Around 15 months ago I helped to set up a food waste project in my adopted city, Worcester, UK. Called Worcester Food Rescue, the project comprises a group of extraordinary individuals who each week dedicate some of their own time and energy to collect supermarket food that would otherwise be destined for landfill. The food they collect is then distributed to several local charities.
It has been eye-opening to see at first hand how much perfectly edible food is thrown away by supermarkets simply because it has exceeded its “display by” date, and it is gratifying to see that same food now being used to feed people who depend upon those charities.
Of course, whilst the work it does in invaluable, the very fact that a project like Worcester Food Rescue exists is an indictment of an economic model which encourages overproduction and over consumption. When we don’t buy or eat everything we are encouraged to purchase, food waste ensues.
To lay the blame with us consumers is not entirely fair. Yes, we really should learn more about where our food comes from and how it has been produced and, yes, we should learn to appreciate ‘imperfect’ but edible food and, yes, we should trust our own senses rather than “use by” dates when it comes to decisions about throwing food out.
But of course the entire food economy is built around waste, and we consumers are just one cog in that machine. Farmers are encouraged to throw away food before it even reaches the supermarkets if it doesn’t conform to predetermined requirements of shape, size and colour. Supermarkets deliberately overstock and then encourage us to buy more than we need, which we dutifully do, only to throw away the food we bought but didn’t need.
In a system cynically geared around food waste, learning to love and appreciate food becomes almost an act of defiance.
There are many wonderful benefits from growing your own food, mental as well as physical, but for me the two greatest of all are that it teaches you to appreciate the seasons, and it teaches you the value of food. When you have slaved for weeks or months to produce your own food, you eat it when it is ready to harvest, and you do not waste it.
This is a simple seasonal recipe, with just a handful of ingredients, some of them home grown, and boy does it taste good.
broad bean, dill and mozzarella fritters
200 g organic broad beans (weighed after removal from pods, you’ll need around 700 g podded weight)
1 buffalo mozzarella, grated
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
30 g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
1 organic free range eggs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for shallow frying
1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the broad beans and cook for just two minutes. Drain and then immediately plunge the beans into a bowl of ice cold water. Once they have cooled, slip the bright emerald broad beans out of their skins. Use a fork to very roughly crush them, keeping plenty of texture.
2. Place the crushed broad beans, mozzarella, spring onions, dill, lemon zest, sea salt, breadcrumbs and egg in a mixing bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined. Divide into four equal sized balls and flatten each into a fritter shape, about a centimetre and a half in depth. Place these fritters onto a flat baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Pour a couple the olive oil into a large frying pan and place over a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the fritters in the oil. Fry the fritters for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden and crisp on the outside, turning them over carefully part way through. Drain briefly on kitchen paper before serving, along with a crisp seasonal salad.