I cannot abide waste full stop but when it comes to food I’m an evangelist. I was thinking about this subject this morning as I scraped the porridge from my pan which takes as long as it takes as I like to make sure every last drop is out, maybe it’s a slight OCD thing. But when I think of all those TV cookery programmes where they go through the motions of emptying a pan yet there still appears to be half a dish at the bottom of their pan it really gets my goat as so often when I watch friends or family cooking I see that they also do it. Now I try not to pass judgement too much and in the grand scheme of things this is a tiny pet hate of mine.
As a student I had a very cushy job as a waitress in a well known American themed restaurant. Money was good if you worked hard, food was mediocre but the amount that was chucked because it wasn’t perfect really affected me. What’s worse is when you’d try and sneak off to eat the plate of nachos that had a slight blackened edge to them you were not allowed, it had to be binned. What? The reason being if you didn’t wash your hands after eating you’d kill everyone with the nasty germs lurking in your mouth. (I am not disputing the hygiene factor here but I am capable of washing my hands after eating)
The other downside to the waitressing job meant that I had a lot of money to blow on food. I threw out a lot, things I would buy to create one dish but have no idea how I would use it in another, vegetables slowly rotting at the bottom of my salad draw, creating new kinds of life in mouldy bowls that contained leftovers. Wasteful. I am not proud but it did wake me up and smell the coffee. I now try my best to make sure everything is used; I boil my chicken carcasses/fishbones and heads for stock, I eat random tapas style lunches straight from the fridge if nothing can form a ‘new’ dish, I no longer do a weekly shop and best of all I eat out a lot less.
I am not going to turn this into a high and mighty ‘this is what you should do post’ as I am assuming you’re reading this because you have an interest in food and probably don’t intend for the majority of the contents of your fridge to end up in the bin but I’ve started my rant and I need to share my top 3 annoying habits.
- Chopping vegetables – I’ve notice people chopping onions in the most bizarre way which results in about 1/4 if not more of it going in the bin.
- Meat – When there’s a bit of flesh that has a tiny blemish, a stray vein or bit of tissue and a 2cm chunk is hacked off. Here’s a novel idea, don’t buy cheap meat in the first place.
- Milk – Why can’t people buy a carton of a suitable size? Or better still make some soda bread with their fusty milk!
Red onion, Feta and Polenta tart
Makes 9 slices – Prep time: 20 mins, Cooking Time: 25 mins
4 ½ cups Vegetable stock
2 tsp Dried basil
1 tsp Dried oregano
1 tsp Sweet paprika
1 Small garlic clove, crushed
1 ½ cups Polenta
1 tsp Olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 tsp Olive oil
2 Red onions, sliced
2 tsp Tomato puree
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Fresh Basil, shredded
150g Feta Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC and grease a 25cm x 30cm baking sheet with olive oil and set aside. Bring your vegetable stock to a boil and add the basil, oregano, paprika and garlic clove. Whilst stirring the stock pour in your polenta in a steady stream, continue stirring the mixture over a medium heat for 5 minutes to cook through. This is very hard work, you must also be very careful as the polenta has a habit of being volcanic and spraying everywhere.
- Once the mixture has thickened and cooked through add the olive oil along with some salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. The mixture will become slightly ‘gelatinous’ and come away from the sides of the pan.
- Pour the polenta on to your baking sheet and spread until you have a nice even base. Use a wet palette knife to stop the polenta sticking. Place to one side to cool and start on the topping.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, when hot add the onions and sweat them down until they soften a little but still have a small amount of bite to them.
- Add the tomato puree, balsamic vinegar and sugar to the onions and cook until the vinegar and sugar have reduced to a sweet, sticky syrup. Take the onions off the heat and stir in the fresh basil.
- Arrange the onion mixture on top of the the polenta base then crumble over the feta cheese. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 20 mins or until the feta is golden.
- Serve with a green salad of rocket, fresh basil and sliced tomato.
- My oven is not fan assisted so reduce the cooking time if you have.
- Feel free to experiment with the flavouring of the herbs and spices that go into the polenta. You could just use stock at a push.