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!