In this installment of her Eat Ireland column, Deputy Editor Jocelyn Doyle turns trash into tasty treasure.
I’ve long been a hater of food waste. I run a practical and frugal kitchen, and I am quite happy to be known as the office weirdo who eats any dinner leftovers — no matter what — for breakfast. I recently found out that my housemate was afraid to throw out half of a lemon covered in mould, as he was convinced I would find a use for it. He’s probably not far off.
There are good reasons for my zeal. Wasting food is terrible for the environment, and extremely unfair when you consider that there are people who can’t afford to feed themselves. I’ve also got a few selfish motivations; watching my waste saves me precious money, and you’d be surprised at how many dishes taste better the day after they’re made.
So, when I was invited to the Trash Bash Supper at Airfield Estate, Dundrum, dedicated to showcasing how food “waste” can be transformed into delicious, healthy meals, I was enthusiastic and hungry. We arrived at dusk and made our way to a huge teepee, where inventive canapés kept us ticking over until the main event: wonky-looking vegetable crudités and stale bread croutons were perfect for dipping into fresh turnip-top pesto; shots of bone broth warmed our insides; cucumber slices were topped with Ricotta from the farm. Fresh Ricotta is by far the tastiest way to utilise whey, a by-product of cheese-making.
The pièce de résistance was a hearty goat tagine, gently spiced, tender and flavoursome. Goat meat is actually incredibly popular around the world but, because it’s not a cultural norm in Ireland, goats are bred only for milk production. This means that male kids are usually slaughtered at birth, a senseless squandering of perfectly good meat. My comfortably-full belly had the added satisfaction of knowing that every bite had been saved from a landfill. One man’s trash really is another’s delicious treasure.
Simple ideas for reducing food waste:
- Use a shopping list and stick to it: don’t buy anything just to have it languish in the fridge until it’s only good for the bin.
- Make one dinner each week a “use-it-up” meal based solely on leftovers and other food that might otherwise get overlooked. Some of my most inventive and delicious meals have been the result of this habit!
- Don’t be put off by flawed fruits or vegetables. Trim away imperfections if they bother you, and use the rest. Even over-ripe or wilted produce can be whizzed into a soup, juice or smoothie.
- Use every bit of food whenever possible. Leave skins on cucumbers, carrots and potatoes, cook broccoli stems along with the florets and so on. Many of these off-cuts carry added nutrients.
- Save vegetable trimmings in a bag in the freezer. When the bag gets full, make vegetable stock. Freeze this in individual portions and use as needed.
- Work your leftovers! Freeze extra portions of pasta bakes, casseroles, soups and stews for another day’s minimum-effort lunch or dinner… or discover the joys of “dinner for breakfast,” my favourite way to start the day!
- I’ve long been hoarding Parmesan rinds and adding them to soups and stews for a flavour boost, but I’ve recently been made aware of an even better use for them: Parmesan broth. It’s a simple idea, but an easy way to add flavour to a myriad of dishes. I’m a big advocate of “nose-to-tail” eating, meaning that every part of a slaughtered animal deserves to be used, and this is the cheese version of that — rind-to-point. I love subbing it for part of the stock in a simple risotto focusing on the fantastic umami flavour of Parmesan.