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30 April 2015

Wasted food challenge

During the first Food Connections festival, I looked at trying to minimise my non-recyclable food packaging. I've maintained a few good habits from last time around, but the cat has not! - she's back on the single cat food sachets, environmental challenge that she is. Anyway, this time around, I'm going to be looking at minimising what I end up chucking in the compost bin. I'm pretty bad at finishing-off the last bit in the jar, and at buying odd ingredients only to use them once, or bargain veg which then turn into compost of their own volition. I think the first step is to audit the contents of fridge & larder.
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10 May 2014

The challenge of leftovers - bread and tomato soup?

A recent e-mail from Foodcycle, a National campaign to limit food waste, has requested recipes for a cookbook to be sold to raise money for charity (image 1). Below is my contribution that I discovered recently as a means of using leftover hard cheese rind (always seems such a waste!), although this isn't strictly vegetarian as requested I tweaked it a little and left the cheese as optional. Bread and tomato soup: From the Tuscany area of Italy this is a great recipe for using up a few leftovers such as old stale loaf bread, fresh or tinned tomatoes, cut herbs, and even hard cheese rind. Though it is an hour cooking time you can walk away from the pot for large chunks of time while the smell fills your kitchen! Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour Serves: 4 Ingredients: 400 g of ripe tomatoes (peeled, de-seeded, and coarsely chopped; or roughly 1 tin of tomatoes) 1 celery stick (chopped; or substitute with 1 small white onion, chopped) 1 garlic clove (chopped) 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper 2 slices of stale bread (cut into small cubes including the crusts; although not sliced white packaged bread!) A handful of basil leaves, or alternatively flat leaf parsley or coriander (torn, at end of cooking) Recipe: Add the tomatoes, celery stick, garlic, olive oil and 1.2 liters of water to a pan with a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer with no lid for around 30 minutes (adding leftover hard cheese rind here if using), then add the bread and simmer over an even lower heat for 30 more minutes with no lid. Note that at this point you essentially have a tomato soup you could just go ahead and eat, but it's also a useful way to use up bread. Taste and season to your liking then serve in warmed soup bowls topped with the punchy herbs, tear these by hand at the last moment so that the oils aren't lost on the knife blade. Notes: To easily peel whole tomatoes gently score a knife across the bottom and top in a criss-cross fashion and place in boiling water for 20 seconds, wait for them to cool then peel away the skin. You can add leftover hard cheese rind at the simmering stage to add flavour (e.g. parmesan or pecorino, buy vegetarian or only use rennet-based cheese for non-vegetarians).

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8 May 2014

Bento Box challenge - day 3

Well this will actually have to be the final day of the challenge as tomorrow I will be at @Bristol for the CBI South West Annual Lunch and on Saturday and Sunday I will be able to eat at home. Hot food today, with leftovers from earlier in the week, ie quinoa, kale, polony, peppers, tomatoes and some red onion... plus what was left of the avocado.I won't be back in London till late Monday night, so tried not to leave anything behind in the fridge that wouldn't survive till then. No #foodwaste! On a much more interesting note, today I chaired a session of the All-Party Agroecology Group in Parliament on local food policies - ie local food, and what national/ local policies are needed to support it. Joy Carey from the Bristol Food Council did a presentation on what has been happening in our city which was very well received. It's very clear that Bristol is in the vanguard on this - but we will lose all our Brownie points if we allow development on the Blue Finger. Seeing the Mayor tomorrow to discuss!

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7 May 2014

Bento Box challenge - slight digression

This isn't quite on-topic - it's not about the contents of my lunch box - but I thought I might as well take the opportunity to flag up a few really interesting meetings I've been having this week, and last week, on food-related policies. I've just met with the Eating Better Alliance - http://www.eating-better.org/ -and Friends of the Earth to talk about policy options for promoting healthy sustainable diets in the UK, which includes a "less and better approach to meat eating. Yesterday I met with Which? to discuss their recently-published research on #foodfraud - you can sign their petition here - http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/meat-takeaways-horsemeat/ It's so important that people know what is in the food they're buying and consuming. Food Connections has been brilliant in terms of leading the debate in Bristol about food sustainability, food journeys, what's in our food and where our food comes from, but the challenge now is how we can take these messages out beyond the 'foodies' and environmentalists and other easy to reach groups. It's all very well saying that people ought to value their food more, and be prepared to pay more for good quality, local sourced, sustainably produced food, but not everyone has the luxury of being able to do that. Last week I met with #foodwaste campaigners and I'm just about to go into a meeting in the House of Lords to discuss the same topic. And tomorrow I will be chairing a meeting of the All-Party Group on Agro-ecology, on "Local Food Policies and Sustainable Food Cities", which will be focusing on Bristol as an example of best practice. One of the issues we will be talking about is how we can protect the Blue Finger in east Bristol and use it for what it should be used for, which is growing food!

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6 May 2014

The Bento Box Challenge

I must admit I prevaricated and procrastinated over what to make the topic of my good food diary... My lifestyle doesn't lend itself very well to planning things in advance, which includes getting to the shops to buy food and cooking proper meals, and my initial optimism about being able to fit in some 'proper' food shopping on Thursday soon evaporated in a pile of work that had me chained to my desk. I've been vegan for more than 20 years so I don't really have much left to give up, and I don't generate much at all in the way of food waste (mainly because I don't get time to buy the food in the first place...) When I do get round to doing a decent food shop I try to shop local; I put £50 a month into my Bristol Pound account, and most of that will go on food shopping. I toyed with doing a "seven a day" fruit and veg challenge, which you might think would be easy for a vegan. It is when you're based in one place for more than a few days at a time, and you actually get to spend enough time there to cook, but to take a constituency Friday as an example... I leave home without breakfast, heading out on visits or to the office. I try to keep a supply of oatcakes in my desk drawer, and if I'm lucky there might be still be some vegan cheese or veg pate in the office fridge. (Usually there isn't). On a good day I might even make it down to Southville deli (the St George branch) and buy one of their vegan rolls, or pop into Wild Oats if I've had to do something at the BBC in Whiteladies Road, but more often than not it's back-to-back visits and meetings, and just those oatcakes to keep me going. And then by the time I get in at night - 9 or 10pm is fairly usual - I might have something like tofu scrambled eggs or lentils on toast. So the veg count isn't good. From Monday to Thursday when Parliament is sitting I am trapped on the parliamentary estate for most of the day, and often till quite late at night. They are better than they used to be at providing vegetarian meal options, but it's still not great for vegans. They always end up drizzling cheese or cream on things that I'd otherwise be able to eat. The salad bars are very limited (they always put sausage in the pasta salad, presumably left over from the breakfast fry-ups. Tuna and feta cheese also make frequent appearances). They are good at soups - there's nearly always a vegan option - and they sell Nak'd bars and dark chocolate rice cakes, but it doesn't add up to a very balanced diet. So... for today and the next four days, I've decided to set myself the bento box challenge, bringing my own food into work each day, and trying to get towards the seven a day at the same time. Today's bento box was: organic spelt pasta with butter beans and some chunks of vegan polony for protein; avocado; and a small salad comprised of chopped plum tomatoes, salad onions, orange peppers and a sprinkling of seeds. It looks slightly anaemic in the photo, but I can assure you it tasted just fine. I almost never eat breakfast - I just can't bring myself to do it - but I had a couple of handful of nuts and raisins, and a few blueberries before coming into work, and a Nak'd bar to keep me going in the afternoon. I'm still in the office, so I don't think I'll be cooking anything when I get in tonight. I had the advantage today of not having to be in work till relatively late, so managed to put together quite a varied selection; let's see how I manage tomorrow with a much earlier start.

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