Category Archives: food waste

Grace and the Gobbler

Photo alert: these are randomly picked from the past as I can’t find a single photo of a turkey in my vast food-photo collection. Funny, that. So instead I’m just posting some seasonal favourites.

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As in every other year at this time, I have spent the last month dreaming up my Christmas dinner. Consulting cookery books for the perfect balance of gourmet delight and ease of delivery. Writing lists, sharing ideas with the Troubadour, crossing out and starting all over again. And now of course the shopping has begun, and the prep is under way – the practice runs and the experiments. I love it. It’s what Christmas really means to me – getting the people I love around the table and sharing nice food and drink and lots of laughs. It’s the stuff of life.

DSCN0184As I may have shared before, however, I have a bit of an antipathy to the turkey. This is despite the fact that it’s a nice low-fat meat, and my own mother used to pluck turkeys at a local farm every December, to bring in a bit of extra cash. I have fond memories of me aged 10 playing around the farmyard while a team of three strong women grabbed, drew necks, hung up the squalling gobblers, and pulled feathers like fury. You’d think I’d embrace the family tradition every year – not necessarily in killing and plucking, but in giving a turkey the loving touch for the festive table.

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Here’s the truth. I got so obsessed over the years with doing the whole turkey dinner absolutely from scratch that I sickened myself, and couldn’t face actually eating the damn thing with its two kinds of home-made stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry and orange compote etc etc. And that made me crabbit. Which is not a good way to come to the table. So I’ve been doing alternatives for many years now, and most of those have worked out really well. Including improved mood on my part.

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This year I will be cooking for eight meat-eaters and four vegetarians. My plan for the meat-eaters was ham. But something happened to me yesterday, as I walked through the door of our delightful local butchers, Cheyne’s; and I found myself interrogating them about the provenance of their turkeys. Yes, turkeys. Since free-range is the only option when I buy a hen, I asked first of all about their Kelly Bronzes. And obviously I’m a bit out of touch with meat prices since I don’t cook a lot of meat at home (again, the Troubadour’s influence). However I was shocked and horrified at the price and after a lot of humming and hawing I compromised all my principles and have ordered a normal, not free-range, fresh turkey (also pretty costly, but half the price of the Kelly Bronze). Eeeek, ouch, crivvens, help ma boab. Guilt re the welfare of the birds, fighting with my inbuilt thrift or maybe you could call it parsimony. I couldn’t in all conscience spend £70 on a turkey. My mother would turn in her grave.

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Today however my equilibrium has been restored because by timely coincidence I opened an email from FareShare asking for donations for people whose Christmas menus might otherwise be constrained to beans on toast. So I’ve given them a wee chunk of my Christmas budget and suddenly it makes perfect sense to scrimp on the free-range credentials. It’s a tough old world out there, and if yesterday, I thought I had a moral dilemma, I’ve suddenly had it put into perspective.FSCN0162

So I’m trusting that all my dear friends coming to me on Christmas day will help peel the sprouts, stir the gravy, ply me with gin, and generally prevent me from going into OCD orbit; and that comfort and joy and good cheer accompany all the little donations that help to spread the gladness. Here’s FareShare’s details if you’re looking for your own little Yuletide Balancer: FareShare Donate

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Waxing lyrical

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Recently I mentioned that I wanted to cut down on my use of plastic, especially clingfilm, in the kitchen. I was nervous that it would be impossible because the alternatives might not be great. Well as is often the case, as soon as you dig around a bit you discover a well-trodden path which somehow has eluded you up till now.

It turned out that all I had to do was turn right from my own close and walk a hundred yards down the street – Minerva Blue Crafts was in the middle of setting up workshops to show people how to make beeswax wraps. So I signed up, paying the princely sum of £15. While waiting for the event I had a look around and found beeswax wraps for sale in Lakeland – at a staggering £19.99 for three! I love Lakeland, and if I’m looking to treat myself, that’s often where I go. But it has to be said, sometimes their goods are on the pricey side.

So, come the day of the workshop and I discovered I’d got the date wrong and was working – driving a minibus to Hawick (the new Borders Distillery) and back no less, more of that in my next post – and the next date (yesterday) was already fully booked, so popular are these workshops proving to be. So I’ve booked again, but meantime, to satisfy my curiosity, I dropped in with my camera; here are some shots of Newburgh Women Saving the Planet!

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I haven’t got the proper knowledge yet of how it’s done, but will report back in a future post on exactly how you create these handy wee cloots. They can be used to cover a bowl of leftovers in the fridge, or to wrap up a sandwich to take to work – or, no doubt, lots of other things. I overheard a conversation about wrapping one’s husband up in one; the main attraction being that it takes warm hands to make it fit properly … but maybe that’s an advanced class!

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More detail on all of this at a future date. Meantime, for those of you who follow my blog, let me just announce that I finished my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge on Friday night and posted it in at 5 to midnight! So that’s me with the first draft of a novella in my eager little clutches, and after I’ve recovered from November’s bad posture cramps, eye strain and weight gain, will be trying to figure out what to do with it. Hurrah!

 

 

Waste not Want

Yesterday the government pledged £15m to support the redistribution of waste food – mainly fresh food which is most vulnerable to spoilage. The Grocer reported fully on this and on their successful campaign to bring it about. I’m delighted to hear it – although where, I wonder, are the headlines in  the mainline press? It seems that this essential development isn’t newsworthy.

DSCN0052 (1)Up to a third of food is wasted in the UK each year; food prices are still rising; many people are still going hungry. If there were easy solutions, no doubt we’d have cracked it: so I don’t mean to be glib. The national charity Fareshare does a great job in redistributing supermarket surplus; but they do it on a shoestring, working with volunteers to carry out the laborious processes of sorting and delivery. This extra government funding might, I hope, mean some proper paid jobs to underpin the ongoing work and to ensure volunteers are well trained and supported.

On the domestic front there is a wealth of online information to help us all be more efficient. I must say I find it a bit of a challenge to avoid another hazard, i.e. excess use of plastic, in using up leftovers. What would I do without clingfilm? Well, actually, quite a lot if I just make the effort. Will report back further on this – meantime there are lots of suggestionHow To Roast Tomatoes or Oven Roasted Tomatoes by @SpicieFoodie | #tomato #roasted #tomatoes #howtoroasttomatoes #summer #fruit #tomatorecipess here and here and here. Many suggestions are just what our mothers used to do – e.g. put a plate or a tea towel over a bowl. But there’s also some info about beeswax wraps which bear a bit of investigation.

Leaving you on a cheerier note, I have just found an amazing use for another autumn glut  – Bloody Mary Slow Roasted Tomatoes. This is on the Love Food Hate Waste website, a regular source of thrifty gourmet inspiration. Definitely on my to-do list.

 

The birks, the birks …

Wonderful weekend in Aberfeldy – so wonderful it has taken me three days to write it up! Just an hour and a quarter’s drive away but it felt like continental Europe, what with the sunshine, the quirky shops, the local beer, the farmers’ market, the ar2017-04-01 11.06.48.jpgthouse cinema, the ukulele band, and oh! the Birks of Aberfeldy! A wild, dramatic gorge with tumbling streams and crashing waterfalls, acres of wild garlic scenting the birches, and even a statue of Rabbie Burns sitting obligingly on a bench, waiting for Five Women on an Adventure to pose beside him. Good soup and sandwich lunches including a creamy Cullen Skink and some pinky-fresh crayfish tails … and an impressive array of gins back in our swanky lodgings to keep us merry while preparing dinner. Oh yes it was a very good weekend.

By luck we were in town for the first Sunday of the month which is when the farmers’ market arrives. Delicious produce as always but one stall intrigued me more than most – the one giving away free cotton bags to encourage us shoppers to remember to take a bag with us when we go shopping.2017-04-02 09.54.04 ‘Never use a single-use bag again,’ was the smiling challenge from Fiona, who works for Zero Waste Scotland at Perth and Kinross. Now I hate waste but frequently forget the bag, so was very happy to air the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ logo. I had a conversation with Fiona which was really quite inspiring, and gave me some fresh ideas for a new project I have in mind. More of that after the exams!

Completing my joy of the weekend was a great bookshop at the Millhouse – cosy café downstairs, and the Troubadour informs me he once played a gig upstairs there, a couple of decades ago. After my cuppa I browsed the bookshop and found these two gems – 2017-04-05 17.54.07.jpgtiny troves of wisdom, and I’ve read them both cover to cover since coming home. Will be extending my marmalade and oatmeal repertoires over the next week or two.2017-04-05 17.54.35.jpg

Next time you’re in Aberfeldy, I recommend the Habitat café, the Millhouse as above, the cinema coffee shop, numerous quirky gift shops, and the Ailean Chraggan hotel/restaurant at Weem, a hamlet just a mile out of town with good local beer, a wonderfully helpful waitress, a fresh chef, a nice open terrace and the above-mentioned delightful Cullen Skink.

Feed the neighbours

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I did my stint with the Neighbourhood Food Collection the other day, co-ordinated by the Trussell Trust and FareShare. The venue was Tesco at Dalgety Bay. It was quite profitable, I’d say – in my two and a half hours I estimated I took in about £200 worth of food plus a £20 donation. People were very generous. Some people had questions or comments, like:

  1. ‘It makes me so angry that this kind of thing is necessary’.
  2. ‘It makes me feel really guilty when charities keep asking for things.’
  3. ‘Is this stuff really for local people? You mean in Dalgety Bay? You’re not telling me people in Dalgety Bay need help of this kind?’

No good answer for No 1 – it makes me angry too but that’s the way it is. For No 2 I’d say you need to live without guilt – either by hardening your heart or getting in touch with your generous inner angel (the lady in question obviously did the latter as she deposited a couple of bags of lentils into the trolley). For No 3 – well, who knows? I don’t live in Dalgety Bay, which is, as far as I can tell, a prosperous commuter town facing Edinburgh across the Forth. But I bet they do have people who struggle, for all the usual reasons – age, infirmity, job loss and so on.

Most of the donations (tins, teabags, coffee, UHT milk, pasta, rice) will, I guess, go to the Food Bank for distribution. I’m glad it happens, but it doesn’t gladden my heart to think of living on processed food. Especially in a world where so much food is wasted. There was an inspirational series of programmes on BBC1 last week about a charity in Oxford which collects surplus fresh food from supermarkets and distributes it to local charities where fresh and wholesome meals are cooked and served to people in various kinds of need. This of course meets social as well as physical hunger, along with a good dose of vitamins and minerals. The project was rolling out to London and thence, it was hoped, ‘all over the country’ – not sure if they meant Scotland or not. However this is my task for the week – to find out what’s happening up here, and who’s doing it, and whether/how I can get involved. Anybody with any leads or contacts, will be delighted to hear from you.

 

Preparing for Christmas … already?

But we’ve only just had Hallowe’en!

Well, some things need a bit of planning ahead. So I got my four Christmas recipe books out tonight (Delia, Nigella, Elizabeth David and Good Housekeeping ‘Christmas Made Easy’) to have a bit of a forage. The link I’ve given takes you to a good article in the Telegraph by Leah Hyslop about this dreadful habit of acquiring cookbooks that might not get used very often … remind you of anyone? I’m pleased to see my favourites are nearly all listed. There’s also a listing of a Scandinavian one I’ve never seen – Hahnemann – and I started thinking about adding to my groaning shelf.

Then I remembered I’d been intending to follow up an ad I saw in the local paper. FareShare Scotland is recruiting volunteers to collect food donations from customers at supermarkets across the UK, to complement their work in recycling fresh food which would otherwise be wasted.

Waste food? Can’t have that. So I’ve signed up. The dates in question are 1st, 2nd and 3rd December. My mother died on 2nd December 1977 so I chose that date – she was a dinner lady, and took great pleasure in offering 2nd, 3rd, 7th helpings to all us hungry kids. Then when nobody could take any more, if there was still anything left it got brought home … throughout my childhood I had at least two school dinners a day! That’s probably why I’ve got such a good grip of Scotland (spot the euphemism).

So now I can go back to my recipe books and my daydreams about all the nice festive things I might conjure up. And be eternally grateful that I’m not going hungry anytime soon.

If anybody of you fancy joining in the FareShare initiative, it’s only a 3 hour stint at participating Tesco stores – do think about it. It’ll give your turkey and plum pudding, or your festive Smorgasbord, that extra Je ne sais quoi …