Totally devoted to veg - ten top tips to reduce veg waste
It’s estimated that fresh veg and salad make up 28% of our food waste* - and the main reason is because we didn’t eat it in time.
Of the 6.6 million tonnes of food we throw away, 70% of it could have been eaten - that’s 4.5 million tonnes of food we could save from the bin with a bit more thought and planning.
So, what do you do with veg you have left at the end of the week? It might be past its best but you can still use it to make delicious meals.
We’ve pulled together our Top Ten Tips for using your left-over veg so that you can keep it out of the bin.
*WRAP Food Surplus and Waste in UK updated Jan 2020
Before we start - here are list of key ingredients to have in stock - these things will bring life to your soups, stews, stock and curries.
ONIONS - stored properly they last for ages and will add so much flavour.
FROZEN PEAS are a great staple to have in stock too - they are the best of all frozen vegetables and so versatile. You can add them to a blended soup you’ve made to create texture and they’re great in a veg curry or add them to the rice you serve with it.
If you ever have left over CELERY, chop and freeze it - throw it in any soup, stew or sauce for added flavour.
SPICES AND DRIED HERBS - stock up on different flavours; Indian, Thai, Chinese,Mexican, mixed herbs, fennel seeds - they last ages and will really pack a punch.
TINNED TOMATOES - a great base for any soup, stew or curry.
COCONUT MILK - adds a lovely, creaminess to vegetable curries.
TINNED CHICKPEAS AND OTHER PULSES - adds texture and substance to your veg.
Our Top Ten Tips
- Veg is so easy to over-buy. How many times did you buy a bag of potatoes only to watch them sprout before you got round to using them all? Try to buy only what you need, buy loose so that if you only need two spuds, that’s all you buy. A lot of supermarkets are offering loose veg now or better still, buy at a local market or your local greengrocer if you have one. Buying loose saves on plastic bags too.
- Speaking of spuds - you don’t need to throw then if they’ve sprouted. Just pick the sprouts off and as long as they’re not too soft and wrinkly, they’ll be fine. They’re a great base to thicken a soup.
- Cut off the brown bits - don’t be squeamish! Even if that carrot’s gone a bit slimy, see what you can rescue. Cauliflower can go black in patches, just chop it off - there will be plenty of useable vegetable left. Broccoli can go a bit yellow - try and catch it before but if not, it’ll still be fine in a soup.
- Make soup - you really can’t go wrong with vegetable soup, most veg can go in there. Just fry off some onion for flavour and then add all your chopped veg, a stock cube, water, bring to the boil then simmer for 30-40 minutes. You could go for a thick blended soup with a potato base or make more of a clear, minestrone type soup with shredded cabbage and green beans. You can add garlic for flavour, a tin of tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses can be added to make into a more substantial meal.
- Make a curry - what’s more delicious than a warming veg curry. Served with rice, this makes a really easy and healthy dinner. See recipe below.
- Make a sauce - again, anything really can go in. Gently fry off an onion, add the veg you have and maybe some dried herbs, a stock cube, seasoning, water, add a tin of tomatoes. Bring to the boil, simmer for 30-40 minutes then blend. Use with pasta and if you like, add a tin of tuna or a handful of seafood and grate loads of parmesan over the top. Cook a chunk of white fish and add chopped black olives to the sauce.
- Make a stock - if you don’t have a great selection of left-over veg, you can’t cobble enough together to make a soup or curry, or you want a way to use your veg peelings, throw what you have in a pan with a stock cube, seasoning and water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 30-40 mins, strain and use the stock as a base for soup or stew - packed with flavour and you can freeze it.
- Roast your veg- it brings out loads of flavour. Lots of veg roasts really well but especially carrots, parsnips and other root veg. Courgettes and peppers are lovely roasted, throw in some potatoes, better with skin on. Broccoli and cauliflower will char slightly and be delicious. Coat everything in a glug of oil, you don’t need loads, just swish the veg around to cover it. Add salt and pepper to season and roast for 30-40 minutes at 180 fan. Remember that vegetables have different cooking times so chop them to size accordingly - courgettes and peppers need to be decent chunks to stop them disintegrating. Potatoes and carrots can be smaller so that they cook through. Don’t forget the onions!
- Mince it- gather all your veg, roughly chop into decent sized chunks, put it in your food processor and turn it into vegetable mince. Onion is a must, carrots are great and add frozen celery if you have any. Add to beef mince that you’ve browned off and cook at a simmer with tinned tomatoes or passata for a good hour on a low heat - the minced veg will add huge amounts of flavour and sweetness - and your mince goes twice as far.
- Left-over steamed or boiled veg can make a delicious meal. Chop and incorporate into an omelette - top with cheese and grill, delicious! Make a bubble and squeak - doesn’t everything taste good fried?! Fry off some streaky bacon, chop and slightly mash the left-over veg, add to the pan (you really need cooked potatoes for this). Squash down with a fish slice and maybe make a hole in the middle to crack an egg into - finish under the grill if necessary.
Don't forget to compost your veg peelings and kitchen scraps!
Veg curry recipes
You could go either Thai or Indian with this depending on the spices you use. Gently fry off your onion and add the spices (for Thai you can use a paste rather than dried spices if you like). Any veg can go in but for Thai I think onion, pepper, carrot, courgette, celery, broccoli, baby corn, green beans and mange-tout work particularly well, you can throw in some small, cubed potato and chick peas too. Cut/slice everything quite small as you’re not cooking for long. Add your veg and gently fry until softening. Add a tin of coconut milk, a little water (rinse the coconut milk tin out with it - you need about ⅓ of a tin of water) and simmer the veg for 10-15 minutes whilst your rice is cooking.
For an Indian curry, any veg really works and you’re cooking for a little longer than a Thai curry so they can be decent sized chunks. Start with the onions and spices, add your veg, a stock cube, some water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add a tin of tomatoes, some rinsed, split lentils and (if you like it creamy) a tin of coconut milk (add more water or another tin of tomatoes if you don’t want it creamy). Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes until the lentils are soft