GINNY GRANT’S CHRISTMAS MENU IS BIG ON TASTE, NOT ON WASTE.
Ginny Grant’s Christmas menu makes the most of every ingredient
INSPIRED BY THE RECENT International Food Design conference and the Love Food Hate Waste initiative, I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of food waste my family creates. I’ve always been an avid recycler, reuse my own shopping bags, have a worm farm and a compost bin. We cook most nights, and, as both my partner and I work mostly from home, leftovers usually become lunch. I’m pretty good at freezing meals (and remembering what I’ve frozen) for later use on those nights when the chaotic round of sports and events makes for a huge rush.
But I’m guilty of buying too much – especially fruit and vegetables, which often end up in the compost – and I rarely plan meals for the week.
This also set me thinking about ways we could make a Christmas meal with little or no waste. There is no time when wasting food is more likely than at Christmas. We tend to overestimate the amount each person will eat, forgetting there is often more than just one day of endless rounds of nibbles, multiple-course meals, a plethora of desserts, and then just a few more nibbles. No wonder we over-cater and struggle to use the leftovers, or fail to find them when they are pushed to the back of the fridge.
It’s also known to be a time of extravagance, yet the added financial pressure for many families isn’t helped by throwing away perfectly good food – not only is it wasteful fiscally, but also ethically. My own rather poor efforts to grow vegetables have made me aware of the resources needed to do so, and how throwing them away if I’ve allowed them to rot makes a mockery of those attempts.
So I thought about a meal that used the same ingredients in a number of ways and that kept the expensive ingredients to a minimum (or could easily be omitted or substituted) while still feeling a little indulgent.
This year I’ve decided to use turkey breasts instead of a whole turkey. But if your budget won’t bear the cost of the turkey, I’d suggest using a whole chicken (or two if you are serving a large crowd) instead.
I’ve always blitzed the ends of stale sandwich bread in the food processor then thrown them into sealable plastic bags and put in the freezer for use later for crumbing, using in meatballs and the like. I love a bread stuffing (which was surely invented to use up stale bread) and here the crumbs are used for that purpose.
All the vegetable trimmings are kept to make stock – if you don’t think you have enough for a stock, store them in the freezer for a later date (and if you are using a whole chicken instead of turkey breasts, then bones from the roast can also be put into the stock).
The mild winter in Auckland meant my lemon tree was overloaded and by mid June they were dropping off ripe in horrifying numbers, so I made an extra large batch of preserved lemons. Some of these have found their way into the turkey stuffing and the dressing for the salad.
I’m using the ingredient of the moment, aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas or beans), which is the base of the meringues. Aquafaba is brilliant if you are unable to eat eggs or are vegan. In keeping with that, I’ve made the entire dessert vegan; although if you really like whipped cream on a meringue, there is nothing to stop you from adding it. Don’t worry about there being a chickpea taste – the aroma and flavour disappear through the cooking. The meringues are crisp but rather chewy and they collapse quickly, so be sure to put the topping on just before serving. And the chickpeas themselves? Well, they end up in the rice pilaf, where they provide a good textural component.
Whether you cook the whole menu or simply take a tip or two from the following pages, I hope you have a very happy, waste-minimal Christmas! For more tips and information, check out lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz.
Food waste is a big issue around the world. Here are a few examples of what’s being done to combat it:
Early this year, France banned supermarkets from throwing away unsold food – they must donate it to charities and food banks or face hefty fines.
In August, the Italian government passed laws to encourage supermarkets to give unsold food to the needy, and to urge diners to take home uneaten food in doggy bags.
Top Italian chef Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana was named the world's best earlier this year, set up Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games, using food waste from the Olympic Village to feed the needy.
In Denmark, Copenhagen’s Wefood grocery store sells only food that other supermarkets are throwing away.
Launched in Denmark and now available in the UK, Too Good to Go is an app that connects users to local restaurants that want to sell leftover high-quality food at a cheaper price.
California has passed legislation that will make it illegal by 2025 to dump organic matter into landfill. Instead it will build or expand up to 200 composting facilities.