Souped-Up Food Waste

How can we be fat and starving; struggling to feed our families yet throwing out tonnes of food every year?

There is no doubt that planning specific meals with a shopping list and buying less is part of the answer, but we will always end up with some waste.

According to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste, campaign, the most wasted foods are bread, fruit and vegetables. I’ve also been guilty of throwing out the ends of loaves in the past but faced with this obscene and inexcusable waste, I now freeze all bread immediately and literally take out each slice or a few slices as I need them. I process the odds and sods and have a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer often adding grated cheese ends to sprinkle over the tops of vegetables and then grill into a crispy topping. This not only uses up the bits that previously went into the bin but makes any mundane veg into a gourmet delight on a wet Wednesday. This isn’t pretentious cheffery – it’s old-fashioned good housekeeping.

As I went to put my weekly shop in the fridge today, I witnessed the typical sight of past-their-best vegetables skulking apologetically in the bottom of the fridge: half an onion, some sprouting garlic, 1/2 red pepper, some discolouring cabbage leaves, a broccoli stump, some very wrinkly cherry tomatoes, five rather flaccid carrots, the end of a cucumber and about four potatoes. Rather than bin them, which again I would have done a few years back, I chopped them all up, fried them off in a pan for a few minutes, added a litre of vegetable stock and watched them transform into a bright and incredibly appetising pan of food. What could have been destined for the bin was suddenly revitalised and delicious.

I added some black pepper and chilli flakes for taste but actually you could add some chicken or a couple of chopped and fried off sausages and have a delicious family casserole. I chose to whizz it up (using my £6 hand processor from the supermarket) to make a Souper Soup. I will enjoy some today and freeze the rest in portions for a fast lunch or supper or to take to work in a flask. There’s easily enough for 10 wholesome servings; perhaps with some croutons on top from the bread that may have been thrown out or some grated cheese or a few crispy bacon bits from the last dried rasher in the pack. There is little more satisfying than seeing the transformation of bin-fodder.

The point is that using up left overs doesn’t need complicated recipes or even much time or any skill. Roughly chopping the vegetables and tossing them in a pan took literally a couple of minutes. It simmered for 10 minutes whilst I sent some emails and it was whizzed up in another two minutes. There really is no excuse. This is simple, filling, nutritious, low calorie food which would also deal with many of the obesity issues if we could persuade more people to eat this way rather than resorting to expensive processed alternatives.

What I would love to see is somewhere that we could take our soups to share with those who don’t even have the luxury of left overs. So rather than the food banks giving them tins of processed foods with little nutritional value, those of us binning up to £60 of edible food could be sharing that in a more constructive way. Health and safety permitting, of course.

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