The leftover cream can go in the macaroni cheese.

I'll use the leftover potato for mash to have with some sausages and red cabbage from the freezer. I've got a friend staying over on Friday night, so the sausages will get used as breakfast on Saturday.

While out shopping, I only bought what was on my list, with the exception of a sweet potato. I'll have this when I use the potato, so sautéed tonight and in mash later on in the week. I only ever buy enough for what I know I''ll eat e.g. five apples, five bananas and a single bag of satsumas. I know I'll eat of of that this week. Especially since for lunch I normally have a load of fruit and since it's getting cold I'll probably have a cuppa soup too, so I don't expect any food waste. I'll have some leftovers too if they're suitable.

Storage

For the first time I've stored all of my fruit (except bananas) and veg in the fridge. I've even put the potatoes in there. I know I shouldn't keep them in the fridge but I'll eat them before Thursday so no harm will be done.

As for the chicken, thighs only come in a pack of four from the supermarket. Thus a little bit of butchery is required to minimise the food waste in the most effective way. That means the pack of thighs started like this:


and became this:


Each thigh skinned, boned and trimmed. The trimmings go in the bin as they are inedible and don't count towards my food waste. I'll freeze the bones and save for the next time I make stock. I'll free three of the thighs too. A single thigh will do me as a portion. In the effort to go to zero food waste I'll also freeze the skins. I think I might be able to use them as chicken crackling.

For dinner, instead of cooking the chicken thigh whole, I cut it into strips. This meant that I could use less flour and paprika to coat it thus reducing my food waste. It turns out that 1 teaspoon of flour mixed with 1 teaspoon of paprika is just about enough to cover a chicken thigh without generating any waste. I fried the coated chicken in a small knob of butter before adding a splash of cream and the tarragon.

Also sandwiching a salted chicken skin between two oiled baking trays and cooking at 200°C for 10mins(ish), results in a most delectable chicken cracking which added a lovely garnish to my dinner. Definitely glad I froze these rest of the skins now.

The diced potatoes were sautéed in olive oil with rosemary, thyme and a few garlic cloves.


Quite a simple and low waste dinner: chicken in tarragon cream sauce with chicken cracking accompanied by sautéed garlicky herby potatoes and mixed veg.

Overall for the day

Breakfast

No waste. I used up an ageing pear from last week by stewing it with a few spices and then adding it to my single portion of porridge.

Lunch

No waste. Breakfast was quite late so just a piece of toast with bred from the freezer, a nutty bar and a yoghurt

Dinner

No waste. I cooked just enough dinner for me: a single chicken thigh and its skin, a weighed out portion of frozen mixed veg and half each of a potato and sweet potato (skins left on). The leftover potatoes saved for later in the week.

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO

PS. I also volunteered as a London volunteer Food Waste Champion today.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 8

The start of week two of the £ood Waste Challenge and an easy start with no food waste.

Breakfast

A portioned bowl of muesli with a banana so no food waste.

Lunch

No food waste. A bagel from the freezer topped with scrambled eggs. (Aren't eggs just the perfect weekend brunch/lunch?)

Dinner

No food waste. A frozen pizza. Yes, I know, but I've already revealed my love of pizza on a Saturday night!

Grand Food Waste Total:
ZERO

PS Yes, I know it's not an altogether healthy diet that I've had today, but all good things in moderation is, I believe, as the saying goes!

At the start of week two, this is what my fridge looks like:

Not a great deal in there. When I plan my shopping tomorrow I'll be thinking about using up the remainder of the tub of Philadelphia and maybe some cheese.

PS. The jars of water are in there to save energy. Water is easier to cool than air. Thus once the water reaches the same temperature of the fridge it takes less energy to keep it there than the equivalent volume of air. Also, the water doesn't leave the fridge whereas the air changes every time you open the door.

Friday, 23 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 7

I finished the first week of the Challenge with another no-waste day.

Brunch

A massive Friday treat of a sausage, bacon and egg bap at work. Clearly I demolished the lot; absolutely no danger of there being any leftovers!

I'd forgotten about the Friday treat so had my breakfast (pre-portioned muesli and a banana) as a later afternoon top-up.

Dinner

A rather crazy "meal" using up stuff in the fridge: Savoy cabbage, cooked in the remainder of the pork stock (remnants from Sunday), with the remaining bacon and some walnut halves from last Wednesday.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

That's a pretty good result for the first week, which was crowned with a trip to City Hall for an event to meet the other challengers, find out how to waste less food and learn about the prizes on offer for next week!

On arrival I got a jute goody bag filled with some helpful Love Food Hate Waste items including a bag clip, a bottle stop ( I think), a magnetic white board and pen for the fridge and a whole heap of advice leaflets.


There were a few activities (which unfortunately I missed because I was late) followed by some good discussion on the five principles on how to reduce food waste and some very useful tips.

There are even some prizes how well we do next week including:
  • Biggest reduction in food waste
  • Least food waste
  • Best tip
  • Most innovative recipe
Thus my aims for the second week of the £ood Waste Challenge are:
  • Zero food waste
  • A much more interesting set of posts
  • To try and come up with some tips
  • To try and come up with an innovative recipe (unfortunately my habit of planning well means I usually don't have many leftovers to sue up creatively and I've not got anyone coming over for dinner this week.
PS. This is the view from the balcony of the London Living Room at City Hall. Pretty good, eh?


Thursday, 22 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 6

More food waste, although yet again it doesn't count, I think.

Breakfast

No food waste. I had a single portion of microwaveable porridge and a banana at work.

Lunch

No food waste. An apple and a pasta salad from Tesco.

Dinner

No food waste. I had a smashing Byron Burger at Byron (unsurprisingly) which came with raw onion rings. Unfortunately I am not a fan of raw onion in any form but as I was out it doesn't count towards my total.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 5

Unfortunately there was some food waste today although it doesn't count, I think, let me explain.

Breakfast

No food waste. I had a weighed out portion of muesli and a banana.

Lunch

No food waste. I was working at my parents house and had a slice of leftover homemade pizza and a slice of homemade gingerbread. There may have been some cheeky crumpets and biscuits in the mix as well but there certainly wasn't any waste. As you can tell, I think my desire to avoid food waste is definitely due to my upbringing!

Dinner

No food waste. I went round to a friend's and we had an Indian takeaway. My curry came with four slices of green pepper, which is one of the few things I hate, so I left it. However, I don't think this counts as the waste wasn't at my house. Am I getting a little too competitive here?

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 4

Today was easy, and quite atypical, because I didn't eat a single thing at home. I was out at a conference for work which meant breakfast and dinner were meals on the go and lunch was  a buffet at the event.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

Monday, 19 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 3

The first weekday of the £ood Waste Challenge, did this have any impact on my performance?

Breakfast

No food waste. I had a weighed out portion of muesli and a banana at work.

Lunch

No food waste. I had a beetroot and cheese sandwich, using up the final beetroot from last week and using bread from the freezer. I also had an apple and various bits and pieces from the team biscuit box.

Dinner

No food waste even though I had three courses! I used up the remaining celery and half a celeriac to make a celery and celeriac soup. I even used the peelings from the celeriac to add extra flavour to the soup, although I took them out before liquidising. There's not much you can do with a celeriac root, but fortunately it doesn't couldn't as food waste anyway! The leftover soup got portioned and frozen.

For main, I had my last portion of ragu from the freezer with a 100g of pasta.

Pudding was the final slice of the Gâteau Opéra.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

Sunday, 18 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge - Day 2

Second day of the challenge and pretty good results again (I think), despite spending most of the day on a cooking project!

Breakfast

No food waste. I weighed out a portion of muesli which I had with yoghurt and a banana. (The banana peel doesn't count).

Lunch

No food waste. I had creamy garlic mushrooms on a bagel. The mushrooms were left over from Wednesday and the bagel came from the freezer.

Dinner

I had a go at making crubeens (pig's trotters). This involved poaching the trotter for a three hours in an aromatic liquor (the usual thing carrot, leek, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns). Now, once cooked I threw the veg away as all of their flavour was in the poaching liquor and they were boiled to death, so certainly not to be eaten. In my world this isn't food waste. The veg. et al had served their purpose.

I reduced the cooking liquor to an intense pork stock, which I've saved for later in the week. If I don't use it this week, it'll go in the freezer for a later date.

The crubeens were coated in egg, flour and breadcrumbs. There's nothing I know of that can be done with the excess flour and I don't know how to avoid producing excess flour. It's simply not possible to coat something in flour using the perfect amount, so I don't think this counts. Mindful for the challenge I did mix the remaining egg and breadcrumbs together and fry as a quick pre-dinner snack as I waited for it all to cook. Thus my first food waste of the week was the crusts from the bread used to make the breadcrumbs (one simply shouldn't use the crusts for a breadcrumb coating).

I had the trotter with savoy cabbage in a mustard cream sauce. I only cooked half the cabbage (the leftover raw cabbage went in the fridge for later on in the week). The other veg were some potatoes and beetroot that I had in the fridge and needed eating.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Crusts from two slices of bread

Crubeens aka pig's trotters

Banbury Farmers Market is held on the first Friday of every month. Although I have it marked in my calendar I very rarely manage to make it down in time. By the time I wander out for a lunch time perusal the stalls are starting to pack up having done a roaring morning's trade.

However, last month I just about got there while most of the stalls were still there, albeit running low on produce. Now I am always on the look out for some interesting cuts of meat (a euphemism for the bits most people won't eat) which then become weekend cooking projects. Consequently, once I laid eyes on a few pig's trotters on the first meat stall I came across, there was little chance of me not buying one, especially as they were only £1.20 each!

Trotters are known as crubeens in Ireland and are usually boiled and served whole with much made of getting stuck into the finger-licking gelatinous mass. That didn't sound too appealing to me.

Then there's Koffman's famous morel stuffed trotters: 
Picture from http://laissezfare.wordpress.com/
I figured it would be highly unlikely that I'd be able to hit similar gastronomic highs.

Consequently, I figured a whole trotter was not for me. Instead I decided to boil the trotter, pick out the meat and press it. Having boiled the trotter for about three hours with the usual aromatics (celery, leak, carrot, bay leaves, peppercorns) the skin had a very odd "tough jelly" texture and the trotter had much more thick gelatinous tissue than actual meat.


I gave the meat a very rough chop and wrapped it in cling-film to form a big "sausage". I was a bit wary of the meat not sticking together (I'd pontificated for ages as to whether to add any thing else to the meat such as finely diced vegetables of some sort of binder like mayo or egg, but eventually decided against it) so I actually whacked it in the freezer. That was an inspired move as it was easy to cut the sausage into thick slices, which were each coated in seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs (I actually double dipped) and fried.


The patties were porkiness personified and my choice not to add anything else to the meat was vindicated. (Thinking about it I didn't even season the meat - maybe an error there.) I could easily have added more mustard powder to the flour as it didn't really come through. That may be due to the thick coating of breadcrumbs which gave a lovely contrasting crisp, but maybe muted the flavour a little.

The accompaniment of creamy mustard savoy cabbage, beetroots (pan roasted in olive oil with thyme and a balsamic glaze) and new potatoes worked very well.

All in all, it was quite an effort but reasonably worthwhile. I'm intrigued to try a  whole trotter, but I'm not sure I'll be cooking it myself. Maybe that means I need to get myself off to The Berkeley...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

£ood Waste Challenge

Today marks the first day of the Recycle for London, £ood Waste Challenge, which I am taking part in.
The £ood Waste Challenge is a two-week challenge getting Londoners to see how much food they throw away in week 1 and then giving them tips on how to reduce it in week 2. The challenge is to reduce their food waste by the greatest amount over a one week period.

For the next week I'll be monitoring what food waste I generate (much like the Love Food Hate Waste week) and the following week, I've got to try and do better!

This time though, there are more strict rules to follow in terms of what to measure:
  • Don't include the stuff that you would never eat. For example: meat and fish bones, egg shells, banana skins, orange peel, tea leaves, tea bags, coffee grinds and pineapple peel.
  • Do include everything else. For example: apple peel, potato peel, bread crusts, fish skin etc.
  • I'm also going to try and include the reasons that I had food waste, or not, as the case may be.
Unfortunately Greenwich Council don't provide me with a food waste collection bin, so everything I generate has to go to in the "black bag" which then presumably goes to landfill or maybe it goes to the SELCHP, which is a better option.

My previous caveats remain as I still think I'm an atypical test specimen when it comes to reducing food waste.

Anyway on to today's results:

Breakfast (actually a brunch as it's a Saturday)

No food waste as I had bubble and squeak using up the leftovers from Wednesday's feast accompanied by a fried egg. (The egg shell doesn't count here.)

Lunch (more like threeses after a big brunch)

No food waste as I had a couple of slices of toast made with bread from the freezer and a slice of the Gâteau Opéra from Wednesday

Dinner

No food waste as I simply had a frozen pizza.

Grand Food Waste Total:

Zero

Looks like I'm off to a good start!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mushrooms and chocolate

Tonight I made dinner for BK and have just realised it is for only the fourth time this year that I've had someone round for dinner (mind you that's four times as many as in 2011 (co-incidentally BK was the "lucky" one then too)...).

The driving force behind what we had was the fact that BK likes "mushrooms and chocolate". My other motivation was my ongoing strive to be as seasonal as possible. Given that it's the tail-end of autumn and I  LOVE autumnal ingredients, it took a while. Game, beetroot, parsnips, cabbage, celeriac, apples, pears, mushrooms, squashes and pumpkins: they are just so delicious either individually or together, in almost any combination. I eventually decided on:

Mushroom soup
***
Venison steak with braised red cabbage and seasonal root vegetables
***
Gâteau Opéra

I also hadn't done any "proper" cooking for a while, so I ended up going a little over-board and made some mushroom and walnut dip to have with pre-dinner crudités and some chocolate and pistachio biscotti to have with coffee. Both recipes taken from Marcus Wareing's One Perfect Ingredient, also the source of the Gâteau Opéra recipe, so really I'm pretty sure some of the blame lies with him and his damn good cooking. Doesn't it?

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

Essentially liquid mushroom: Brilliant. I think this is because of the few ingredients involved; it can't help but give you a hit in the face with the glorious deep umami of mushroom (even if I had slightly over seasoned with lemon juice - curse my metal body). As smooth as this was, it's times like these that make me wonder if it could have been even silkier if I had a liquidiser...

For me it's the garnishes which turn a run-of-the-mill bowl of liquid into a memorable and enjoyable stand alone experience. I'd toyed with the idea of a poached egg and even a single large croûton topped with a large portabello mushroom and fried quail egg, but eventually opted for a riff on persillade or gremolata. A few Parmesan croutons and some walnuts fried in duck fat (great crunch and depth of flavour), with plenty of parsley and tarragon (a fragrant note and a lovely lightly crisp texture as they were mixed with the hot bread and nuts), lemon zest (adding a zing) and a hint of garlic. Altogether pretty damn good, even if I do say so myself.

Venison steak with braised red cabbage and seasonal root vegetables


I got a pair of 7oz venison steaks from the great butchers in Banners. It's a proper traditional establishment and has pretty much everything you can think of. I always get a bit giddy when I go in there and have to stop myself from buying a random cut with no plan whatsoever (my freezer currently has a trotter awaiting culinary dispatch). The venison was lean and full of deep complex flavours. Thankfully I managed to cook it reasonably rare. It's not often I cook a slab of meat so I'm always full of trepidation.

The braised red cabbage was a great accompaniment the port adding a deep fruity note which worked really well with the venison. We also had celeriac puree, roast parsnips (dusted slightly over-zealously with cayenne pepper. I should have used cumin really.) and roast beetroot. All the vegetables worked really well together with an underlying earthy note. the only thing that was missing was something to pull them all together (especially the beetroot). Mind you the pan juices de-glazed with port worked pretty well.

Gâteau Opéra

Gateau opera

Now apparently (I say apparently as I can't find it in my Larousse) this is a classic French cake of almond sponge, coffee butter cream and chocolate ganache. Though this version was without the almonds it was still bloomin' lovely. The 18 different layers make for a far more interesting eating experience than a normal slab of cake.The coffee was an underlying and understated flavour. The intensity of the dark chocolate came through at the end of each mouthful apart from the glaze which gave a whacking great big chocolate hit. The layers also give a great contrast in texture: hard ganache, soft and smooth butter cream, airy sponge

[The butter cream might possibly be slightly too buttery (not that I'm in a position to question Marcus Wareing's recipe!) but I think it might benefit from whipping the eggs over a bain marie or actually using less butter].

Overall I think BK was fairly satisfied and happy with her cake filled doggy-bag. Now what to do with the left-overs? Oh and here are the recipes, if you're interested:

Mushroom soup (taken from Week In Week Out by Simon Hopkinson (Quadrille, 2007))

Ingredients:
175g open-cup mushrooms, sliced
125ml milk
125ml double cream
Nutmeg
Onion, chopped,
1/2pint Marigold vegetable bouillon
1oz butter
Squeeze of lemon juice
For the garnish:
2 slices of old white bread, de-crusted and cut into 1cm cubes
1oz Parmesan, finely grated
Lemon zest
Clove of garlic, crushed
Handful of parsley, chopped
Handful of tarragon, chopped
2oz walnuts, chopped coarsely

Method:
1.Place the mushroom ilk and cram in a pan and bring to a simmer. Cook very gently for 20 mins.
2. Meanwhile, sweat the onion gently in the butter until golden and pour in the stock. Simmer for 5 mins.
3. Combine the two pans of ingredients and liquidise. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice.
4. For the garnish, mix the bread cubes, parmesan, walnuts and garlic in a bowl with a slug of olive oil. Fry in a little duck fat until the croutons are golden.
5. Co-mingle the herbs, lemon zest and fried bits together in the original bowl.
6. Serve the soup with a drizzle of extra double cream and crown with a generous assortment of the garnish.

Venison steak with braised red cabbage and seasonal root vegetables

Ingredients:
2 venison steaks
2 parsnips, quartered and woody centre removed
Ground cumin
2 cooked beetroot, cut in an array of shapes: wedges, slices etc.
For the celeriac check out the recipe from January
For the red cabbage:
Red cabbage, sliced
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 red apples, grated
4 rashers of smoky bacon, cut into lardons
2tbsp muscavado sugar
4tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice from an orange
1/2 glass port
2 garlic cloves, whole
2 bay leaves
1/2tsp all spice
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg

Method:
For the red cabbage:
1. Fry the bacon gently to render out the fat. Then add the onion and allow the bacon to crisp. Once the onion is soft add the spices to the pan and fry briefly.
2. Add all the other ingredients and put the lid on. Leave to braise for ~2hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Before serving, remove the garlic and bay leaves then season.
4. For the parsnips fry in duck fat then re-heat in the oven (~180°C) and dust lightly(!) with cumin.
5. Re-heat the segments with the parsnips in the oven.
6. For the steaks, season each side with slat and pepper. Fry for two minutes flipping every 30s in a scorchingly hot pan (exact cooking time will depend on thickness of the steaks) and leave to rest.
7. De-glaze the pan with a little port. Add a little water and reduce for a few moments.
8. To serve, slice the venison and season, serve on top of the red cabbage. Add a spoonful of the celeriac and top with parsnip and beetroot wedges. Serve the jus separately.

Gâteau Opéra (taken from One Perfect Ingredient by Marcus Wareing (Dorling Kindersley, 2008))

Ingredients:
For the sponge:
4oz butter

4oz plain flour
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder
1tsp instant coffee mixed with 1dsp hot water
For the butter cream:
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
3oz caster sugar
125g butter, diced
1tsp instant coffee mixed with 1dsp hot water
For the ganache:
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate
20g butter
For the glaze:
2tbsp double cream
25g dark chocolate
10g caster sugar
1tsp cocoa


Method:
1. Make the sponge in the usual way - cream the butter and sugar, beat in eggs, fold in flour and baking powder - spread into a greased rectangular baking tray 22x36cm (ideally) and bake at 180°C for 5mins (or until done). Cool in the tray.
2. For the butter cream whisk the eggs until light and foamy.
3. Dissolve the sugar in 2tbsp sugar and boil for 3mins. Slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl whilst still whisking the eggs unitl barely luke warm.
4. Whisk in the butter and then the coffee. Leave to cool completely.
5. To make the ganache, gently warm the cream then break the chocolate into the cream. Leave for 5mins. Beat until smooth then add the butter one piece at a time.
6. For the glaze, gently warm half the cream then break the chocolate into the cream.
7. Warm the sugar, cocoa, remaining cream and 50ml water until dissolved. Simmer for 2 mins. Beat into the cream and chocolate mix. Leave to cool and thicken.
8. Now assemble. Take the cake out of the tray and spread the butter cream evenly over. Chill for 30 mins.
9. Spread the ganache evenly over the butter cream. Chill for 30 mins.
10. With a hot knife, cut the cake in half, then each half into three rectangles. Stack the rectangles on top of each other. Chill for 30 mins.
11. Trim the sides of the cake and carefully pour the glaze on top and spread evenly.
12, Cut into slices, with a hot knife, to serve.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 7

Ah, the weekend. Time-a-plenty to tinker in the kitchen. I tend to just graze throughout the days on Saturday and Sunday, only really having a proper meal at dinner time.

Since I got up I've had some muesli, toast, scrambled egg on toast with the remainder of the smoky sausage from Tuesday and a small bar of chocolate. Dinner is a frozen pizza. (Yeah, OK, I know. That's my guilty pleasure. Deal with it. I love pizza, no matter what form it takes: be it artisanal or mass-market.)

Waste for the day:
  • Egg shells - unavoidable
Leftovers:
  • None; that's three days on the trot!
What have I learnt after a week of actively thinking about reducing my food waste? Well, I already do most of the Love Food Hate Waste advised things to minimise my food waste, so it would seem there's not much more for me to do better.
  • My freezer is my best friend. I'd be lost without it.
  • I portion pretty much everything. As well as reducing waste it also means I actually have some way of eating a reasonable amount of food instead of just stuffing my face.
  • I love leftovers and weekend lunches (using anything up) in particular are great meals every time.
  • I plan my meals for the week. I pretty much now where I'm gonna be and when I'll be eating at home or out. I make s hopping list and then stick to it.
In some ways I think I take things a little bit further. For example, I have a list of everything that's in my freezer with the dates for when they need to be used by. I update it as I use or add things and always make sure I eat things in time.

The thing that has stuck me is that the amount of food-related packaging I throw away is far greater than any food waste I generate. That's quite frustrating but I'm not entirely sure there's anything I can do about it.

I'll carry on for another week and see if there's anything more I can learn.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 6

Again another pretty dull day, I'm afraid.

Breakfast was muesli and a banana. Lunch was a sandwich on the way back from a meeting. Dinner was as close to ready meals as I get: a selection of frozen pre-made food: fish-fingers, potato croquettes and peas. I only cooked the recommended portion size to minimise waste.

Waste for the day:
  • Banana skin - unavoidable
Leftovers:
  • None, again!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 5

Not a very exciting day at all.

Breakfast was a sachet of porridge at work with an added banana. The roast veg from dinner last night was a very tasty lunch. Dinner was a chicken and gnocchi dish straight from the freezer.

Waste for the day:
  • Banana skin - unavoidable
Leftovers:
  • None!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 4

A day working at home, which for me means tying to limit my excursions into the kitchen!

Breakfast was just some toast made from bread straight from the freezer. I don't each much bread so just buy a reduced price loaf when I see one and stick it straight in the freezer.

Lunch was fried duck liver with pan juices. Seems odd, I know, but this was actually using up leftovers from the weekend. I'd made stock from duck giblets I had in the freezer. I hadn't used the liver as it adds a bitterness to the stock. 

I fancied something reasonably healthy for diner, with a vague memory of a Rachel Khoo recipe at the back of my mind, I decided on a roast autumnal vegetable medley with a goat's cheese mousse.


This was great: seasonal, tasty and healthy(ish). It isn't really worth writing up a recipe because it was so easy. Essentially I chopped up two carrots, a bunch of beetroots, two parsnips, an apple, a pear and a red onion into mouth-sized chunks. Liberally coated the lot in olive oil and salt and roasted until tender. For the goat's cheese mousse I broke down about 2oz of soft goat's cheese with a dash of milk. Then folded in some whipped double cream (using up the leftover from Sunday) before adding a squeeze of lemon juice (from lemon segments from the freezer).

Waste for the day:
  • Peelings and trimmings from carrots, parsnips, apple, pear, beetroot and onion - unavoidable.
(I ate the rind from the goat's cheese in a pita bread (from the freezer) while waiting for the veg to roast.)

Leftovers:
  • Half my baked veg and mousse - that's lunch tomorrow sorted
  • Goat's cheese - weekend lunch here we come

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Love Food Hate Waste week - Day 3

Day three of the food waste challenge and breakfast and lunch were pretty much the same as yesterday. I'm beginning to realise that by doing this is really going to reveal that I am much more of a creature of habit than I think I am...

Slightly more interestingly, I was aiming to use up the cabbage from Sunday for dinner today. Now cabbage is a great side dish (especially with some lardons or chestnuts) but I was looking for a recipe that would incorporate cabbage. A quick search and I found this recipe for a Brazilian bean risotto and decided to make it without the big slab of pork. Shopping list made, I picked up the extra ingredients on my way home.
 

This dish is clearly more suited to a pilaf rather than a risotto. I'm not suite sure why I didn't clock that. Maybe because I do love the therapeutic effect of making a risotto. Anyhoo, as usual I made two portions: ate one and froze the other.

Waste for the day:
  • Banana skin - unavoidable
  • Apple core - unavoidable
  • Water from can of kidney beans - unavoidable
Leftovers:
  • Half a smoked sausage - that has weekend brunch written all over it
  • Two green chillies - left on the side near the apple and bananas in hope that they will ripen
  • Parmesan rind - left in the fridge to add an umami punch to something in the future
I do find having to buy packaged fruit and veg from supermarkets incredibly annoying. I only wanted one chilli and yet had to buy a  pack of three. I'm buying ingredients that I don't really want (and spending more money than I need to) and increasing the chance of generating more food waste. Intensely irritating. 

Here's the recipe for pilaf, I'd make next time.

Sausage, cabbage and kidney bean pilaf

Ingredients:
250mls chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
150g smoked sausage
100g rice
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Half a Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I kept the seeds in one half for a kick)

Method:
1. Sweat the onion and chilli until soft, then add the garlic and rice. Stir to coat the rice grains in oil and fry until slightly translucent.
2. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for 12mins, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if required.
3. Remove the lid and stir in the kidney beans and cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is done, about 5mins.
4. Season and serve.

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