One thing I find really annoying are recipes that call for using small amounts of perishable ingredients. You know the type I mean. Recipes that leave you with half a bunch of parsley, a few tablespoons of goats cheese or half an avocado…
Apart from being annoying, these leftover bits tend to end up getting wasted as they hide in the fridge.
When I was a young food scientist, learning how to develop new breakfast cereals, I learned an important lesson. Always try to round the ingredients on your formula (I always found it funny that in food factories there were ‘formulas’ not ‘recipes’) to the nearest lot or pack size.
This made it much easier and quicker for the factory workers to just use say, 3 bags of flour, rather than fiddling around with measuring 86.335kg flour. It also meant there wouldn’t be random partially used bags floating around the factory.
This practical lesson stayed with me.
It followed me around the world as I dabbled in the dark arts of becoming a wine maker. And of course continued on into my food blogging hobby that has since become my funnest and most rewarding career to date.
Anyway, you may not have noticed, but for my recipes on Stonesoup and my online cooking classes I try to keep leftover ingredients to a minimum. It’s just a natural part of my simple cooking philosophy.
But when you’re following someone else’s recipes (It’s OK. I’ll try not to take it personally ;) and you need help reducing leftover ingredients and waste in your kitchen, here are my 3 favourite tricks for leftover ingredients…
1. Avoid leftover ingredients.
My first port of call is to avoid leftover ingredients all together. Often the easiest way is to just skip the ingredient, like the green onions in my soup recipe below.
If skipping it isn’t an option, I look to use up all of the ingredient at once. So I’d use the whole bunch of herbs instead of the 1/2 bunch called for in the recipe. You get the idea.
2. Store the leftovers correctly.
We go into the best way to store fresh produce in my classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. But the general rule of thumb is cooler temperatures are best for most fresh ingredients.
So keep them in the fridge for starters. After temperature, moisture loss is the next biggest destroyer of fresh ingredients, so make sure they’re protected. I tend to store my produce in plastic bags in the crisper section.
The real trick is to keep them somewhere you’re likely see them again to remember to use them. See here for tips on avoiding ‘refrigerator blindness’.
3. Try some ‘mise en place’.
If you haven’t heard of ‘mise en place’ you can get up to speed on it over here. But the short story is… if you know you aren’t going to be able to use an ingredient, there’s always a way to treat it so it will last.
For example, a half bunch of basil can be turned into a tasty Sicilian nut pesto. Or if you don’t have much time, just pop the leaves in a jar and cover with olive oil for a quick basil oil that will last for weeks rather than days.
Egg ‘Flower’ Soup
One of the first things we made in my home science class at school was the Chinese restaurant classic egg drop soup – crab and sweet corn. I remember at the time being super impressed with how adding the thin steam of beaten egg at the end gave the soup such an exotic texture. I then pretty much forgot about trying to make it myself until a few months ago, which is a long time between soups. I can’t remember what inspired me to make a soup with egg in it, but I’m so glad I did!
If you’re wondering, the ‘flower’ in the title just refers to the beautiful and unique appearance the egg gives our soup.
I just realised that this recipe leaves you with leftover green onions. Just when I’ve been telling you that I usually try and avoid them… Whoops. If you used the whole bunch they would completely overpower everything. To avoid leftovers, either just omit them or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.
Enough for 2
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas(400g / 14oz), drained
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 eggs, whisked
4 green onions, optional
1. Bring chickpeas and stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes. Season with soy sauce.
2. Turn the heat as low as possible. Slowly pour eggs into the soup in a fine stream, while stirring the soup constantly so you get lovely fine ribbons of egg.
3. Remove from the heat and serve.
leftover-free – omit the green onions or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.
vegan / egg-free – replace eggs with an extra can of chickpeas. To thicken the soup puree with a stick blender so that some of the chickpeas are smooth and others still whole.
chickpea-free – replace chickpeas with a drained can of sweet corn. Or remove the kernels from 2 cobs of corn and simmer until cooked before adding the egg.
carnivore – for a chicken soup replace chickpeas with finely sliced 2 chicken breasts. Simmer until just cooked before adding the egg.
fancy – toss in a few handfuls of cooked crab meat.
It’s been a while since I mentioned my print book which was published back in March this year. The good news is the Kindle version is now available!
I downloaded it onto my iPad and phone recently and gave myself a ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ challenge to cook dinner from the book most nights last week.
Let me tell you, as a new Mum, it was such a lovely to be able to browse the recipes on my phone while breast feeding. But it was even better to have dinner ready so soon after putting little ‘F’ to bed. I’m not sure what I was doing before that, but I definitely need to go back to using my own quick, healthy recipes!
For more details, including some free sample recipes go to: