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.
300g Fine Milled Polenta
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.
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.