Today is the day our Facebook page returns from an extended stay at a luxury spa. Pop on over and have a look around, it took us ages to do the drawings, and remember click that 'Like' button if you like what you see.
Every week in the UK, we each throw away 5 of our 5-a-day portions of fruit. 5 whole portions. In the bin. Instead of in your belly. 5 whole portions that will never get the chance to cuddle up next to a cheese and ham sandwich and a biscuit finger in a Transformers lunch box or be cut up into bite-sized chunks for half time at the school football match.
Not only is this total madness, it’s also a total waste of money, goodness and bananas. That’s why we’re running a little project with A Taste of Freedom and our friends at Fareshare to take all that unwanted fruit to places where it will do real good. Come September, we’ll be visiting East Sheen Primary School once a week to make smoothies with a pile of fruit that would have otherwise been thrown away. If our test run back in July was anything to go by, it's going to be a lot of fun, and more than a little bit messy.
Katie and Atha both took on the challenge of creating some Livewell recipes for the rest of us - we think they might have Masterchef aspirations.
Katie gives us spiced rice salad and prawn fajitas.
Spiced Rice Salad - serves 1
Ingredients: 75g brown rice, 1 x apple (ideally nice and crunchy), 1 x pepper (your choice of colour) and some peas.
Dressing: Tablespoon natural yoghurt, teaspoon garam masala
cook rice and allow to cool
chop up apple and pepper, cook peas and allow them to cool
mix apple, pepper and peas into cooked rice
mix yoghurt and garam masala and taste - change quantities to taste preference
stir in dressing to rice mix
Can be made ahead for a lunchbox - but make sure you only cut up the apple just before eating to stop it from going brown. Optional extras to add would be steamed chicken or salad.
Prawn Fajitas - use the per person quantities from the Livewell menu
add prawns and some yummy fajita spice mix
serve with some lettuce and fajita wraps
Optional extras - kidney beans or use chicken instead of prawns.
Atha shows us his prowess in the vegetarian kitchen with Spinach and Chickpeas.
Ingredients: a tin of chickpeas, 200g spinach, 3 tomatoes (depulped and sliced), 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1 red chilli (remove seeds and slice), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano), olive oil.
sautee garlic and chilli in oil
once oil is hot and garlic has just softened, add cumin (for 10 seconds)
add the tin of drained chickpeas, stir to ensure that they are coated with the flavoured oil
after a couple of minutes add the tomatoes and stir, cook for a couple of minutes
add the spinach, once it is all wilted add some of the juice from the tinned chickpeas
Back in March, our SJ and her partner, Steph, took over a half plot on the Granville Park allotment site.
Their plot was overgrown, very weedy and in need of some love (and a lot of digging).
Fast forward lots of hard graft to August and it’s now bursting with fruit, veg and a smart new shed.
Last weekend, SJ and Steph entered their finest cauliflower (back row, second along), some courgettes and a giant potato into the annual Granville Allotment competition.
Sadly, they didn’t win any prizes (mainly because the board was swept by old timers Derek, Sue (best flowers) and Granville (onions) but they got to pick up loads of tips, learn just how big an onion can grow and taste a lot of homemade jam.
This is Granville's winning onion (his name has no influence over the competition whatsoever. Allegedly)
Steph did win the 'Guess the Weight of the Cake' cake, correctly guessing it weighted 6.2kg.
So they didn’t go home empty handed.
Granville Park have been so impressed with SJ and Steph's efforts that they've since given them the other half plot next to theirs to tend.
Both SJ and Steph are now busy planning what to plant for next year, reading The Little Book of Slugs and figuring out how to whup Granville in 'Best Onion' next year.
If you're a green fingered sort and have any top tips on anything from broad bean husbandry through to clever planting or raised beds made easy, please post your tips below and SJ will try the best ones out.
You might even get a special invite along to next year's show (or a pot of homemade jam) by way of thanks.
Simon works in our finance team and for 4 years was responsible for buying all the fruit that goes in our smoothies – he knows some stuff about buying food (albeit that on his buying trips he sported some questionable headwear – he’s on the left).
Growing your own fruit & vegetables
You don’t need lots of space to grow your own food. It’s amazing what you can get out of a plant pot and things seem to grow even in fairly poor soil. We only have a small yard. At the end of April we planted: 10 tomato plants, 2 courgette plants and half a dozen different herbs. Next year we aim to increase the range once I’ve put in a new vegetable bed.
The courgettes have been phenomenal – between the 2 plants for the last eight weeks we have had a good sized courgette every other day. We had our first tomato last week. The plants are dripping in fruit. We staggered when we planted so I think we will get 8-10 weeks without having to buy a single tomato from the shops. We use fresh herbs daily and they really lift dishes.
The total plant cost was around ~£25. I predict if I bought this fruit, it might cost upwards of £50.
Pick your own fruit & veg
Living in London with such easy access to food, we have lost sight of picking our own produce – it seems to be a hazy memory of our childhood. We took our 16 month old daughter to a PYO Farm. We bought: raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries, beetroot, carrots, parsley, courgettes, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, broad beans.
We ate the vegetables and strawberries fresh (NB broad beans once blanched freeze well). Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries freeze really well. (NB Best thing is to freeze them on metal trays first and then transfer them to bags so they hold their shape). Everything was amazingly fresh. We picked 4 BIG supermarket recycle bags full of produce. Total cost was £62. I estimate that from the supermarket this would have been £200+
Using class 2 fruit
As consumers we have all come to expect total uniformity in the produce we buy. This drive for perfectionism means there is often unnecessary waste at the farm level. Almost all ‘second grade’ fruit or veg is fresh - it’s just a bit misshapen – does this matter? When you get your fruit and veg at the market you will need to check the quality a little more carefully than the supermarket but typically >80% of it is great.
There are big big savings here. I predict market fruit and veg is possible 50% cheaper than the supermarket. It’s also great having an interaction with other shoppers and stall holders. There are some amazing characters at markets and you can pick up some good recipe ideas from them
Cooking from scratch
We’re all busy and there could be a view that cooking from scratch is too time consuming. But in line with Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute cooking, it needn’t be. For example making fresh bread – once you’ve made your own bread it will be hard for you to ever go back to ready-made. And it’s a myth that you need lots of equipment, a bread maker or a special oven. My recommendation is to get into sourdough bread for the fantastic depth of flavour, brilliant rising capabilities and amazing texture. Use any excess starter/dough to make pizza. It makes such good pizza that your guests will think you have trained in Naples.
You also know you are not eating any nasties because you are controlling what goes in and it’s definitely cheaper. I reckon a batch of 6 loaves costs me £2. The equivalent quality pre-made would be £9. NB spare loaves freeze well.
“I usually add enough salt to grit a road in 2 ft of snow. I have cut it altogether and don't miss that either”
Put all these thoughts together and cooking/eating becomes much more interesting, more sustainable and definitely cheaper. Brekkie is usually home baked bread, lunch is a Tupperware salad box and supper some sort of carbohydrate/vegetable base with a little meat a few days a week. Maybe we have a proper piece of meat once every few weeks.