Category Archives: Family cooking

Will a pudding protest get its just desserts?

If there is one thing that you learn as a parent it is that children will always speak out when there is even the slightest whiff of unfairness in the air. And this is especially true when it comes to food. And when I say food, what I am really talking about is what many children (and some adults) think is the most important meal of the day, pudding. Warfare can break out in households over the dinner table, sparked by the conviction that someone else is having a sliver more of something delicious. But trying to avoid possible accusations about the discrepancy in portion sizes by employing a ‘one cuts, the other chooses’ the slice of [insert favourite cake etc; here] can also backfire. Children soon learn how to carry off the classic bluff and double bluff of ‘Thanks, this is the piece I actually wanted’ with a smirk or two. Annoying these greedy skirmishes are, learning to share, compromise and the concept of fairness are all important lessons to learn growing up. However, family arguments over who has the largest slice pale in comparison to the outrage and protest provoked when entire puddings are struck off a menu. Especially when those favourites are banished without warning for reasons that seem to be spurious at most. And at a primary school in Aberdeenshire, a change in menu caused some young students to take matters into their own hands.  

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Don’t let food waste give you freezer burn

As we reach the end of this year’s Food Waste Action Week I thought I would add my two pence on the importance of reducing our food waste. Even the basic statistics sound pretty shocking and it can be difficult to get your head around the scale of the problem. According to the sustainability charity WRAP, around one third of food produced worldwide is unnecessarily wasted when it is unsold, unused or thrown out by supermarkets, restaurants and the public. That is simply mind blowing, but it gets worse. The natural resources that go into growing the food together with the production and transportation of it for sale are also contributing to climate change. Food production is now responsible for close to 10% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, globally.

But as someone who cares about the planet and loves to cook I didn’t think I had a problem with food waste in my own home. After all, my family happily hoovered up any leftovers they could get their hands on. However, I also knew that I was far from perfect even if food waste was a particular bugbear of mine. Which is why in trying to cut down further on my own food waste I wanted to help others avoid it in Spoiler alert and shared some more tips for using up neglected and forgotten foods in Waste not, want more. Although I have to come clean…I made a glaring oversight when it came to reducing my food waste which I only discovered once all of my children had left home for university.

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Is lockdown making you eat like a bird?

I was reminded the other day of a time when I was 12, when a good friend said something to me that has since stuck in my head. She said that if she ever picked at her food at the dinner table because she didn’t have much of an appetite, then her mother always told her that she ‘ate like a bird’. For some reason I couldn’t get my head around what it had to do with birds because my friend didn’t look the least bit avian. In fact, I knew all too well that she had become a frequent visitor to a new takeaway that she passed daily on her way home from school. Her weakness was their specialty of deep fried sweet and sour pork which came swimming in a sticky sauce. She told me conspiringly that she was never hungry for dinner if she stopped for an afterschool snack but what her mother didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. But as I was reminiscing past times while looking out the window at the birds feeding in our garden, I also thought that maybe her mother wasn’t too far off the mark.

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Tier 4 turkey tips

As I left the supermarket with a trolley full of Christmas provisions I couldn’t stop thinking about what to do about that extra kilo of weight that I had gained…While I loaded the car with bags, I knew that I wasn’t carrying this extra weight because I had broken into the stollen bites prematurely. The mandatory wearing of face masks in stores had made it impossible to indulge in any free samples of enticing mince pies and other holiday goodies normally pushed by the usual smiley demonstrators. No, my extra kilo of weight was entirely due to having simply too much turkey. That is, the only turkeys left to buy on the supermarket shelves this Covid Christmas were supersized.

Admittedly, in a global pandemic there are much more important things to worry about than having an oversized turkey. Primarily, there will be far too many families that will have to face celebrating the holidays without a loved one this year. Not to mention, the families who have found themselves in dire financial circumstances and having to rely on food banks. And with huge swaths of the UK suddenly being promoted to Tier 4, most people’s holiday plans have had to radically change at the last minute. After a year of lockdowns and social distancing, Covid has not only caused a massive upheaval in families but a lot of hurt and pain at a time when we need closeness the most. But on a practical note, many also find themselves in the absurd predicament of realising that they have bought too much food for their unexpectedly downsized Christmas. It may be a trivial and even embarrassing problem but what do you do to prevent food waste?

For me, my excess food problem rested solely in the massive turkey which I was not entirely sure I could even fit into my fridge. I knew the beast was far too big for the size of my family despite their impressive appetites but I felt I couldn’t turn it down. Eating a succulent roast turkey is a central part of our family’s Christmas dinner so trying to get away with serving a smaller stuffed chicken would likely cause culinary warfare. As I heaved the titanic beast into the shopping trolley my mind began to work on solving the food conundrum of exactly what to do when you are stuck with an overweight turkey. Since I have come up with 3 main alternatives to help avoid reaching turkey tipping point, I would like to share it with the masses of people who will also be facing this rather unusual dilemma.

If your turkey is too much of a beast:

Share the problem. Find someone nearby to share the monster with rather than facing it, alone. After all, it’s the season of giving so who’s going to turn down the gift of your juicy turkey? You just need to find someone who hasn’t also been landed with a whopper. As long as you practice good hand hygiene and do not share crockery and utensils, sharing and giving gifts of food with your neighbours and family is still considered to be Covid-safe and is often the easiest solution to having too much food. Of course, there are two ways you can go about sharing. You could either roast the whole turkey before sharing it out or portion up the raw turkey to give to someone else who could cook it to their own recipe.

Get roasted. Providing you can fit the mammoth turkey into your oven, roast it as planned on the day but come to terms with the fact that it will take longer to cook. After the meal is over and once you can take stock of the enormity of your leftovers, don’t think of it as a problem. Instead, see it as the solution to your future dinner dilemmas. Simply package up the cooked leftovers into several smaller portions and freeze them to use at a later date. Rest assured that having some frozen cooked turkey on hand to add to a last minute soup, curry or pasta dish will someday save the day. Some future evening when time is short and the mood is quickly turning hangry, you will be able to whip up some speedy turkey tacos like that superhero, Jamie Oliver.

Have a massive breakdown. Instead of cooking the gigantic turkey, select a much smaller portion of it to roast. There are a multitude of YouTube videos and online sources out there to show you how to easily breakdown a whole turkey into its separate legs, wings and crown. Then all you have to do is freeze the remaining unused portions that you can cook sometime in the future.

After considering the options I have finally come to a decision of what to do with our Christmas beast. Since it will fit in the oven I have decided to overlook the extra cooking time and have committed to roasting it whole. Then, after giving away what leftovers I can pack off with my children who will be returning to university I will freeze the rest to be enjoyed in some future meals.

Now this is the point where you would expect me to give you a great recipe or two using some of that leftover turkey…But now on the eve of Christmas Eve the great turkey still remains crammed inside our fridge, waiting to be roasted. However, without a doubt, there will be leftovers. Which means there will be some turkey recipes in the New Year to watch out for that will help you empty out the freezer of leftovers.

After a tumultuous year of Covid and everchanging Tiers let’s hope that the New Year will bring us a bit closer to normalcy. It may seem a First World problem of the highest order to have too much turkey but I still hope that more of our problems can shrink to the trivial in the New Year.

3 things for World Mental Health Day

It was World Mental Health Day recently and I couldn’t help thinking that there has never been a more apt time to be reminded of its importance. Here in the UK, it is difficult to describe what it has been like living through the past seven months of the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects without resorting to using too many swears. But it has been said more than once by far too many politicians that these times are ‘unprecedented’. Certainly, the stress of living through the Covid pandemic has been felt by most. Whether you are a healthcare worker caring for Covid patients while trying not to bring it home; a student returning to uni who is facing virtual classes and lockdown measures while taking the blame for Covid outbreaks; a worker who is trying to keep their job or their business afloat or still adjusting to months of isolation while working from home; or like most people, just trying to navigate themselves and their families through these strange times when changing government strategies seem to fail and only delay the return to normal life even further; it would be fair to say that most people’s mental health has been tested in some way.

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