New recipes and updates

Get new recipes
in your inbox

Cuisine Fiend

Find a recipe by ingredient

'Don't know what to cook' is not an excuse to waste food

Sun, 23 January, 2022

Over £1bn worth of food is wasted every year in the UK – and by ‘wasted’ I mean dumped into the bin. Whether it goes into compostable caddy or organic waste, does not matter – it’s simply criminal. Mountains of potatoes, bread, tomatoes, milk and salad go straight to the landfill, instead of being converted into eight meals per household every week – which is the scale of the waste.

Overshopping and portion ignorance (as in: how much pasta or rice to cook per person) are to blame. But interestingly, the excuse for one in five culprits is that they don’t know what to cook with the produce in their fridges. Apart from making me want to go: ‘Hello! Here I am, Cuisine Fiend, got some recipe ideas for you!’, the laziness of it staggers me.

So you have a few tomatoes, carrots and a wilty head of lettuce and you just chuck it out, instead of looking up on your phone something other than dogs wearing hats on TikTok? It is inexcusable. It’s not exactly like you have to go through your Granny’s cookbooks to find a doable recipe! It has never been easier to know what to cook – recipes are virtually (and virtually, too) pouring out before your eyes on screens.

Okay – the next excuse is going to be ‘but I don’t know what to search for’. That’s rubbish: there are plenty of recipe results out there even to bizarre queries like: ‘what to cook with rice and lettuce’.

Let me help out with some pointers. Any vegetables are good to turn into soup. If you have an odd carrot, two parsnips and an onion, even better: mixed vegetable soups are the nicest. Gently sweat diced veg with a little butter, top up with stock and leave it chunky, just like my potato soup with mushrooms.

Don’t be scared of swapping ingredients, especially in simple recipes like soups and stir fries. The above soup is easy to turn into potato soup with tomatoes, or with peas. Broccoli and Stilton recipe can serve for cauliflower and Parmesan soup. And unless you’re vegetarian, adding in stock made with a good quality beef cube will make the soup extra-filling and full of umami.

Root vegetables can be roasted in any configuration of ingredients. Use the roasted carrots and parsnips recipe as a canvas to cook celeriac, celery, beetroot, swede, squash, sprouts or mushrooms plus small or chunked salad potatoes. If you have more time and enthusiasm, autumn vegetable tian is another good recipe template.

Stir fries are just as versatile: that’s a bottomless resource to get shot of slightly worse for the wear peppers, aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms, carrots, celery, cabbage, even cucumber and lettuce. Stir fried ginger vegetable recipe gives you a start, or take one of the beef, pork or chicken stir fry recipes as a model for seasoning and sauces because the vegetable ingredients can all be swapped and changed.

The same goes for fried rice, vegetable or meaty one. Just a tiny piece of beef or a scrappy chicken fillet will suffice to wonderfully flavour fried rice and you can bulk it out with veg, as above. It can be made even simpler: cook rice/noodles/couscous/any grain you like and top it with a mix of vegetables gently sweated until soft, seasoned with lots of salt and pepper or one of those ready-made flavouring sachets. In my experience those ‘rubbish bin’ dishes are usually the tastiest.

There are also gratins: sliced or diced vegetables baked with a mix of cream and cheese, that’s a dish that doesn’t need a recipe, but check out my celeriac or courgette gratins for inspiration. Or open a tin of beans to top the baked sweet potatoes you need to use up.

And after a week of frugal cooking reward yourself with a batch of sweet puff pastry straws, made with the pastry languishing in the freezer so long it’s almost destined to the bin. Because trying to avoid waste is not only to make you feel good about yourself – it’s also about unexpectedly delicious results.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published

Characters left 800
Recipe rating
Email address*
Web site name
Be notified by email when a comment is posted

* required

About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


Sign up to receive the weekly recipes updates

Follow Fiend