Today’s Three Ways With… column is all about food waste – using up the stuff you’d normally throw away. While I was thinking about it, I realised I do a lot of food ‘saving’ that’s unconscious. Things aren’t so desperate that I reuse teabags (I remember seeing a posh and terrifying friend of my mother’s doing this and being thoroughly shocked), but I do like to extract maximum value from things.

Leftovers get taken for work lunches, baguette ends are turned into breadcrumbs or crostini, spotty bananas are frozen for smoothies or baking – it’s stuff that seems basic household common sense. But I fear that the very existence of campaigns like Love Food Hate Waste (which I’m proud to support) means that people have lost their way.

I guess if you don’t cook often, or see cooking as a difficult chore, then you’re less likely to think about using up your leftovers. Or, you may be like someone I know who cooks a lot, but over-caters massively and then just chucks stuff in the bin (a long-lost Presbytarian gene means I am morally outraged by this). But it’s not that hard.

If you want to waste less, you need to be mindful right from the start. You need to plan meals to a certain extent, you need to shop with purpose and cook with efficiency. That means, when you get excited by seeing huge bunches of cavolo nero at the shops for $2.50, you need to think on your feet about what you’re going to do with it. In this case, I let it sit in the fridge for a few days, waiting for inspiration to strike. We have a small, ill-designed fridge and it’s fundamentally unsuited to having lots of stuff in it. So, when I realised the cavolo nero was balanced on Sunday night’s leftover roast chicken, something stirred in my brain.

The chicken, stripped of fat and skin, went in the pot, with an onion, a carrot and some limp celery. I covered it with water and an hour or so later, I had a vat of delicious stock. I sauted the rest of the celery, another onion and some garlic in a bit of oil leftover from a jar of sundried tomatoes, added a bowl of cooked quinoa from the fridge, a kumara from the cupboard and the cavolo nero. The stock went in, along with some herbs from the garden and before long ‘nothing’ had turned into soup. We ate half of it on the spot, and the rest went in the freezer. Not complicated, not costly, not wasteful. Why is this stuff dressed up to be difficult?

What’s your favourite way to combat food waste?

I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing Oprah writes in her gratitude journals, but every day I thank my stars that no one in my household has a nut allergy. Quite apart from the threat of anaphylaxis, I can’t imagine life without peanut butter. Actually, I can barely imagine a day without it. 

Peanut butter – especially proper peanut butter, like the excellent varieties springing up everywhere in New Zealand now – is a major food group in my house. Peanut butter and banana on toast is my hurried breakfast (and sometimes, lunch) of choice. It’s a handy tahini replacement in homemade hummus, works well in a marinade and is a major baking ingredient. It’s also a nifty addition to a salad dressing to perk up broccolini and other assorted bits and pieces. Add this to your weeknight repertoire for those nights when peanut butter and crackers seem like the only viable dinner option.

 

Really good peanut salad dressing

This is child’s play to make and it’s really useful. I think it’s good with steamed broccolini, but you could add all sorts of crunchy greens and some cooked chicken or tofu for a very family-friendly dinner. 

1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/2 tsp flaky salt

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp good quality peanut butter

1/2 cup good quality peanut oil

Put all ingredients in a screwtop jar, attach the lid and shake well until emulsified. Makes about 1 cup – easily enough for a substantial salad for 4-6 people – and stores well in the fridge.

If you prefer your peanut butter treats to be a little more decadent, then this peanut butter pie should fit the bill (though you won’t be fitting much after eating it). 

*My clever friends at Kiwi Mummy Blogs have teamed up with the nice people at Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter to collate some Really Good peanut butter recipes. You can get more peanut butter inspo here.*

When we came home from our epic Euro adventures last year there was one thing I was dying to do: drink water out of the tap. Because cocktails and jasmine tea and magnums of rose are all very well, but there comes a time when all you want to do is turn the tap on and have delicious, unpolluted, H2O come gushing out.

New Zealand isn’t immune from the cult of the plastic water bottle, of course, but we are lucky that we can drink the good stuff straight from the tap (even though many local councils advise people to run the water for a bit first thing in the morning to flush out any trace metals that might have built up overnight, which is a bit worrying!) I’m sure this is one of the reasons why our coffee is so good – an old flatmate of mine who was a coffee roaster was meticulous about water quality and insisted on using filtered water in his espresso machine.

While we’re used to taking good quality water for granted, I am really happy to be able to support a UK-based campaign run by BRITA and Delicious magazine that’s hoping to find some great recipes using filtered water. That might sound a bit ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, but good water is an integral ingredient to so many things (not to mention the soup below). You can find out a bit more about the Better With BRITA competition here – don’t forget to check out the current entries to see who you’re up against. The three winners will be taken on a VIP trip to The Big Feastival in London and get the chance to sell their wares (and show off in general).

If you’d like to improve your drinking water quality, BRITA have given me one of their exceptionally pretty Marella Water Jugs (RRP £33) to give away to a lucky reader. You can enter via the Rafflecopter wotsit below. Unfortunately this giveaway – like the Better with BRITA competition – is only open to UK residents, but I have a consolation prize for everyone else – the secret to making ‘just add water’ soup.

Frugal Chicken Soup

Just Add Water Soup
In the colder months we follow the happy ritual of having a roast chicken on Sunday nights, not least because it means we have two cheering lunchboxes of leftovers to brighten Mondays. I used to feel guilty about throwing away the carcass instead of making stock, until I twigged that I could shortcut the process and make hands-free chicken soup instead. Here’s how…

1 x chicken carcass (or as many as you may have!)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 onions or leeks, peeled or washed, as appropriate, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 bunch celery, including leaves, roughly chopped
fresh herbs – parsley, thyme, sage
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
water
salt and pepper
olive oil
extras: tinned beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed; quinoa or buckwheat; more herbs

Start by putting the chicken carcass in a large pot. Tuck in the vegetables around it and barely with pure, filtered tap water. Cover, set over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Let bubble away for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and extract the chicken bones and any bits of skin or fat. The meat should fall from the bones (and there will be a surprising amount of it). Return to the heat and add in any of the extras. If adding grains, add them to the pot and bring the soup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Taste for seasoning – it will need a good amount of salt. Serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 4-6 servings.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Given the frugal nature of this simple soup I think it’s a fine contender for this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, a blog event devoted to budget-friendly food created by – Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours. This month it’s being hosted by Gingey Bites – check out her list of frugal and delicious meals.

* This post was created with the assistance of BRITA, but all opinions (and the recipe) are my own.



The thing about having a food blog is that people always think you are having something exciting for dinner. People often ask me what I’m planning to eat and until very recently I would admit that I had no idea because my beloved was in charge of dinner. Sure, I was mostly in charge of shopping and thinking ahead, but he did the leg work on the nights I was working. It was great.

Things have changed and now I’m home first and it’s not the cushy number I thought it was. Among other things it means – oh no! – that I’m now in charge of dinner all the time.

If you have a similar role at your place, here are five fast family dinner ideas to make your after-work life more balanced. Don’t forget to pour yourself a G&T when you get in, you deserve it.

Chicken Salad And Crunchy Noodles Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

1. Chicken and crunchy noodle salad
This was our favourite fast dinner this summer. The noodles – I pretend to myself that they aren’t deep-fried – turn a salad and some protein into something exciting and fun. You can do it with any kind of protein you like – I do it most often with chicken thighs or pork schnitzel, but fish or even pan-fried tofu are good too.
To make this when you get home from work, marinate about 600g sliced chicken thighs in a splash of soy sauce, a spoonful of marmalade or apricot jam, a clove or two of smashed garlic and a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you are really organised you can do this before you go to work). Turn the oven on to 180C and line a small baking tray with foil, then baking paper. The foil keeps the tray clean (less washing-up) and the baking paper stops the chicken sticking to the foil. I favour using the oven, rather than the stove-top, because it offers more hands-free time. However, if your oven is slow to heat up, or you get home very late, then by all means shelve my oven-cooking instructions below for your own stovetop methods.
So – stick the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Meanwhile, assemble a collection of salad fixings (leaves, shredded seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, whatever) on a large platter. Toss through a little vinaigrette. When the chicken is cooked, scatter it on top, then sprinkle over the crunchy noodles. Serves four.

2. Rhi’s sausages: This is an idea that the lovely Rhi left in a comment once. Throw some roughly chopped good sausages, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and onions into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 200C for 30 minutes, then toss in some chunks of oil-drizzled baguette and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden and crusty. You can extend or shrink this to suit however many mouths you have to feed – though be warned, they will all eat more of it than you think.

3. Homemade fish and chips:  Turn the oven to 200C. Scrub some potatoes and cut into thin wedges. Put in a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of oil and smoosh about until the wedges are coated. Tip onto a lined baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, shaking occasionally. Meanwhile, line a small baking tray with foil. Lay some fresh fish fillets on top, then drizzle over some olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and grind over some salt and pepper. Switch the oven to grill and put the fish in to cook for about five minutes (leave the potatoes in the bottom of the oven, they will be fine). Serve with steamed beans, cherry tomatoes and lots of lemon wedges.

4. Bacon and egg pie: This easy bacon and egg pie takes five minutes to make and – if you use really good bought pastry, like this one – it feels like a real treat. If you’re really lucky, there will be some leftover for lunchboxes the next day.

Fish And Flatbreads Or Wraps Photo Credit Lucy Corry

5. Fish ‘n flats: Not to be confused with style for harried mothers website Fox in Flats, fish ‘n flats is another insta-dinner. Grill or fry fish as above (I prefer oven grilling, as it saves on smell and washing a frying pan; my beloved says frying gives you more crunchy bits, which is also true). Serve with flatbreads (homemade or bought), hummus (ditto), crunchy salad stuff. In my experience small children will eat all sorts of things if they can wrap them up in a flatbread.


What do you eat on busy days?

We have been living on reduced rations this week, not because it’s January and everyone else is a) on a diet or b) broke, but because our renovation work has started and we are a) somewhat nervous about spiralling costs and b) our pantry supplies are in a series of cardboard boxes on the kitchen floor because the old pantry is kaput and the new one isn’t built yet.

I knew this day was coming so I’ve been a bit slack on the shopping front lately. But despite having the world’s smallest freezer we almost always have a frozen chicken in it, so even when it looks like there’s nothing to eat we can treat ourselves to a roast chicken. But with no potatoes – and very few vegetables at all except what’s in the garden – I decided to pot-roast the chicken instead. Discovering that we were all out of my all-time favourite pantry staple, the humble tin of whole peeled tomatoes, meant a bit of creative thinking was required. This delicious pot-roast was the result.

Easy Chicken Pot-Roast With Chilli And Chickpeas

Pot-roast chicken and chickpeas
This may take an hour to cook, but it requires very little preparation and minimal hands-on time. You can add more liquid and shred the chicken before serving for a hearty, ‘bowl food’ presentation, or serve with rice and/or flatbreads to make it go further. You can always add more vegetables too. Either way, something green and crunchy is a good accompaniment.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 small dried chillies (or a chipotle pepper)
1 free-range organic chicken, patted dry with kitchen towel
a good splash of white wine
250ml good chicken stock
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
a handful of parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
50g spinach or kale, washed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy, lidded pot (like a Le Creuset), then add the garlic and onions. Saute gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chillies and cook for a minute, then raise the heat to medium and add the whole chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides (as best you can) then pour in the wine and a splash of water. Let it bubble and sizzle away for a minute, then add the remaining ingredients – tuck them down the sides of the chicken. Put the lid on the pot and let simmer gently for 35-45 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t evaporated. There should be between 2-5cm of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a warmed serving plate and cover with a tent of foil. Keep warm (the chicken, not you). Using a stick blender, whiz what’s left in the pot to a chunky, rustic sort of sauce. Taste for seasoning (and add a little hot water if it is very thick), then pour some of the sauce over and around the chicken, then bring the rest to the table in a jug. Serves four to six. Enjoy!