Tips and tricks for making fruit and veg go further
Since my partner and I moved into a shared flat together, I would say I cook an evening and lunchtime meal from scratch about 70% of the time. On days when I can’t be bothered, or when we’re pressed for time, we will have the odd shop-bought meal or the occasional takeaway.
Generally speaking though, I feel quite confident in the kitchen. I’d even go as far as saying that I’m a pretty good cook! I’ve got a decent array of recipe books, and I’m not afraid to go off-piste and experiment with flavour combinations when it comes to putting together our weekly meal plan (this is very much my job, whereas my partner cleans up all the mess I make in the kitchen!).
But last week I made a lentil and cauliflower curry (from Marcus Wareing’s Everyday cookbook), and it was only upon reading the recipe in more detail that I learned that you can use cauliflower leaves to cook with – not just the white veg inside. This then got me thinking, there must be loads more bits of veg that I have failed to get the most use out of over the years. There are already phenomenal levels of food waste in the world, with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimating that UK households waste 7.1 million tonnes of food every year – 5 million of which is perfectly edible, and worth an estimated £15 billion.
As an already-guilty flexitarian (I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I love a good bacon sandwich when I’m hungover), I don’t want to contribute to the problem any more than I have to. This being said, I did some research about other ingredients you can stretch further. Here are my findings:
You can use beetroot stalks to add a nice crunch to a risotto
There are lots of different beetroot-inspired dishes in Rukmini Iyer’s Roasting Tin books (I have all of them) – she’s evidently a big fan of the purple veg. Not everyone is keen on beetroot’s earthy flavour, though, and it’s easy to be put off by the fact that grated beetroot can make your kitchen look akin to a murder scene. But if you can get past looking like Hannibal Lecter (covered in blood, not in a straight jacket), then chop up the beetroot stalk, wash thoroughly to remove any excess dirt, and add it to a risotto, orzo dish or bulgur-based recipe to add some extra texture.
You can use beetroot leaves as a substitute for spinach or chard
At the risk of sounding like I’m being sponsored by Shrute Farms, as well as using the stalks of said beets to add some extra crunch to a dish, you can use beetroot leaves as a substitute for vitamin-A rich greens like spinach or chard. You can steam them, sauté them, braise them, add them to soups – or even chop them up and add to salads! And let’s be all be honest here, anything is nicer than kale.
You can use carrot tops as a base in pesto
Most supermarkets tend to lop the tops off carrots these days, but if you buy your fruit and veg from a grocer who tends to leave the leafy greens still attached, don’t let them go to waste! Blitz the carrot tops up with some pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese for a homemade pesto. You can also sauté the tops with some garlic and olive oil with other green veg.
You can eat the skin on kiwi fruit
If, like me, you’ve spent the better part of your adult life eating a kiwi with a spoon, scooping out the green fruit from inside the brown, furry skin, then we’ve been doing it wrong. I was sceptical at first when I saw a friend eating a kiwi like an apple – taking bites out of it, skin and all – but after trying it myself I can confirm that you don’t really notice the furriness in the context of the rest of the mouthful. It definitely makes it easier to eat this fruit on the go, too, as there is no need to use a spoon or a peeler to eat it!
So there you have it; hopefully at least one of the pieces of information listed above will have surprised you and you can be more mindful of the bits of fruit and veg you are chucking in the bin as part of your efforts to reduce food waste!
Words by Beth Kirkbride