Last week the Change the World Wednesday gang over here set a very timely challenge. They challenged us to have a proper look what veg was lerking in our fridges and then plan some meals to use them all up - making sure not a morsel gets wasted and cutting down our food spending at the same time. I've been indulging on the veg buying front recently, shopping for lovely recipes I've been cooking up to help make our meat-free month go down a storm. When I can buy loose veg, I buy just what I need, but I haven't always managed this and have to admit there was a sorry selection of veg crying out for attention in my fridge. So I took on the challenge.
Here's what I found in my fridge:
1 and a half onions
2 and a half carrots
half a courgette
1 whole and 2 half fennel bulbs
half a head of celery
1 green and 1 red pepper
half a very large parsnip
a few cherry tomatoes
a quarter of a cucumber
a selection of mushrooms (about 100g more than I needed for a new recipe I planned to try)
a few small potatoes
half a jar of passata
half a bunch of parsley
half blocks of feta cheese and goats cheese
half a fresh chilli
a lemon without its zest
half a jar of homemade curry paste
And a few staples I would have no problem using up - cheddar cheese and eggs for example.
One good meal jumped out at me straight away. Pasta bake - everyone enjoys it, it can be prepared in advance and popped in the oven when I get home from nursery with the girls, and then portions can be kept for Martin and I to eat later.
Here's what I did:
1. I sauted some veg with onion and garlic until soft - I used 1 and a half carrots, half a courgette, a couple of mushrooms, and a red pepper.
2. I then added the passata (tinned tomatoes would also work), some dried oregano and a can of canellini beans (cooked red lentils or other white beans would probably work fine) and cooked it for another 5 minutes or so.
3. Once cooked, I blended the sauce, partly inspired by smooth Italian bean sauces and soups I've enjoyed, and partly to hide the veg from little M and the beans from Martin! The dish would work fine without blending the sauce but it does give it a hearty, creamy feel.
4. I mixed about half the sauce with cooked pasta (I saved the rest for another time as there was loads), topped with crumbled goats cheese and grated cheddar (you could use other similar cheese you've discovered at the back of your fridge).
5. I trickled oil over the top and baked it at 180 Degrees Celcius for about 20minutes - until the top was golden brown.
The girls wolfed theirs down. Little M had a few bits of cucumber and halved cherry tomatoes with hers too - more things ticked of the list! I have to admit that the bake didn't keep as well as I'd hoped. It went a little dry by the time Martin and I ate it later. I'd use more sauce next time - more than it looks like you need - or make the sauce a bit thinner.
I was tempted to pick up a nice bag of locally grown, green salad I'm a bit partial to on my way home from nursery, but resisted, and instead I made a spicy salad from some of the scraps I found. I chopped a small chunk of cucumber, 2 or 3 cherry tomatoes, a sliver of onion, a sixth of a fennel bulb, some parsely, and a small piece of fresh chilli and mixed it all up with some lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac. Almost as good as the amazing chopped salads they serve at our local Turkish restaurants.
I veered off course from the challenge after this a bit I'm afraid. I got tempted by the 'any-bowl-of veg-for-a-pound-stall' near the local chemist and came home with a bag full of tomatoes and red peppers. I had a cunning plan! I'd promised little M some roast potatoes for lunch after enthusiastic pestering, so to fill the oven up, I roasted most of the peppers, tomatoes, and half an onion at the same time. We had pizza (of sorts) topped with pasta bake sauce and cheddar, and roast potatoes for lunch. Then I blended the roasted peppers and tomatoes to make a lovely, rich sauce. For dinner I had this on pasta with grated parmesan. The girls (who aren't being veggie this month) had theirs with meat-balls made from beef, a few spare mushrooms, and some frozen breadcrumbs (leftover from last time I made fishcakes).
The slightly wrinkly green pepper and the potato remnants found their way into a curry last night with a few supplementary veg from our new local green grocers. And I'm still working out what to do with the rest. A roasted fennel and squash salad has caught my eye. And perhaps a hearty nut roast with parsnip and sage. That's nearly everything - although I have bought sneaky extras along the way to make half decent meals.
This challenge has been a great reminder to keep an eye on what's lerking in my fridge and to include those fridge drawer scraps, as well as exciting new recipes, in my meal planning!
What are your favourite ways for using up those lerking vegetables?