Serendipity Soup

SerendipityLast weekend when the weather was still cold and miserable, we had our usual roast dinner on Sunday evening.  We generally plan to have leftovers, that we can use up throughout the week.  On Tuesday I foraged in the fridge for some lunch and found the leftover veg.  I thought it was odd that there was no gravy left, but I ate my veg gravy-less and enjoyed it none-the-less.

The next day I found the gravy! When I say “found” …well it was in the fridge staring at me as soon as I opened the door.  I can’t think why I had overlooked it the day before, but that “can’t see for looking” expression comes to mind.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up the gravy as I didn’t really have anything to go with it.  My usual way of using it up would be to eat it with leftover meat and veg, just as a second opportunity at roast dinner, or to make it into a pie. The classic Pitt family “Leftover Pie”, of course!

On Thursday I was walking past the market at closing time so I seized the opportunity to buy up some cherry tomatoes and romano peppers that needed a home – way more than I would normally buy, but there are lots of ways of using them, so I knew I could save them from being wasted.

One of the things I love about having a mindset of using everything up is that you get inventive and sometimes you end up with a new recipe through lucky accident. Like my serendipity fig rolls (page 209 in Leftover Pie), I now have a serendipity soup.

On Friday, I made a curry with plenty of pepper and tomato in it, and as I was chopping the peppers I was reminded, for some reason of an asian style noodle broth I’d had with romano peppers in it.  Ah! That might be a good way to use up the gravy!  It certainly was and it was so simple and delicious I will have to do it again.  Here’s how..

I reheated the gravy – there was about 300ml, so I added about 100ml of water to it.  I popped in some egg noodles, then the diced romano pepper, some strips of white cabbage and half a tin of sweet corn that I had left over from lunch the day before.  It took me less than ten minutes to make.  Definitely one to remember.


Judges go bananas over banana skin curry

Last weekend I was invited to take part in Low Carbon West Oxford’s ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ style competition at their ‘Beet the Waste’ 10th anniversary celebrations at Tap Social in Oxford. My fellow competitors were cooking professionals, Christina from Relish and Sandra and Marie from Waste2Taste.

I hadn’t realised that I was supposed to be a team on my own.  I thought I was joining one of the other teams, so I had only brought one frying pan, a chopping board, one knife, some spoons, some spices and a big bunch of herbs I’d picked from my garden.  When I was shown to ‘my station’ and saw the two gas burners I was a little daunted.  What was I going to cook with just me and my one pan?

As three competing teams, we had an hour to select our ingredients from the food surplus at Oxford Food Bank, and then cook up a feast with what we found.

The first thing I noticed was a box of black spotty bananas and I thought, ‘They really need to be used,’ so I decided to cook a variation on Shane Jordan’s banana skin curry and to make banana peel crisps to garnish the curry and chocolate banana nice-cream, both of which are recipes from Leftover Pie.

As the hour was progressing I was laughing at myself, just making one simple main dish and a very simple pudding. Meanwhile the ladies either side of me were making tray after tray of amazing food, all beautifully presented. I have been at several events with Christina and with Sandra and Marie as we are all campaigning to reduce food waste. I’ve tasted their wonderful food so I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing, feeling that I couldn’t possibly win, and so I just wanted to come up with something fun.

After a while, Marie from Waste2Taste noticed my one overflowing pan and offered me a bigger frying pan and a saucepan in which I was then able to cook some rice.

While the judging was going on I was being questioned by a whole lot of children who were very interested in my banana skin crisps and were also eyeing up the chocolate banana nice-cream (of sorts – we had none of these Masterchef type facilities such as super fast chillers, so it was more of a chocolate banana mousse.)

I was trying to listen to what the judges were saying about the delicious food on offer either side of me, whilst also trying to answer all the questions about banana skins, giraffes, chimpanzees etc that were being thrown at me by all the children lining the front of my station.

Then I got a dig in the ribs from one of the judges standing next to me. She said, “You need to pay attention over here for a moment.”

I couldn’t believe I won!!

I guess my secret weapon was a head full of recipes from my new book, Leftover Pie which features contributions by Thomasina Miers and Tom Hunt as well as Lorna Hall’s banana peel crisps and Mandy Mazliah’s banana nice-cream, that were part of my ‘winning’ feast. Christina from Relish has also contributed a recipe to Leftover Pie and Waste2Taste are featured as a case study. I suspect it was the quirkiness of using banana skin as an ingredient that really swayed the judges. The food that was produced was all delicious and really highlights the fact that so much great food is often wasted. Oxford Food Bank saves over £1 million worth of food from being wasted every year.

Here’s my version of banana skin curry inspired by Shane Jordan’s recipe from his book Food Waste Philosophy.

Beet the Waste Banana Skin Curry

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1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
3 shallots – diced
2 large carrots – diced
1 sweet potato – diced
1 tin of lentils (use the liquid too)
2 courgettes – diced
1/2 cup water
4 banana skins cut into strips about 4 cms long
Rape seed oil for frying
Parsley and coriander – roughly chopped
Rice to serve
1 tablespoon of coconut oil to fry the boiled rice
Salt and pepper to season

Heat the rape seed oil in a pan and add the chilli flakes and curry powder and stir for about half a minute then add the diced onion and heat until the onion starts to go translucent and is well coated with the spices.  Add the carrot and sweet potato and drain the liquid from the lentils into the frying pan so that you have liquid to steam the sweet potato and carrot.  Add in the water if necessary.  Stir fry this until the carrot and sweet potato are soft then add in the courgette and 3/4 of the banana skin strips, then add the lentils.

I boiled the rice just in water – it was just ordinary long grain rice -but it needed a little help, so I then fried it in a little coconut oil and added salt and pepper then sprinkled the coriander and parsley on top of the curry and the rice.

I fried up the rest of the banana skin in salt and pepper and a few chilli flakes to serve as crisps on the top.

For pud – I mashed up the bananas and mixed them with a couple of small sachets of cocoa powder (like the banana nice-cream in my book).

It should be said, though, that I’d have used a larger range of spices if I’d had them – e.g. mustard seeds, cumin and coriander – and I’d have made it a little hotter, but I was surrounded by a lot of children and I didn’t want them all rubbing their eyes from the spicy fumes coming off my frying pan. So to my mind I did a very low key under spiced curry, really, plus I didn’t have a teaspoon so it was all approximate. The next one I make will be a little spicier, I think, but the key to any good curry is to ‘taste as you go’, add in a little more spice as your taste buds guide you and don’t stop until you can’t stop tasting it because it is so yummy. No double dipping with that spoon though!

Leftover Pie is available to order at Blackwells, Waterstones and Amazon.  You can order signed copies directly from this website too (but these may take a little longer). Click the buy-the-book link here.

Foraging fortnight

Autumn is a great time for foraging.  I’ve been picking apples, blackberries, pears and plums from my garden and hedgerows.  I’m planning to go blackberrying again and I’m hoping to add in some elderberries too.

Veg garden

We are also lucky to have a vegetable patch which is producing carrots, spring onions, beetroot, courgettes, celery, beans, and spinach at the moment.

But it isn’t just the outdoor foraging that I want to invite you to think about.  Now is a really great time to go foraging in your fridge and freezer.  What better time to cut down on spending than after your summer holiday and before you start thinking about Christmas.

So for the last week, we’ve been living on what we already have in our fridge and freezer with the aim of running down the stocks, so that we can firstly fill up the freezer again with some of the produce from our outdoor foraging and secondly ready for all the lovely food we want to prepare for party season.

Here’s a run down of my foraging this week…

From the garden

Runner beans for the winter

Last weekend I blanched and froze some runner beans.  I chopped them up, popped them in a pan of boiling water for three minutes.  Scooped them out into a colander and plunged them into a bowl of cold water. Then I dried them with a clean tea towel and weighed out portions of 160g – that is 2 adult recommended portions at 80g each.  These are now in the freezer for use over the winter.

Apple and blackberry crumble (page 141)

We have eating apples on our tree, but I have been peeling and chopping the not so pretty ones to use in crumble.  I pop the peel and cores into a freezer bag, which I’m storing up to make Jareth Mill’s apple membrillo (page 167), and I just put the brown bits into the compost bin.

Poached pears

I have some lemonade left over from a gathering, so I am going to poach some pears in it this weekend.

From the fridge and freezer forage

Bung it all in risotto (page 119)

I had some tubs of vegetable stock – several of them, made from vegetable peelings (page 169), so yesterday evening we managed to scrape a meal together from what seemed like nothing, but turned into a lovely beetroot and feta risotto.  I had half a large beetroot left from what I cooked last weekend for Sunday dinner and for use in the week.  I had a large tub of feta from which I just used two chunks.  Other than that, I added onion, the green ends of some spring onions and a slightly squishy yellow tomato that I found in the fridge, two courgettes from the garden and some of the meat juice from last Sunday’s roasted gammon, which was also languishing in the fridge waiting to be loved.  Knowing that I often forget that drinks are often wasted too, I poured in a little rose wine that had been open a good long while too.  For this I used the sniff test:  it still smelled like rose wine, so in it went.  A cup of risotto rice was the only other ingredient that was required. The whole thing turned out very well and felt like food for free.

Soup for lunch

I felt as though I had started have sandwiches every lunchtime, so I decided to forage in my freezer to see what portions of soup I had in there.  I much prefer having soup for lunch and I think it is probably not only more satisfying but lower in calories.  Probably a good idea for right now, while I am having a little break from my running.  So three days this week I have had vegetable soup instead of sandwiches and one evening when I was on my own I also had soup as I’d had pasta for lunch in order to finish up some cheese sauce from Sunday dinner.

Frugal green soup


We bought nothing at all from Monday through Thursday, and today my shop consisted of:

  • a joint of pork for Sunday dinner,
  • some lamb chops for a family meal tomorrow night
  • some steak for this evening
  • a bag of potatoes (none available loose)
  • two sweet potatoes

Weekends we do meat, weekdays we do veg + leftovers.

I plan to continue my fridge, freezer and garden forage this week but this time I need to get creative with the quantity of jars that always breeds in my fridge.  I think pastry might help with that!

Fridge jars
Ideas anyone?



10 top tips for reducing food waste

I’m often asked for my top 10 tips on reducing food waste, so here you have them.

  1. The big number one tip has to be…  Buy less food! Try to think of each shopping expedition as one where you will buy the minimum amount of food to get by rather than one where you are going to fill your trolley and pack your fridge full to bursting.  It is a small change in mindset that makes a huge difference.Buy Less
  2. Before you shop, use up what you’ve got in the fridge.  Even though your fridge is a device to keep food safe to eat for longer it is actually where most food waste occurs.  A fridge doesn’t stop rot, it just slows down the process.  SO you need to make sure you organise your fridge so that anything that has a short life or has already been opened in the case of packets or jars is at the front of the fridge at eye level. If you have one main weekly shopping day, make sure the meal the night before is a use-it-up style meal such as risotto, stir-fry, soup or omelette. If you run your stocks down it is easier to see what you have and work out what you need.
  3. When you make each meal, make sure you check the Use-by date on other items so you don’t find you are using things in the wrong order.  If you really don’t fancy cooking whatever has a Use-by date today, then take action and put it in your freezer for another time.
  4. If you do a meal plan, which I highly recommend – make sure you plan in meals that can use up leftovers and plan to have store-cupboard only meals on a couple of days each week.  That gives you leeway for last minute invitations or days when your plans just go completely astray and you run out of cooking time or enthusiasm.
  5. Have a read of chapter two of Leftover Pie and get to grips with portion control.  Premeditated leftovers are fab is you are deliberately cooking an extra portion for tomorrow’s lunch boxes.  But unless you know you want extra for a specific reason, then weigh out what you are going to cook.  If your scales are a permanent feature on your kitchen counter then this can become second nature and you will have perfect portions every time.
  6. Avoid plate waste by encouraging people to serve themselves.  Only you can know how hungry you are, so remember only they know how hungry they are.  Encourage your family to be conservative in their estimate of how much they are going to eat, finish it, pause and rest a bit, then go back for more if you feel the desire.
  7. Cool leftover food quickly and put it in the fridge.  You can help things cool more quickly by dividing them up into single portions.
  8. Freeze in a mixture of single or double portions and never more.
  9. Make rules for fridge foragers.  Get them their own shelf and lay down the law that that’s where they pick from first.
  10. Don’t be afraid to write notes in your fridge.
Top 10 tips to reduce food waste
Top 10 tips to reduce food waste

For delicious “leftover” recipes from leading chefs and to find out how you can reduce your food waste, buy Leftover Pie today.