Waste not

In our regular feature, we teach you basic skills for cooking from scratch, along with recipes so you can put them to the test. From braising veggies to DIY stock, this time we help you tackle food waste in your cooking

Food waste is an issue that’s been brought into sharper focus during the last few months. But while it’s important to make changes to your lifestyle where you can, it’s essential that you enjoy the results, too! These recipes make brilliant use of storecupboard items, trimmings and produce that might be past their best, while creating a delicious meal at the same time.

PLAN AHEAD

A great way to tackle food waste head-on is to make a list before you do your weekly shop. Taking stock of what’s in the cupboard, fridge and freezer will allow you to work with what’s already there, rather than buying things you don’t need. Get creative: half a pack of lentils? Search for a dahl recipe at coop.co.uk/recipes. Or, a stash of frozen chicken breasts? Why not cook them on a Sunday, then use throughout the week for lunches?

EVERY LAST BITE

You may think veg trimmings belong in the bin, but carrot peel, outer green leaves, cabbage cores and the like are full of flavour! Try roasting them with oil and spices, then toss with rice or a pasta sauce. Alternatively, gather them through the week, in the freezer, then make a stock — find out how in our Tips & tricks section, at the foot of the page.


 

 

Lettuce & mint soup (V)

This is a great use for the limp lettuce at the back of the fridge! You’ll also learn a new technique: braising

Serves 4 • Ready in 20 mins  

THE KNOWLEDGE: Braising — a simple cooking technique involving frying on a high heat, followed by stewing at a lower temperature — really brings out the flavour of ingredients. Here, you sear the lettuce first, allowing it to char and caramelise, then cook in liquid for a lovely melt-in-the-mouth texture. As the lettuce softens, it soaks up all the flavourful stock — you could even make your own stock (see Tips & tricks, below). The less food you waste, the better it is for the environment. So, instead of throwing away any limp leaves, try grilling them for a salad, blitzing into a pesto, or whizzing into this vibrant soup.

THE METHOD: Heat 1 tbsp Co-op olive oil to medium-high. Halve 2 Co-op little gem lettuces and cook, cut-side down, for 5 mins, until charred. Pour in 850ml vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube. Add 500g Co-op frozen British garden peas and 3 mint sprigs, chopped. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 3 mins, until tender. Cool slightly, then pour into a blender with 80g Co-op reduced fat crème fraîche and blitz. Season, then swirl in another 20g crème fraîche and garnish with a few mint leaves.

SIMPLE SWAP

You could use any leaves here, instead of lettuce, such as spinach or rocket.


Find more recipe inspo for using up ingredients (search, for example, ‘chick peas’) at coop.co.uk/recipes


DO MORE TOGETHER

Being a Co-op Member means lending a helping hand to your community — plus, rewards for you, too. Read more here


Overnight breakfast strata

Transform stale bread into a fancy-sounding start to the day

Serves 4 • Ready in 1 hour 30 mins, plus chilling

THE KNOWLEDGE: This recipe uses a baked egg custard, which is much easier to make than the kind of custard you’d pour on a pudding. To ensure an even bake, whisk the egg mixture until smooth, then pour it around the other ingredients, rather than stirring them into it. Don’t pour the egg in all at once, either — add it gradually in between layers of ingredients. 

THE METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put a 400g pack Co-op reduced fat pork sausages, a 330g pack Co-op cherry tomatoes and a 200g pack Co-op chestnut mushrooms, halved, into a greased 1.25-litre baking dish. Sprinkle over ½ tsp dried sage and bake for 30 mins. Remove everything with a slotted spoon and cut each sausage into three. Beat 6 Co-op British free range eggs with 350ml Co-op semi-skimmed milk and 1 tsp English mustard, then season. Grease the dish with 1 tbsp Co-op olive oil, then layer up 275g stale bread, cut into pieces, the sausage mixture, the egg custard and 60g each reduced fat Cheddar and Co-op Gruyère, both grated, reserving some for the top. Scatter over the remaining cheese, plus 1 tbsp chopped chives, then cover and chill overnight. Take the strata out of the fridge 30 mins before you’re ready to bake it, then preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Bake for 45 mins, until golden, then serve.


Fried chicken with banana fritters

This is our spin on an American favourite, Chicken Maryland, using overripe bananas

Serves 4 (makes 25-30 fritters) • Ready in 1 hour, plus resting

THE KNOWLEDGE: Frying chicken may take a little time, but the end result is so worth it. Seasoning your spice mix, or ‘dredge’, is key — that’s what gives the coating its flavour. And getting your oil the right temperature is what creates the crunch. To test it, drop in a cube of bread: it should turn golden in about 30 seconds. What you do afterwards is also important: placing the chicken on a plate lined with kitchen paper will remove any excess oil, and keep it crispy. Yes, bananas are more often used in sweet treats — such as banana bread, which has been popular this year — but they can work really well in savoury dishes, too. These tasty fritters are the perfect partner for fried chicken.

THE METHOD: Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Mix 2 tbsp Co-op plain flour, 1 tsp paprika, ½ tsp each dried oregano and mustard powder, and ¼ tsp cayenne together in a large bowl and season. Add a 520g pack Co-op British chicken thigh fillets, each piece cut in half, and toss to coat. Heat 2 tbsp Co-op olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the thigh fillets for 5 mins on each side, until golden. Spread out on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 mins. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the fritters: put 275g Co-op sweet potato, peeled and grated, in a bowl with 1 small ripe banana, mashed, and mix together. Add 50g Co-op plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp paprika, ½ tsp ground cumin and 1 Co-op British free range egg, beaten. Season, mix well, then leave to rest for 10 mins. Fill a large, deep pan two-thirds full with Co-op vegetable oil and set over a medium-high heat (see the bread-cube tip in ‘the knowledge’, above). Place flattened spoonfuls of the banana mixture into the pan and cook for 2-3 mins each side, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking tray lined with kitchen paper. Serve alongside the chicken, with 300g broccoli florets and 4 sweetcorn cobettes, all steamed, and 4 tbsp Co-op mayonnaise.


All-the-trimmings pasta (VG)

We’ve turned veg peel and offcuts into stock for a vegan one-pot wonder

Serves 4 • Ready in 1 hour 45 mins  

THE KNOWLEDGE: People often recommend saving leftover meat trimmings for stock, but what if you’re vegan? We’ve used our veggie peels to make you a plant-based version, then created this delicious one-pot pasta. Stock calls for very little hands-on time: just cover your trimmings with water, simmer and skim every so often to remove any froth that may gather. If you keep your veggie trimmings from the week in a container in the freezer, you’re halfway to homemade stock at the weekend!

THE METHOD: Cube 1 aubergine and 1 carrot, slice 2 red peppers, finely chop 1 red onion and crush 2 garlic cloves. Place the discarded trimmings, seeds, outer leaves and stalks into a pan, along with 1.25 litres water, 6 peppercorns and 1 dried bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 mins, then strain and discard the trimmings. Heat 1½ tbsp Co-op olive oil in a large pan and cook the aubergine and pepper over a high heat for 5-10 mins, until golden. Remove and set aside. Heat another 1½ tbsp olive oil, then cook the carrot, onion and garlic for 5 mins, over a low heat, until softened. Add 250g Co-op penne pasta, the stock and a 400g can Co-op Italian chopped tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the aubergine, pepper, 50g Co-op raisins and 1 tbsp drained jarred capers, chopped, then cook, covered, for 12 mins. Cook uncovered for 3-4 mins, until the liquid is reduced and the pasta is al dente (cooked, but slightly firm). Season, then serve garnished with Co-op flat leaf parsley, chopped.


Tips & tricks

How to make the most of your ingredients and pantry to help combat food waste

STOCK
This is the tasty liquid that forms the basis of soups, sauces and many other dishes. Making your own is especially rewarding, as it’s free and avoids waste! Any veggie trimmings, roast meat bones, or wilting herbs can be simmered in a pot with water for 2-3 hours, then strained. It freezes well, too, so you can make a big batch and keep some for later.

SAUCES
A great way to use up sad-looking vegetables is to roast or sauté them, then blitz into a sauce with tinned chopped tomatoes. Great for pasta dishes, or stirred into stews, you’ll get maximum flavour without the texture — which should keep the little ones happy!

SIDES
Peelings are all too often discarded, but with a good scrub, you can turn them into a brilliant snack. Toss with oil and your choice of spices — we like paprika and chilli for a smoky flavour — then roast until crisp. Serve with dips as a snack, or pack into a lunchbox. Check out our favourite recipe, by searching ‘potato peel crisps’ at coop.co.uk/recipes.