It’s Friday, isn’t it? Friday when we think briefly about cooking the evening meal and then quickly stop thinking and decide to get a takeaway.
Statistics confirm that Friday is the most popular night to order a Chinese or fish and chips, the two top preferences for takeouts. Nothing wrong with an occasional Deliveroo but if it’s every week, alarm bells should ring.
Plus, the following day is the shopping day and so we chuck out all the fridge contents that look a little tired or five minutes past the use-by date. Yes, I’m preaching: obesity and food waste are two evils that really happen almost simultaneously in UK and both can be helped a little by refusing to order in and cooking the tired ingredients on Friday night instead.
I variously call Friday night supper a ‘rubbish bin’, ‘fridge clear-out’ or ‘what into pot’. The simplest of those suppers, for which there is no recipe, is to empty the vegetable drawer, chop up what was in it (yes, lettuce and greens included) and depending on the season either bake or quickly stir fry it. In winter, when I can usually find parsnips, carrots and an odd beetroot in the drawer, it is a roasted root vegetable tray. In summer, it’s more likely to be a wilted pepper, miserable-looking mushrooms and a tomato going into a parmigiana of sorts.
Then you can bulk it out by adding any bits of cheese you can find, or else soak a bowlful of couscous, bulgur or rice noodles. You can also make it carb-free and beat a couple of eggs over those vegetables in the skillet for a frittata. And if you want to add meat, chuck in any bits of ham, sausage or cold chicken festering in the fridge corners.
I make it sound like a mouldy vegetable lobby, but we far too often bin a whole pepper or tomato if only one side of it is a little squashy or overripe. Cut it out and the rest is good to use. Cheese actually turns mouldy on purpose as you might know, and it’s absolutely fine to trim the white patches and enjoy the remains.
Plus, stock up properly. Instead of piling Haribos in your weekly trolley, add one tin of beans or chickpeas at a time, even if you have no plans for it in the coming week. You’ll be grateful to yourself a few weeks down the line, when you make the tomato and chickpea tray bake.
Make sure you always have rice in the cupboard or better: cook twice as much when you cook it for dinner and freeze leftovers. Frozen rice can go straight into a frying pan with whatever you have sweated in some butter: fried rice is the best made with frozen rice. And if you haven’t got any rice in the freezer, make dirty rice with a tiny bit of minced meat of any kind.
You can do the same when you cook pasta too but thaw it before making pasta fritta.
Another freezer staple should be tortillas: for anything quesadillas.
Any of the above might not hit the (salt and sugar, and more salt and sugar) spot as well as a chow mein or a kebab but I guarantee it will be healthier and cheaper. And not wasteful. Happy clearing out the fridge!