Christmas clear out

This is a good weekend to clear out the fridge to make room for the Christmas food shop. There are lots of ways to cut waste by using up scraps of food in different ways, or turning leftovers into something freezable.

Use vegetables which are past their prime for the Christmas lunch gravy (Jamie Oliver’s Get-Ahead Gravy recipe is great if you have carrots, onions and celery to use up). Or make some vegetable stock.  Any vegetables (except green leaves like cabbage and kale) work well for stock – throw everything in a saucepan with whole peppercorns, bay leaves and left over fresh herbs (stalks and all), cover with cold water and bring to the boil before simmering for about 40 minutes. When the stock is cool, skim any scum from the surface, drain and freeze to use another time.

You can always make soup of course – cooking a base of onions, celery, carrots, adding potatoes to thicken and any other spare veg, adding stock or water and blending everything together for a thick soup. Or add lentils, pasta or rice for a different consistency. Minestrone is the perfect choice for using up leftovers.

If you have plenty of vegetables in good condition but which won’t last until after Christmas (and aren’t quite up to standard for a festive lunch) you can blanch them in boiling water for a minute, dunk in ice cold water before draining to help keep their colour, then drain and freeze. They can then be used like any other frozen vegetable – boil for about three or four minutes when you need them, works very well for cauliflower and broccoli.

I’m away at the moment, my daughter and I are staying in Devon while she works at Paignton Zoo (she’s training to be a vet). Our rented apartment only has a small fridge but somehow I still seem to have accumulated quite a few ingredients I want to use up before the turkey (crown) goes in. Here are three of my clear outs from this week:

Lasagne

I had quite a few odd vegetables to use up (courgettes, spinach, tomatoes) which were ideal for a vegetarian lasagne – I used a simple version of my super green lasagne recipe. You can even turn this into party food by cutting out small rounds of lasagne if you’re having guests (but don’t waste the crunchy bits in the corners).

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Croutons

I cut half a stale baguette into small pieces (or sawed would be a better description – the bread was very hard), drenched the bread with olive oil, plenty of sea salt, ground pepper and fresh thyme and cooked them in the oven at 200C for about eight minutes. Keep an eye on the croutons as they can burn really easily. These are crunchy and delicious in salads and soups.

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Savoury crackers

I used up spare bits of cheese and some leftover thyme with these crackers. I mixed 150g plain flour in a bowl with a large pinch of salt, 35g olive oil, 30g cheese (a mix of parmesan and cheddar), a teaspoon of fresh thyme and enough water to form a dough. I kneaded the dough for 5 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out into thin shapes and baking for 15 minutes at 180C. Double up the portions if you have more cheese to use up and you can substitute the thyme for spices (smoked paprika or chilli works well). For a vegan version leave out the cheese and double up the herbs or spices.

Most things I can use up but there’s usually a half eaten carton or two of cottage cheese lurking at the back of my fridge at home, with blobs of mould gradually taking over the world. I wish I could stick to my zero food waste resolution – something to strive for in 2019 I think.

Happy Christmas!

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Do you have a cheap, fresh and easy recipe I can try? Let me know and I’ll feature it on the site and link back to you.

You can also follow on Twitter @CheapFreshandEasy and Instagram  (cheapfreshandeasy) and you can use the hashtag #cheapfreshandeasy in your own posts and I will leave a comment for you.

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