Love your leftovers!

I HATE waste! Anyone who knows me will know that food waste is huge bugbear of mine. I will always try to find a use for the tiny splodge of hummus lurking in the corner of the tub, veggies, hiding in the depths of the salad drawer, however wrinkled, will be the star in a bowl of spiced root soup. And as for ‘Best before’ labels… an utter anathema to me, I prefer to employ my olfactory sense… God gave me a nose this size for a reason! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t take unnecessary risks and I respect a ‘use by’ label but… best before? I’ll happily rise to that challenge!

Discarded salad and stale bread – yummy!

Whilst studying at Leith’s School of Food and Wine I was delighted to discover that all the leftovers were collected every evening by a fabulous charity called City Harvest. This wonderful venture collects leftover food, (that would otherwise be thrown away) from various culinary establishments around the capital (restaurants, shops etc) and redistributes them to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and women’s refuges to name a few. It prides itself on ‘giving food a second life’ – not only does this provide for vulnerable, hungry people, it also reduces the amount of food going into landfill where it will emit greenhouse gases and further damage our already ‘poorly’ planet. We, as students were producing (even though I say it myself!) some pretty good stuff and whilst we were encouraged to take our creations home, some people were unable to or simply didn’t want to, knowing it would get wasted. I took not only my creations but those of half the class too! I kid you not, whole rabbits, suet puddings, petit fours and half a pigs head were just some of the foodstuffs that made the 2.5 hour commute home with me- my fellow travellers on East Midlands rail were blissfully unaware of what lurked in the bags above their head. Most of these nightly offerings were greeted with delight by Team Delaney… some were not! None were wasted, that’s the important thing

So, imagine my delight upon discovering a smaller scale but no less valuable resource much closer to home. Second Helpings who’s strapline is ‘feeding bellies not bins’ is another awesome initiative set up in Stamford Methodist church. It is part of the national Real Junk Food project and it aims to utilise food that would otherwise be disposed of. One way it does this is by creating nutritious meals that it serves to the public on a Saturday lunchtime on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis. The other is via ‘The Bunker’ an underground treasure trove for foodies with a little bit of imagination. I’ve shopped here often and come home with boxes of joy that I then turn into meals and treats for my family; slightly brown bananas become delicious banana loaves, sourdoughs are sliced then frozen to be removed from the deep freeze on an ‘as you need basis’, many a vegetable that is a little bruised is nurtured in the stock pot with some herbs and a little TLC and emerges as a delicious soup, the possibilities are endless and the produce is abundant! All you need is a tiny bit of imagination (or a great cookbook eg Love your Leftovers, Cooking with scraps etc) and to learn to love the ‘less than perfect’ looking fruit and vegetable. Remember, the blackest bananas make the best banana loaf and the overripe, splitting tomatoes produce the tastiest sauce of all.

Last nights dinner was the result of one such shopping trip, it was delicious, satisfying and, I like to think it was a fitting tribute to the sad tomatoes that were left in the box and that last little crust of sourdough…

Spanish style beans


4 medium ripe tomatoes

1 finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon smokey paprika

1 teaspoon mixed herbs (dried)

1/2 teaspoon salt + more to taste

1 can of beans (I used cannellini though, suspect any would be good!)

Begin by putting a small cross in the top of each tomato, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over. Remove after about 30 secs and peel skin off carefully so as not to burn yourself! Roughly chop the tomatoes.

In a sauté pan, gently fry the onion in some olive oil until it’s softened, add the garlic and fry gently taking care not to burn it or it will taste bitter. Sprinkle the paprika, mixed herbs and salt over, stir through then add the chopped tomatoes to the pan. Simmer gently for a couple of minutes then add about 200 ml of water and the beans. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and pop a lid on. Simmer for about 15 mins.

Whilst this is simmering, blitz your little piece of sourdough to crumbs in a food processor. Heat some oil in a small frying pan and fry off your crumbs with a little salt, once golden and crispy set aside.

Taste your beans and adjust seasoning to taste and serve with the breadcrumbs sprinkled across the top (these add a lovely crispy texture)

We ate this with a roasted duck leg but they’d be delicious with a piece of fish, some leftover chicken or just as they are – yum!

So, next time you think about food shopping, I urge you to think outside the supermarket shaped box; search online for similar waste-saving initiatives near you, learn to love the wrinkles, bruises and knobbly bits (they come to all of us after all, not just veggies!) scour the supermarkets for ‘wonky’ produce and box schemes (Lidl box is great value if you can get it in store) turn your back on ‘plastic wrapped perfection’ beauty, in this case, is so often only skin deep. Save YOUR pennies and OUR planet… it’s the only one we’ve got after all.

My last haul from Second Helpings

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