Waste not want not.

There has been a lot of hype recently over the cost of living crisis. And it is not just in the UK, but it is where I live and as such it should concern me.

First off, cooking, which is the best / cheapest way to cook, and then food waste.

I have a spanking new Miele Oven and Microwave, but the one I am likely to use on a very regular basis is the microwave. I have had a microwave since 1979. I lugged it home from Sears Roebucks ( we lived in Texas at the time) and fell in love with it. Every weekend, I would play with it, that along with my newly acquired food processor. On moving back to Belgium I had my own cookery school, 60 ladies a month for 7 months of the year, over a period of 10 years! As it was based on “ How to give a dinner party“ lunch was always eaten and wine drank. Himself thought I should have my own recycling bottle bank!

But I digress. Firstly, which appliance is the cheapest to run? Well it is the microwave oven. Not only is it cheap to run, it is cheap to buy and with cooking vegetables for example, quick, and nutritionally very good indeed. More nutrients are preserved than by, say boiling. Boiling vegetables is time consuming, energy consuming and nutrients thrown away down the sink.

Well not surprisingly, Microwave ovens are the cheapest to run costing as little as 7 p a day, whereas a traditional electric oven is nearer £1.00 a day. Dual fuel come in at about 75 p per day and Gas at 33 p. Air fryers at 14 p. Induction hobs are more efficient and therefore cheaper to run, as they heat the pan only and not the entire room, but of course they can be expensive to buy and come with the possibility of needing new pans.

I always cook my vegetables in the microwave and for two of us, I use my microwave rice cooker, which cooks rice very quickly. Popcorn is the easiest thing to do in the Microwave as are sauces, ranging from a simple white sauce to Hollandaise, to Crème Anglaise ( custard) to Bolognaise to Hot Fudge Sauce and Chocolate sauce. Lemon curd is very easy as are Meringues, especially if you want to make Eton Mess. I have to admit that I don’t bake ( but then I don’t bake that often either these days) in the microwave, although a purist will, but I would recommend buying a good microwave instruction book and play with the machine.

And then there is Food Waste. I was raised in the school of Waste Not Want Not. Food was never thrown away and we certainly never got sick from food poisoning and yet nowadays it is a throwaway society. I feel that this partly brought in by stores and governments introducing, Use by and best before dates. What happened to the Smell test, even one of my daughters will throw food away, it if has reached its Best Before date. Dry goods such as rice and pasta last for ages as do tinned goods and then items such as Worcestershire sauce, which get better with age have to have a use by date! Crazy!

If you buy Avocados that are under ripe, then leave one out to ripen and refrigerate the others, as they will ripen slowly in the refrigerator.Don’t ever throw out potatoes, don’t keep in a plastic bag but in a cool dark place, cut off any sprouts and green bits and use, perfectly safe. British people throw away 24 million slices of bread EVERY DAY! Hundreds of uses for stale bread, but bread freezes well and what is even better it can be RE-FROZEN once defrosted! Use stale bread to make breadcrumbs, bread and butter pudding, bread pudding, pain perdu, and pangrattato are just a few of the everyday uses. AND what about Bananas, over 900,000 thrown away daily along with milk ( nearly 500million pints each year) ! Do you buy ready meals and throw some away, well you are in good company as £3.5 billion worth are chucked away each year! Honestly !

So here are a couple of ideas to make the most of goodies you might find lurking in your refrigerator!

My Go To recipe , or not recipe is REFRIGERATOR SOUP.! This made particularly when we are about to leave on a longish trip. A few days beforehand, I raid the refrigerator, put the large saucepan on the stove, peel and chop whatever is there. Usually vegetables but also lettuce. Always ads garlic, onions, maybe ginger and of course stock. In this case I might use a stock cube or two, but if I have real stock ( don’t throw away chicken bones, fish carcass etc, make stock, it freezes well) then I use that. Quantities do not matter. I let everything cook until soft, then when the mixture has cooled somewhat, either chunky pureé with a hand blender or smoother in a liquidiser. I often add cream or milk or yoghurt, really whatever takes my fancy and whatever I have that I need to use. TASTE AND SEASON! Very important. Leave to cool and bag. Zip lock bags are perfect, one bag makes a good lunch time bowl of soup. FREEZE FLAT, saves a lot of room in you freezer.

The other Go To, use everything up option is to make a vegetable curry. Recipes abound, but again one can be creative, using whatever there is, but always sauté some onions along with some Garlic to begin with. Peel and chop all the vegetables, and to make things go faster,these can all be pre-cooked in the microwave. Add curry powder , some Garam Masala, salt and pepper, maybe some chilli to the onions and mix well, and cook for a few minutes in either Ghee or oil, it really doesn’t matter. Then I usually add some creamed coconut and some coconut milk, along with the vegetables. Serve on rice and garnish with coriander, if there is any left! Again, flat pack and freeze, ready for dinner when you need it!


ZUT Alors! Où ce trouve Le Moutarde?

Well apparently not in the supermarkets in France. At the start of our annual sejour en France, the first thing we do is an enormous grocery shop, especially as some of our kids, and their kids are about to arrive.

We both grab a trolley ( chariot) for which of course you need an Euro coin ( but better still a Jeton which they give you for free! This is France after all!) We set out on our mission, Himself to find, Beer, Wine, Long Life Milk, Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Toilet Rolls, Kitchen Rolls, dishwasher tablets, salt and finish. His mission to find all the things which we need that are particularly Bulky/ Heavy, whereas mine is to source fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products , biscuits for snacks, bread ( remember how to use the slicing machine) and anything else that I have forgotten to put on my list. And I forgot mustard, but I got the mayonnaise and the mustard mixed with mayonnaise, the olive oil, the balsamic but how did I forget the mustard ?

Enroute home back up all of the hairpins we stopped to get petrol and I ran into another store…… no mustard ! I joked that there seemed to be a shortage of mustard. The following day, into my local store ( not my favourite) the only mustard that was on the shelf was from POLAND! Zut alors que s’est-il passé avec la moutarde française? Well there is a shortage and people are Stock Piling!

Dijon mustard has been around since the 13 C, made in the town of Dijon, in Burgundy. Blizarrely , unlike Champagne, Brie, Puy lentils, Dijon mustard does not have a regional designation ( AOP or AOC) and therefore can come from anywhere. Amora Maille was one of the biggest Dijon mustard producers, but the factory closed in 2008. Although Maille and Amora are still made, but are owned by Unilever.

Today, Edmund Fallot ( founded in 1840j remains in Dijon and is perhaps the only true Dijonbais mustard makers left. Eldest daughter ( @globetotting.com) recently went on a press trip to Dijon with her three kids, where they went to Edmund Fallot and even had a mustard making class. There they were able to grind the seeds, add the vinegar and choose the flavour, ranging from blackcurrant, honey and balsamic, grains, honey and smoked paprika, tarragon, green pepper and even gingerbread. They brought the samples with them and so we were able to sample them all.

So why is there a shortage? The French consume about a kilo of mustard per person a year. But that is not the reason. War and Climate change is the answer. Drought in Canada last year meant that the Brown mustard ( Dijon mustard is made with brown seed) seed harvest was very poor, and the war in Ukraine has meant that there has not been an alternative source! Quell Horreur!

Enough of mustard. The little ones ( not so little) have each cooked dinner this last week. Tess (12) made Spring Rolls and Pad Thai, whilst Alfie ( almost 15) made Teriyaki Chicken and an Asian Cucumber Salad, and young Sam, helped with making and cooking hamburgers!

Making the Spring Rolls was a bit of a challenge. Finding the bean sprouts was just the start and eventually found them in tins! Then onto the wonton/ pastry skins. What we found worked but ended up making long spring rolls, which worked well and were very tasty.

Alfie’s rendition of the Asian cucumber salad was indeed impressive. Apparently he had seen it on TikTok!

  • 6 mini cucumbers or 2 large cut into 3
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 2tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic grated or squeezed
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp seasame seeds
  • Method
  • Cut off the ends of the cucumbers
  • Place 2 chop sticks along the sides of the cucumbers as a guide fro cutting
  • Make thin diagonal cuts until the knife touches the chop sticks,
  • Turn the cucumbers around and cut again but not all the way to the chop sticks
  • Put the cucumbers into a box or bowl and sprinkle with salt to draw out the moisture and leave for about 30-45 minutes
  • Rinse well and pat dry with paper towel
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, refrigerate until ready to serve
  • NB. This can be as spicy or mild as you like. Personally I would use some chilli flakes in oil
  • NB. I have seen a similar recipe but with cooked courgettes.

OOPS! It hasn’t been emptied ( in this case the Herring)

We had Herrings today, I have always eaten herrings cooked by dipping them in flour and gently frying them. This is how my mother cooked them and at the time the local wet fish shop, always had herrings locally caught, ( odd name don’t you think, Wet Fish? Of course they are Wet, ) I have just read that the Scottish way of cooking fresh herrings is to dip them in fine oat meal and then fry ( make note to self to try this next time ……. If there is a next time, but maybe I’ll just go to Billingsgate……. The UK’s large fish market in London).

I’m not sure how often one sees herrings in fish shop these days, in fact, where are the fish shops? Living in central London probably doesn’t help, I could go to the lovely Selfridges ( now owned by a Thai/Austrian group). However, if they did have herrings …. Most unlikely, more like Monkfish or Dover Sole, they would cost an arm and a leg. However, one of my online fish sellers, not only had Rock Salmon ( Huss, or Gurnet, again hard to find) but HERRINGS ! So I ordered some, both the Gurnet and the Herrings. However, they not only came frozen but the herrings had not been cleaned! Didn’t really pose a problem, but brought to mind CHICKENS. Chickens don’t have anything to do with Herrings, but to me they do! Many years ago living in very much rural Normandy, the highlight of my week was to go to the market. The poultry man had fresh chickens and at a good price. I simply asked “c’est qu’ils sont déjà vides?” ( are they already emptied? The reply was also a simple one “Ils sont à vider”( they are to be emptied! But I missed in his thick Norman accent the one little word À ! Needless to say, when I got home I discovered I had to gut the chickens!

Also a long time ago whilst living in the USA, I found that I had an issue with Yoghurts. If I drove 20 miles or so to a health food shop I would have been able to find yoghurts not full of colourants and other additives, but locally it was impossible and so I had one of the first home yoghurt makers. Therefore, I made for my kids, for many years, homemade yogurts, usually plain but sometimes, we called them Jammy Yoghurt , which is when we added a small teaspoon of homemade jam to the bottom of the mixture for a treat.

And so here we are in the French Alpes and I despair, each time we come. The supermarket shelves are full of yoghurt, 692 types to be precise, BUT and it is a But finding just plain old Yoghurt, preferably Greek, preferably Not nonfat ( they have stiffners added ) not with a multitude of flavourings, not with sugar, and most certainly not with chocolate chips. Lidl, the discount supermarket, does a good 1 kilo pot, but Lidl is a 35 minute drive away and so once again I’m making yoghurt.

Weirdly, all those years ago, making yoghurt at home was so simple, so I was surprised upon reading the instructions for my newly acquired British Yogurt maker.

  • Turn the machine on and set at a temperature 42C
  • Boil 1,125 ml milk and whisk
  • Let the milk get cool, to a temperature of 32-43 C ( obviously you will need a thermometer for this as this is the correct temperature)
  • Add125 mls of plain yoghurt and whisk to blend

Well what a PFAFF ! I didn’t do any of this all those years ago and so I experimented.

  • Mix 1 jar ( the jars that come with the machine) of plain Greek / plain yoghurt with 1 jar of dried milk powder.
  • Slowly pour onto this stirring all the while 3 pints ( UK) (7 jars) of Long Life Milk.
  • Pour into the jars and place them without lids into the machine and switch on to 42C and set time to 8 hours!
  • At the end of the time, the machine Beeps . Remove the jars, put lids on and refrigerate!
  • Maybe using Long Life Milk is the answer, certainly here, daughter and granddaughter and even Himself ( he who never eats yoghurt) all declared it a success!