In terms of food, we’d prefer not to waste things that could be enjoyed. Islam teaches that leftover food should be saved and reused, given to those who need it, and in the absence of people who need it, to animals. It is not halal to discard leftovers. With our busy lifestyles and short sell-by dates, avoiding food wastage altogether is hard, but there are ways to drastically reduce it as much as we possibly can.
The UK wastes a lot of food. UK households binned £13bn worth of food in 2015 that could have been eaten. Food bloggers and Instagrammers have been criticised for focusing too much on the beauty of one-off dishes, thereby creating extra waste. But, as ‘zero waste’ is popularised, we have started to see a more responsible approach to online food posts. For every wasted scallop on a bed of pink watercress there’s a page on how to keep, store and save, throwing nothing away.
Pickles, Chutneys, Preserves
South Asian, North African and Middle Eastern cooking, like cuisines from other hot climates, place a lot of emphasis on preserving foodstuffs.
Having a cupboard stocked with spices, seeds, leaves and peppers makes it easier to rustle up pickles with leftover fruit and veg, even yoghurt, fresh herbs, mustard, sesame seeds, peanut, apple, lime, mixed vegetable, and potato. You can even pickle leftover pieces of halal lamb, or eggs that might be in their final few days, and store the pickle for one to three weeks. Check out new pickle ideas from South Asian recipe books that draw on flavours from different parts of the subcontinent.
We love this recipe for preserving lemons that otherwise would have been thrown away, a North African and Middle Eastern tradition that means you can keep lemons for use in any type of cooking and baking from curries to biscuits for a year. Glass mason jars are perfect for storing pickled garlic, figs, grapes, tomatoes and any other fruit or veg you can fit into a jar. The jars of pickles that can often be seen in Turkish and Lebanese restaurants make for attractive storage and delicious tangy accompaniments to halal meat dishes, wraps and salads. We often buy more fruit and veg than we need, and while we can easily use up a lemon, taking lemons from a preserved batch, means we are less likely to buy in excess or use lemons we don’t need. The idea is, we start to use things more wisely.
What to do with leftovers
Leftover recipes are excellent ways to use meat that hasn’t been eaten. Sometimes you don’t have enough meat left to make a stew or pie, but if you buy more of the same, adding the leftover meat to it, you’ve bought your next meal smartly. Left over pieces of halal beef or halal chicken are great in salads, sandwiches, bruschetta, pastas and soups, and leftover halal lamb is delicious in biryanis. You can make mini halal meat or chicken pies if you have some frozen pastry handy. Halal beef in particular is delicious served alongside bubble and squeak, which is simply mash potato mixed with leftover vegetables, fried, and is absolute comfort food. Our favourite way of not wasting leftovers is to share them. Take uneaten meals into the office or to a neighbour’s house.
It goes without saying that you can buy and freeze your halal meat, and freeze almost all leftover meals made from halal meat. But there are some other more surprising freezable foods, such as: halal cheeses, bananas, vegetables, fresh herbs, rice, pasta, flour, sauces, stock and juice, mashed potatoes, milk, fruit juice, dough. It sounds obvious but remember to label what you’ve frozen with the food type and date.
Use all parts of the vegetable
Using all parts of vegetable is good practice too, and is typical in most parts of the world. Using the garlic skin in curries and pastes is perfectly normal in many parts of Asia, as is the use of the outer leaves of veg like spring onions. You can use trimmings for soups and stocks and garnishes. Mushroom stems can be sautéed for a sauce to accompany a halal steak, or to go into a miso soup. Make the stems of herbs into pesto, salsa verde, or herb butters by blending them. Mash cauliflower and broccoli stems, and add them to potato, or eat alone with a good amount of butter, garlic and pepper.
- Don’t avoid buying less-than-beautiful fruit and veg that others might reject. They still taste good!
- Plan your meals for the week. Think about how you can create meals that will use up food from the day before.
- Pick food with the longest use by dates.
- Use this useful portion size checker tool for rice. It’s easy to go overboard.
- Have a well stocked store cupboard. Halal meat, chicken and vegetable stock, pasta, rice and tinned tomatoes means you can easily construct a meal with things you might have otherwise thrown away. Keep frozen veg and halal meat stocked up too.
- Check the fridge before you go shopping. It’s easy to forget what you have and could use.
- Don’t over-serve food. If it’s still in the pot, it’s conservable, and you can always take more.
- Make a note of what you throw away.
- Give to your local food-bank, which you can find by postcode online.
Use airtight containers for storage. Have a canvas bag for shopping, and a good lunchbox for work and for taking food home from restaurants. Metal tiffin tins are hygienic and long-lasting, and the layers make for a convenient way of separating out snacks, sauces or bread from a main meal. Fabric napkins are preferable to kitchen paper or paper ones. And of course, stainless steel water bottles mean not buying a bottle each time (who knew the tops weren’t recyclable?).
Let us know if you have any more tips on how to preserve food and avoid throwing it, and plastic containers, away.