Saturday, 7 May 2011

Waste not, want not: Taking stock

We waste a terrible amount of the food we buy in the Western world. But rather than feel guilty, let's take control of the problem. Sure, you may think you can afford to throw some of that manky food lurking in the fridge because you shouldn't have to eat stuff that's past it's best – but have you thought about how you might use what you buy or even save some money by buying a little less?

To give you an example, I used to be a 'lady who lunched'. No, I didn't necessarily go out to eat each day, but whilst at work, I used to do a mix of sandwiches and salads from nice posh shops and the odd weekly sit down lunch somewhere. I found my bank balance was telling me I was spending around £100 per month just on lunch alone. That's £1200 per year; enough for a holiday. Once I started thinking about having a free holiday each year or continuing my lunching, the decision was easy: start bringing lunch in and enjoy a well-earned “free” holiday.

The fact is we often buy more than we need. And if we aren't buying more than we need, we are throwing away stuff we could use. Take the humble cauliflower; I generally trim off the lovely florets and throw away the rest. I reckon most people do the same. However, my mum uses the leaves to add veggie content to her dhal (and very tasty it is too!), Delia suggests grating the stalk to add to salads and a mate of the Hairy Bikers suggests using the stalk for soup.

I believe that although none of us want to look like we grub around for the last penny, we do like the idea of getting something out of nothing. This is where my idea of using all your old veg lurking in your fridge to make some stock comes in.

What?! I hear you say. I can just use cubes. Yes, you can. But generally the cubes are overly salty and interfere with the taste of whatever dish you are making. Most of us already get more salt in our diet than we need, so cutting extra out would be a good idea. Besides, what I am suggesting you do involves 5-10 mins prep time, 1 hour cooking time and then you have the wonderful reward of tasty homemade stock. Use it to make what you like; soup, sauces, risotto, casseroles and stews.... What's more, it's yours; your own creation. A little piece of kitchen art that is all your own.

So this is what you need:

Bare minimum ingredients (base):
1-2 sticks celery
1 onion (I used red, but often use the regular white ones)
1 tsp whole peppercorns (optional)
2-3 dried bay leaves
Parsley stalks (you will have used the leaves already for other things)
1 tomato
1 carrot

You can then add any old veg hanging around: as long as it's not rotting, it can be past its best:
Leftover thyme
Leftover sage (be sparing – it's a strong flavour)
Cauliflower stalks and/or leaves
Broccoli florets and/or stalks
Spring onions
Cabbage stalks/core/outer leaves
Leftover leeks/onions etc etc

I will just say that you don't want to add something starchy because it will make your stock cloudy and starchy with a foam on the top. Not really what you want for, say, a broth or risotto.


Cut things like the onion, carrot and tomato or anything large in half to allow the water to leach out all the goodness.

Put all the ingredients into a big saucepan and just cover with cold water.

Put on a high heat and bring to the boil.

Once boiling, stir thoroughly, put on a low simmer, add a lid and cook for 45mins to 1 hour.

Allow to cool. Strain into another container. Refridgerate.

If you are really green, put the used veg in your composter.

The stock will keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Enjoy the thrifty fruits of your labour!

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