And so, it’s time to wrap up this year’s Holiday Book Review Series. It’s been an especially good one, don’t you think? I want to thank Raincoast Books for generously sending me review copies of the six books in this year’s series and especially for giving my Canadian readers the opportunity to win a copy of one of them.
I’m ending with a cookbook that will serve you in good stead come January and resolution season. I’m not big on resolutions, but I do hold some intentions each new year. One that’s always on my list is to reduce the amount of waste in my life and to make the best use of the resources I’m lucky enough to have access to. A big part of this for me is reducing my food waste and that’s where River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers comes in. It’s a cookbook, certainly, but it’s also a handbook for making the most of your food and keeping as much as possible out of the waste stream.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has broadened his definition of leftovers to include more than what’s left in the serving dish after a meal. His recipes tackle the food that often gets discarded in the course of food preparation, like leaves, peels, bones, and rinds. He also includes the results of big batch cooking (or, as he calls them, ‘planned overs’) under the book’s umbrella, so that your fridge and pantry are filled with prepared foods, without the packaging and sometimes dubious quality of the store-bought variety.
The book is organized a little differently than most cookbooks, with chapters built around categories of leftovers, rather than meals or types of recipes. He begins with a discussion of planning for leftovers, with sensible advice from shopping through storage. Before the recipes begin, he shares an infographic of frequently occurring leftovers that serves as an alternate table of contents. His chapter on Launchpads for Leftovers is a condensed version of a conventional cookbook format, running through base recipes for everything from stocks to desserts.
The rest of the book is given over to recipes under categories of the most common leftover foods. He tackles meat, fish, and starches, but also trickier foods like greens, dairy, and eggs. These are the ones that I find most likely to languish in the fridge waiting for inspiration, then ending up in the compost.
And your compost bin will be nearly empty, if you use the many nose-to-tail recipes Fearnley-Whittingstall includes in this book. Fish skins and trimmings can sub in for bacon, potato peels transform into a comforting, creamy soup, and broccoli stems can take the place of meat or fish in a carpaccio. His Vegetable Peel Crisps are typical of this approach. There’s no reason that root vegetable peelings should have to go into the compost, as long as they’re clean and free from bad spots. He tosses them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts them in a slow oven. When they come out, you can add a sprinkling of smoked paprika, as I did. I used a mix of potato, parsnip, carrot, and yam peelings. I liked them better than potato chips and they’re definitely healthier.
The crisps made a great lunchtime pairing with his Many Bean Salad, which is almost infinitely variable, depending on what you have on hand. I used a mix of beans, but it would have been equally good with lentils, chickpeas, or just about any other sort of pulse. I threw in some tuna (I liked that he specified sustainably fished tuna), celery, Malossol cornichons, celery, red onion, and grated parmesan. I used his recipe for mustardy vinagrette, with pickle brine in place of the vinegar. It’s the kind of salad you can find in other River Cottage cookbooks, but with an extra emphasis on using what you’ve already got on hand.
The leftover ingredients used in each of the recipes is highlighted, so that when you’re skimming through the book, you can note which work with the leftovers you’ve got on hand. It’s another design feature that is meant to make it easy for you to find ways to use up the contents of your fridge and pantry.
A time-honoured method of cleaning out the fridge is to make a soup, and Fearnley-Whittingstall includes a number of soups across his leftover categories. His take on Ribollita was especially inviting during the cold snap we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver. We’ve had snow sticking around for over a week, with more on the way. Warm, rich, filling soup is something I’ve been making a lot of lately.
The Love Your Leftovers version can help use up roasted roots, soup stock, Parmesan rind, pulses, and leftover greens. I skipped the rind and chose vegetable stock, as I’m planning to share the soup with a vegan this week. That didn’t stop me from adding a little Parmesan to my serving, and with the garlicky toast in the bottom of the bowl, it was perfectly delicious.
I’ve been trying to stock my fridge with ‘planned overs’ like big containers of roasted roots for a while, but I can be inconsistent. I keep intending to soak batches of beans on a more regular basis, so I can reduce my use of canned goods a bit (I don’t think I’m alone in this one). I can also be a little forgetful when it comes to leftover stock – there’s really no excuse for throwing out stock, but it’s something that’s happened more than I care to admit.
Scheduling recipes like this soup could help me to get a bit more consistent in the batch preparation I’d like to do more often, while keeping me from wasting staples like stock and greens – so many greens.
I don’t have permission to share the recipe with you, but you can find it on the River Cottage website:
Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers*
I’ve been a fan of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes for quite a while, especially after working through his River Cottage Veg with the Cottage Cooking Club. However, it’s his approach to food that’s stuck with me even more than his recipes. He uses what’s fresh and seasonal, certainly, but he also stocks his pantry with good quality canned and dried goods, so that delicious weeknight eating is something that can be accomplished year-round.
In that way, this cookbook is the perfect extension of his food philosophy. Not only are his recipes flavourful and accessible, they’re also making the best of every part of the good food he stocks in his kitchen. As much as I like project cooking and baking, special occasion recipes, and rich comfort foods, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes are a better representation of how I prefer to eat most of the time. With River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers on my shelf, I’ll be able to do so even more effectively and sustainably. I think I’d even make a resolution to that effect.
Gift Giver’s Guide: For the thrifty cook, the environmentalist eater, the seasonal gourmet, and the comfort food connoisseur.
*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 3 X 64 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email! You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.