We had a dinner party last night. Hooray for a clean house! Is there any other reason to make an effort? Anyway, amongst other things, dinner parties mean a clean out of the kitchen to make room for party-sized gumbos, salads, sweet treats and more. Now as a rule, I try to keep control of what’s in our fridge, pantry and fruit bowl, but sometimes it all gets away from me (I don’t even remember buying that!) and we have a choice: give it to the chooks, throw it away or find a use. Now I’m loathe to throw stuff away, not just from a monetary standpoint, but on a broader social responsibility level, which leads to creative experiments in dealing with leftovers. Sometimes. My chooks also get a healthy dose of treats too. They used to get a lot more, but last year we got to a point where they were always expecting a treat and would go a little nuts when they saw me: cue five featherballs trying to eat my feet. So I’ve had to refocus and be more mindful in how we deal with our leftovers.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me post a photo of the OzHarvest cookbook recently, as part of Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge (#fmsphotoaday) with the daily theme of ‘a bad habit.’
In Australia, our food waste habit is simply shameful, with about 1/5 of our groceries ending up in the trash. At the same time, we have vulnerable people going hungry and missing meals every day. Cue Ronni Khan and her vision to use one problem to fix another, and you have OzHarvest, an organisation which collects leftover food from around Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Brisbane, and distributes it to charities set up to feed the hungry.
The OzHarvest cookbook is the result of some top Aussie cooks and chefs sharing ways in which they get creative (or just downright practical) with their leftovers. And bonus, each sale provides 100 meals, so in buying the book you can be both self indulgent and altruistic. Well done you.
So today, I wanted to share ten ways in which we try to reduce waste, and also how I used some almost wasted food.
1. Meal plan – not only so you know what to buy, and you don’t buy things you need, but also so you can match meals together and you’re not buying say half a head of celery and only using two stems. Plan to eat another meal that uses the rest.
2. Use clear containers. A friend once advised me that if I wanted to hide treats from my kids (or husband) to store them in opaque containers. Problem was I would then forget they were there. And my husband found the chocolate anyway. I’ve found the easier it is to see/find things, the more Iikely it will be that I’ll use it.
3. Store food properly! Check out this link from Kidspot. Added bonus, when it’s stored properly, it will taste better and be more nutrient dense.
4. Freeze it! And learn the best ways to. Some things freeze better than others (rissoles, yes, anything with boiled eggs, not so much. Have a look at this linkfrom Designmom.
5. Eat leftovers. For some reason, growing up, we never were keen on leftovers. If that’s you too, get over it. Some things (like curries) are even better the next day.
6. Grow your own. I’d like to be better at this. I’m trying. Truly.
7. Stop following recipes. Well, follow recipes, but don’t limit yourself to them. If you have a leftover sweet potato, add it to your soup or Bolognese. Don’t be shy. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Some of my best concoctions are the result of throwing things together.
8. Chickens/compost. Our chooks get most of the scraps, but composting is a great option too. If it won’t feed you, it can still feed your garden.
9. Regularly take stock. Keep an eye on what you have in your pantry and fridge, and the used by dates, and incorporate this into your meal planning.
10. Share it. With a neighbour, or your mother or a new mum or whoever. Make a new friend and invite someone to join you.
Thankfully, our leftovers from last night did not go to waste – family lunch with my parents – however, the pre-party clean out did yield a few almost-ready-for-the-trash items, including some overripe bananas. For some reason, we always have a couple of old bananas lying around, and banana bread is the natural remedy. The OzHarvest cookbook has three different recipes for dealing with sorry looking bananas, but Louise Fulton Keats’ one has a bit of a twist. So I started with the bones of hers, adding many more twists along the way based on what I had in my pantry, and how I like to bake (but that’s the spirit of this book, making do and not wasting!) If you want the original recipe, buy the book! It’s for a great cause, plus it’s full of stacks of great recipes, including some I’m not even going to wait for leftovers to attempt, like Miguel Maestre’s Gypsy Chickpea hotpot with pears, or Andre Ursini’s Sweet gnocchi with cinnamon and pistachios or Adam Law’s Huevos coreanos – I could go on. And on. And on then on some more, but to the banana bread…)
BANANA, HAZELNUT AND HONEY BREAD (ISH)
3/4 cup self-raising white flour
3/4 cup self raising wholemeal flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tbs chia seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs raw honey
3 tbs raw milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 mashed overripe bananas
120g pitted chopped dates
50g of hazelnuts, bashed about in a tea towel with a rolling pin.
Preheat your oven to 180C, or 170C fan forced (I prefer not to use the fan force in baking, as it gives you a more even result). Line and grease your loaf tin.
Combine your flours, almond meal, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Lightly whisk your eggs, milk, oil, honey, maple syrup, and bananas in another bowl. You can lightly warm your honey and coconut oil first, to help them combine more easily.
Fold your wet ingredients into your dry mix. Lastly, fold in your chopped dates and hazelnuts.
Pour into your tin and bake for roughly 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, before transferring to a cooling rack.
At the end, Louise suggests thickly slicing and freezing your loaf in portions (no waste and a wholefood treat anytime you want!) But it won’t last that long here….