We all have a scary dish that we can never get right, no matter what recipe we use. For reasons that I’ve never understood, mine is flapjacks. I can bake anything else, from bread to lemon meringue pie, and it’s perfect every time. But my flapjacks are greasy, too soft, too crunchy, too crumbly……
Well-meaning friends offer words of comfort, whilst surreptitiously smiling smugly at their perfect, golden squares. “Try my recipe!” they cry. “It’s Delia/Mary Berry/Good Housekeeping! It’s completely foolproof!” And I take their recipe, and go on to prove that actually, it isn’t foolproof at all. And then I buy some from the bakery.
This set me to thinking. According to the Independent, Britain throws away ten billion pounds worth of waste food every year. Much of that waste consists of unwanted purchases that languish in a refrigerator until they’re past their eat-by date – but even my failed flapjacks must count for a tiny proportion.
So I’ve decided to try to reduce my foodie footprint. Flapjacks will now either be recycled as topping for fruit crumbles, or – if they’re very far gone – put out for the birds. Here are some other ideas I’ve come up with:
Salvaging Savoury Dishes
To re-use burnt or leftover vegetables, first chop off the burnt parts. Put them in the blender with some grated cheese and a little stock to loosen the mixture. Shape into patties, brush with beaten egg and coat in breadcrumbs. Shallow fry.
With meat dishes, you might be able to deconstruct the dish and add it to soup.
If you’ve added too much seasoning or too much of one flavour, making another quantity of the same dish and mixing the two together generally works. Freeze the leftover portion.
Sponge-type cakes that haven’t risen can be used as the basis for other dishes such as trifle. If your cake is uncooked in the middle, microwave it first, then use it for trifle.
If the cake is too dry, try cutting it into three layers and sandwiching with butter cream, or poke several holes in it with a skewer, squeeze a couple of lemons over it and pretend you meant it to be a lemon drizzle cake all along.
Sometimes, things just can’t be rescued. In which case – get some chickens! They’ll eat absolutely anything, and you’ll have the eggs as well, ready for your next baking attempt – ah, the wonderful cycle of nature.
Alternatively, get (or persuade your neighbour to get) a pig. The ultimate organic dustbin, pigs will help you recycle pretty much anything. They’ll also stop you having to waste so much time tediously mowing the lawn, because they’ll have dug it up.
Or, if chickens and pigs aren’t your thing, get a dog. They’ll eat practically everything — just make sure it’s safe for them to eat it first.
If you haven’t got room for a pig, and you think your neighbours in the next door flat might complain about the chickens on the balcony, but you have got access to an outside space – try composting.
Unless you like all your food raw, you won’t be able to get rid of many failed recipes this way – but it’s deeply satisfying, and you can use the results to plant herb troughs for the kitchen windowsill.
You need a ventilated container – either a ready-made compost bin, or perhaps four pallets nailed together to make a square, if you have room. Keep your vegetable peelings, kitchen roll, egg boxes, egg shells and cut flowers, and layer them into the bin. After six months or so, you should start to see the bottom layer decomposing into a lovely crumbly layer of black compost.
OK, I’m off to try Jamie Oliver’s flapjack recipe – I understand it’s completely foolproof. The birds are already pushing each other off the bird table in anticipation.
Love, Fleur de Sel
Fleur de Sel divides her time between France and the UK. She is interested in vegetarian cooking and baking. She’s also generally just a little bit fabulous. Read more from her here, or follow her on Twitter.