Here is a PSA, straight from the corner of your so-called crisper drawer, where desiccated rosemary leaves accumulate like pine needles beneath a Christmas tree on New Year’s Day (maybe that’s just in my house.) Where fennel fonds go to die. Where there’s always one – and only one – wizened little carrot, shrunken and dehydrated till it’s no bigger than your pinkie. Ready for it?
Nothing in this drawer will ever get crisper. It’s where good vegetable go to die.
I don’t know about you, but the potential shame of wasting food in this moment (Covid-19 pandemic) is too terrible to contemplate. Never have I been so grateful for having so much – so much, in fact, that there’s a real possibility it might go off before it hits the table. I refuse to be that person.
When the zucchini at the bottom of my chiller starts getting squidgy around the middle (not that I’m throwing stones), the broccoli starts flowering, and the cauliflower needs de-moulding, I grab a pot, some stock, an onion (no matter if it’s sprouting – I won’t tell if you won’t), some garlic, and I get chopping. Thirty minutes later there will be soup. And my fridge will be pristine, because while the pot bubbles away, I’ll be wiping down that chiller drawer, pulling out the shelves, scraping away the spills no one bothered to clean or tell me about, washing it all down with warm soapy water. And in the midst of this madness, one tiny corner of the world will be put to right – if only until the next children helps themselves to something they can’t quite reach. Not bad for half an hour’s work.
For tips on buying cleaning products that are truly green and won’t compromise your health, read this. Or better still, make your own, using ingredients you probably have on hand. If you’re a Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap convert, you’re in luck: here is a top-to-toe cheat sheet for DIY personal and household cleaning solutions.
Food Waste Reduction
Soup is a delicious solution to a largely avoidable problem: making sure produce doesn’t go bad in the first place. This starts in the grocery store. My biggest food waste crime is slimy bags of spinach and salad leaves that hit the bin, not the table. Don’t buy them, says the Queen of Food Waste Reduction Sarah Wilson. Instead, buy whole heads of lettuce and bunches of spinach; wash, dry, and store them properly. That’s the tip of the iceberg; for a detailed guide to food storage, go here. If Hashimoto’s (mine) and Graves Disease (my son’s) transformed the way I thought about food (as medicine, not edible endorphins), then Sarah Wilson woke me up to the possibilities of zero-waste cooking. For a full rant that might make you blush – and change your ways – plus more ideas for what to do with the non-soup-able scraps in your fridge, check her out here. You can also get a free – yes, free- mini-version of her book Simplicious Flow: Zero-Waste Eating For An Elegant Life, here. It’s a high-value freebie that will stand you – and your food budget – in good stead during these challenging times. Thanks, Sarah!
Spring Cleaning Soup
- immersion blender
- 1 large onion, chopped You could substitute a leek, handful of shallots, or a combination of all three.
- 4 cups vegetables, including trimmed stems and tender leaves, chopped I used two flowering heads of broccoli and mouldering half-head of cauliflower, and a handful of spinach.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced If you don’t have garlic, substitute shallots.
- 6 cups stock – chicken or vegetable In a true pinch, you could use water, but be sure to add an additional cup of chopped aromatic veg – celery and carrot – to your 1 cup of onion.
- ⅓ cup savoury yeast flakes OPTIONAL: the perfect addition to cauliflower or broccoli, for a cheezy soup that’s decadent, comforting, and a great source of vitamin B.
- Heat the fat/oil of your choice over a medium-high flame (I used olive oil). Sauté your onion and/or aromatic vegetables gently, until tender and the onion becomes translucent without browning.
- Add your minced garlic, lower the heat to medium, and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir continuously – you don’t want the garlic to change color. Season with a large pinch of sea salt.
- Add your chopped veg, season again with sea salt (another generous pinch, or two) and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Again, don’t let the vegetables brown.
- Add your liquid, turn the flame up to high, and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Test your veg: when it is fork-tender and breaks apart with little or no resistance, you are ready to blend.
- Grab your immersion blender and start whizzing. I don’t like leaving any chunks. If you’re pureeing your soup in a conventional blender or food processor, please wait until it’s completely cool, blend in small batches, and use tea towel to cover the top and seams of your device. You don’t want to be mopping soup off your celling (I speak from experience).
- If you need more liquid, throw in a little extra stock or a bit of water. Or leave it thick, for a hearty potage.
- If you’re adding nutritional yeast, now is the time. Whizz it in using the blender (you don’t want powdery pockets).
- Taste and adjust your seasoning. Tuck in.