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Wastage

There is an ethical dilemma when it comes to food wastage. This dilemma is down to a cost benefit analysis, verses the complete absurdity of binning food. Especially when people are going hungry in our own country and never mind the fact that in other parts of the world people are fucking starving, whist us fatties are waddling around in the first world pretending to give a shit or writing stupid leftwing blog posts, like it’s going to make the slightest difference. But here it goes.

 

Do we salvage left over food by incorporating it into other recipes? Or is that just throwing good money after bad, as we’ll probably get wastage from wastage?

Do we give leftovers away and undercut ourselves and devalue the product?

Do the staff take left over food home or will this encourage staff to not sell all the food and reap the benefits?

Do we give stuff to the homeless? We’ve actually tried this and it doesn’t work for various reasons, I won't go into that now but Effective Altruism is a complex subject.

Do we just bin it at the end of the day and save wasting time & money?

 

The correct answer from a business perspective is the last one, but this is so so wrong, on many levels, but there doesn’t seem to be a good solution. But how can food businesses make sensible decisions when it comes to wastage. I don’t have the answer, but I do have some suggestions that might help.

 

Anyhow, we don’t waste our left over croissants. We make a simple crème d'amandes. You can add Vanilla or get creative with Jams or Marmalades up in there or try other nut flours. Anyhow, It’s not really cost effective, but it makes the counter look more interesting and gives customers a better variety. To make about 8 Almond Croissants try this.

 

1.    Weigh out 100g caster sugar

2.    Creamed into 100g of melted butter

3.    Whisk in two eggs

4.    Add 200g ground almonds and a pinch of salt and mix further

5.    Cut a croissant in half and spread liberally in the middle of the croissant

6.    Spread a bit on top of the croissant and stick a load of toasted flaked almonds on top

7.    Then bake for 7 to 8 minutes at 180C.

8.    Dust with some icing sugar, and boom!

 

We only make a few of these and always sell out, they’re a bit more expensive than a plain croissant to buy, so we can try and cover some of the cost in ingredients and the wages making them. But it’s worth giving it a go.

 

There is restaurant in Brighton leading the way called Silo, which is a Britain’s first Zero Food Waste restaurant. Another pioneer for combating food waste is Brixton People's Kitchen. I’m sure other food businesses can draw some inspiration from both of these examples and perhaps there’s a few more places around the UK pulling their weight on cutting down wastage that I’ve neglected to mention, sorry. I’m hoping there is some form of “Trickle Down Effect” or trend that can get other businesses on board with teaching each other how to cut down on wastage. So this is why I’m sharing these recipes and thoughts.

 

 

Another area to cut down on wastage is with Milk and any good coffee shop will have this problem. So with each coffee containing steamed milk, there is a tiny amount of wastage as we use fresh milk for each coffee. This is due to the proteins denaturing in the milk and re-using it will make taste like we’ve used UHT milk from a carton, rather than the beautifully creamy goodness from Riverford Dairy

 

Sorry to bore you with that justification, but anyhow, we end up with a couple litres of wasted milk every day from this process. But rather than tip it down the drain, we use it in baking and re-use it to make Ricotta and a wonderful savoury Polenta Bake.

 

Here’s a good recipe to use up 2 litres of milk that may have gone down the drain.

 

Polenta Base

300g Fine Milled Polenta

50g Butter

1500g/ml Milk

30g Swiss Bouillon (Or Approx 2 tbsp Veg stock powder or 2 cubes)

Zest of 1 lemon (Keep juice for making Ricotta)

 

1.    Chuck it all in a deep baking tray lined with grease proof paper, mix it a little and bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven

2.    Take it out give another good mix as the butter should be properly melted now and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the polenta has soaked up all the liquid and become firm

3.    This makes a wonderful base to roast some seasonal veg, so top it with your chosen weapons. At the moment we’re using roasted Squash and Cavolo Nero. 

4.    Then finish off with a sprinkling of toasted Hazel Nuts, homemade Ricotta and a mischievous drizzle of Hazelnut oil. It feels like it’s spawned from Northern Italy, but we’re gonna tailor this with the seasons and see what our local Veg supplier, Shillingford Organic, has going.

 

 

Ricotta

500g/ml Milk

30g/ml Lemon juice or approximately 1 small lemon that you zested earlier.

¼ tsp fine sea salt

 

1.    Heat the milk to 74C on the coffee machine and get a good amount of air in there or not if you prefer a more densely textured cheese. If doing this at home just use a pan on the hob or a microwave. If you don’t have a thermometer, just get the milk to a temperature where it’s too hot to hold your finger in there, but not boiling

2.    Add your lemon juice through a sieve to remove the bits and add the salt

3.    Give a good stir and leave for a few minutes for the milk to separate

4.    Spoon off the white curds that have gathered on the top and place in the sieve lined with a double-layered cheesecloth (muslin) or a few layers of kitchen paper.

5.    Leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if you want a drier cheese

6.    Use straight away or tub it up and it’ll keep for a week

 

The good people at Toast Ale, who make beer from waste bread, say “We hope to eventually put ourselves out of business. The day there's no waste bread is the day Toast ale can no longer exist.”

We obviously don’t want to put ourselves out of business, but it’d be great to have a bakery with zero wastage. We’re certainly working towards that direction, although it’ll never be zero, we can come close.

 

No more Risotto!

It’s the end of National Vegetarian Week, which for most of us has slipped under the radar like a slimy pile of Italian rice, so I’m punting out some of my opinions on the idea of vegetarianism and what that means to me personally and as a food business owner.

 

I’m a big meat eater. Meaning, I love the taste of high quality meat, which is cooked to perfection. It just gives me so much pleasure to eat it. But I stick to asking myself some basic questions when consuming such a readily available product.

 

1.     Would I be willing to kill and butcher what I'm eating? (I've done a fair amount of this, but should do more.) 

2.     Did the animal have a good life? If not, don’t fuel an industry that revolves around animal cruelty.

3.     Did that animal deserve to die for your pleasure, and was the meat handled with the upmost respect? If not, don’t swallow the guilt of over cooked, chewy steak!

 

Obviously as a meat eater I’m prone to wolfing down the odd bit of dirty dead animal, that kebab on a drunken night out, at some dinner party, or in certain restaurants when I’m too lazy to avoid meat that isn’t necessarily free range. I’m guilty and I hold up my bloody hands and step down from the moral high ground. I want to voice my opinion that it’s not always the fault of the meat eater and I want to propose that restaurants try a bit harder on the vegetarian options, which is too often an after thought, considered a lesser dish than the meat and fish. Please not another badly made risotto, I wince every time I see it on the menu. It’s simply a sorry excuse for a vegetarian option, there’s no reason why restaurants can’t produce something that is great and meat free.

I’d expect after Rene Redzeppi being at the helm of the advancement of European cuisine, there’d be a trickle down effect delivering vegetables into the mainstream or into high street chains, but it still isn’t happening. It seems ridiculous that vegetarianism is still stigmatised in the mainstream, like we're stuck in some 90's Linda Mccartney add where it's only for wishy washy yoghurt weaving hippies. Even the awareness for national vegetarian week has been low key, we have some amazingly varied textures and flavours in our produce that is grown right here and we should be shouting it from our roof top gardens. 

In the UK we do have a few hero’s when it comes to seasonal veg done well, with Simon Rogan (Fera & L'Enclume) and Robin Gill (The Dairy, The Manor & Paradise Garage) leading the way. We also have some Westcountry hero’s of our own, with The Ethicurean and Riverford springing to mind. In Devon we have Otter Farm, Trill Farm, Shillingford Organic, River Cottage, Maddocks Farm & Ashburton Husbandry School championing the humble vegetable. We are producing some of the best shit in the world, yet I’m still unable to find them in our local restaurants being showcased as vegetarian dishes. There are restaurants in London, for example, The Palomar or Berber & Q, who are serving up a whole charred Cauliflower, but it seems us Devonians don’t have the stomach for such a thing. Even with the mighty Ottolenghi pushing this beast of a Brassica for years, it’s still perceived as a farty vegetable not fit for the dining-out experience.

 

Over the last two years I’ve been lapping up the Anna Jones book; A Modern Way to Eat. It’s enabled my wife and I to actually commit to being vegetarian during the week at home. And it’s great to see Anna is now writing for the Guardian. When it comes to dining out, the sad reality is we’re better off buying a weekly Riverford Veg box and cooking ourselves, as the standard of food is so poor for vegetarians.

In the bakery, we’re not so great either. We try to offer half of our savoury menu as vegetarian, although we only have five things to choose from and it hasn’t changed for a while. However we do our best to offer flavour and affordability, we also try to buy as much locally as possible, but fail to sync with seasonality (I do hope to change this over the coming year).

 

But the next time I see fucking Risotto on the menu, I may just go for the jugular and give the establishment a slap in the face with a wet rotten fish. Seriously, it needs to be stopped and the best way to do this is to refuse to order it, and insist that the chef cooks you something else. Perhaps they’ll then gain the skills, creativity and confidence to expand their meat free options.

The Curious Incident of the Lemon in the Water

A few weeks ago there was an hilarious kerfuffle in York involving a slice of lemon and some hot water. It gained a lot of media attention and was publicised throughout the national press with tremendous support for the catering industry. If you didn’t get a chance to read it it’s worth a glance - Here

Anyhow this incident did two very good things. Firstly, it demonstrated that the customer isn’t always right and that business owners should grow some balls and a backbone, and stand up to these Trip Advisor bullies. Whist these cowards type away, hiding behind the veil of anonymity, they forget this style of trolling can be so damaging to small companies. I can relate to this because we had a bad review recently. I was inspired by the manager’s response in the Lemon incident, so I decided to publicise this review via our social media avenues. I assume this reviewer wanted an audience, otherwise they wouldn’t write a public review, and therefore I was within my right to send it out to the masses. Have a read if you wish - Here

Although my actions and response on Trip Advisor was equally as cowardly & petty, I though it was my duty to stand up for my staff and my suppliers, who had done nothing wrong. Why should this reviewer subject us to insulting claims, when all we’d done is serve a premium product with the upmost care and attention, whist giving a polite response to her request for a skinny cappuccino? So, shame on you blackcornish1964 and shame on you Trip Advisor for being the advocates of such bollocks.

Secondly, and most importantly, the newspaper articles gave the public a better understanding of the catering industry, and how it’s large overheads and the breakdown of costing something that appears to be worth a few pence is much more complex than first perceived. Heck, even the Daily Mail and its readers supported this café in York. 

I also found this article a useful tool for staff, which sometimes take the side of the customer and feel that things like takeaway cups are free. 

I’m going to highlight some other factors that were not considered in the costing of providing hot water. So the coffee machine we use cost nearly £7000. We have a water filter that cost £200 and is replaced twice a year. There is the cost of keeping the coffee machine on that is about £10 a day and then there is obviously the other hidden maintenance costs when the machine is serviced or needs repairing. But the most important issue here is the cost of someone taking up a seat. We only have 11 seats inside the bakery, so when someone is sitting there and not buying anything, they are taking away potential revenue. We’re quite lenient in the bakery. If a bunch of students take up a whole table outside and only a couple of them buy a drink, we let it slide. Or if someone wants to eat a packed lunch whist drinking a cup of tea that cost £1, it’s kind of ok; it just fits with our relaxed style. But it’s crazy to think that members of the public believe it’s there right to be provided with free service. That’s why we now have a large 8L Kilner water dispenser; because water is and should be free to all, but people can help themselves (that includes non paying customers), just don’t expect a slice of lemon in there.