As part my series of food challenges to be kinder to the environment, this week we’ve been playing ‘Ready Steady Cook’ in an attempt to use up the leftovers in our cupboards. Normally I’d choose a recipe, buy a shed load of ingredients and sadly be left with creme fraiche/yoghurt/herbs/celery or something or other that would end up rotting in the fridge. Not this week though, this week we would be food waste heroes.
I grabbed the various packets languishing in our cupboards and plonked them on the kitchen top so I could assess what we needed to get through. Here’s a little sample of what we had: an abundance of lentils, several kilograms of chickpea flour and rye flour, rye grains, black beans, bulgar wheat, pearl barley, various pastas, noodles, spirulina and a load of other weird stuff. Not altogether inspiring really.
The rules of this week were not so strict that I couldn’t buy additional food items, but I wanted to try and choose some recipes that would start using these bits and pieces up.
My proudest meal was definitely the first. We made potato curry and chickpea flatbreads and we only had to buy coriander and tumeric. It was insanely good and it felt exotic and fancy too. I found both recipes by googling around.
Potato curry and chickpea flatbreads
We chipped away at the rye flour reserves by making a delicious rye bread from The Green Kitchen cookbook. We undercooked it slightly, but nothing a bit grilling couldn’t sort out.
Another tasty inspired number was Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing from Molly Brown’s Grains cookbook – we had to buy tahini and rocket, but we made a signifiant dent in the barley and lentil stocks. I honestly thought this sounded unbelievably boring – lentils and pearl barley and some carrots – how dull can you get? How wrong I was – it was in fact the very best Middle Eastern spice party in your mouth.
On Thursday our Riverford vegetable box arrived – not very Ready Steady Cook, but it’s good for the environment so I decided to incorporate it. We got clever with the butternut squash we received, we baked it and then stuffed it with leftover Turkish barley and lentil salad from the night before – it looked and tasted superb.
Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing
Finally Friday saw us making a quinoa, chicken and black bean number from the Grain cookbook – I got a bit cocky and decided to use bulgur wheat instead of quinoa and completely demolished our black bean supply. What a victory – bulgur wheat worked, the dinner was ace and our shelves were feeling positively minimalist compared to the beginning of the week.
Ready Steady Cook-ing our recipes has been a revelation to me. It’s made me approach cooking in such an inventive way. I’ve started looking on ingredient packaging for cooking ideas and scouring cookbooks by the pulse, grain or vegetable I have to hand, not just picking the meal I fancy. I would argue that it’s a much more creative process than just deciding on any old recipe and buying the ingredients because you have to be so much more resourceful and imaginative. In fact I’ve enjoyed it so much I’m going to carry on for another week – I’m feeling a bit addicted to concocting amazing dinners with weird looking lentils and flours.
I’ll report back next week.