Zero waste for a 100 years

As I rambled about in my last blog, I have been working on a project about food and food availability locally during WW1. As part of the research we looked through lots of cookery books and magazines of the time, just the job for me I loved it.

At the outset of the war the main issue was reducing waste and being frugal. Although they never expected the war to last for over four years they did expect a tight winter. Books, government posters and magazines promoted the reduction of waste and came up with some canny ideas. As the war continued these recipes became part of everyday life.

Once again Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club came to our rescue and translated some of these old recipes in a cooking demonstration. Here is one which will stand up to the needs of  Zero Waste Week. I make this all the time now.

Stock Made from Vegetable Trimmings

Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918)

Ingredients: The well washed peelings of potatoes, carrots, turnips; the green tops and outside leaves of celery, cauliflowers, cabbage, lettuces (if not decayed), apple or pear peelings and cores; parsley stalks.

Method: Add water, or the water in which macaroni, rice, haricots, potatoes etc have been boiled. Bring all to the boil then simmer for 30-40 mins. Strain and use as a base for thick soups, sauces etc.

Cooks Comments: This is a very economical way to make what is actually a tasty stock. I kept a largish bowl in the fridge in which I put various vegetable peelings and onion skins as described above over a few days until I had accumulated around 500g or so of trimmings (although an exact weight is not really an issue). When I was ready to make the stock I also saved the water I had used to cook some potatoes and topped it up to around 2.5 litres. If you decide to include onion skins they will give the stock a brown hue, which is something to consider if you are planning to use the stock in a white sauce or summery soup 

What no pictures?

As the saying goes – there are two types of people in the world…

In this case those who need to have pictures to follow and those who don’t - I’m talking about cookery books here.

Personally I come in the second group I am happy to follow recipes whether there is an illustration or not. To my mind there is less disappointment when the recipe doesn’t look like the illustration and it gives me more licence to make changes, add ingredients (or take them away).

My brother, on the other hand, wouldn’t buy a cookery book if all the recipes didn’t have a photo outlining exactly what the final article should look like. To his mind, you need a guide so that you can see if you have got it right.

Not being competitive, like my uber competitive brother, I don’t mind if I get it ‘wrong’ as long as it tastes good and  a picture won’t tell you that and I’m not disappointed when the dish doesn’t ‘look like it supposed to’.

You can see where this argument (I’m sorry I mean discussion)  is going. I love to mull over a good cook book with beautiful illustrations. It makes your mouth water and spurs you on to try something new, a picture of food does indeed paint a thousand words. But, and it is a big BUT, these lovely pictures are often taken in a studio, using foods that haven’t been cooked using the recipe given, in fact sometimes not even using food.

When I was writing Recipe for an Unknown Kitchen I took the photos myself, mainly because I didn’t have the money to pay a photographer but also I liked the idea that the whole book would be my creation. So I borrowed a book from the library on photographing food, how fascinating that was and what an eye opener! Maybe I was a bit naive but I honestly was amazed by ice creams that were in fact made of candle wax, painted fruit and vegetables and polystyrene biscuits. So what chance do you have trying to meet those standards?

One reader commented that my photos weren’t very professional. I don’t mind, they weren’t it’s true, but they were actual photos of the food I had cooked moments before to the recipe in the book that I was happy tasted the way it should and let’s face it, there are enough disappointments when closely followed recipes don’t taste good or fall apart because the recipe hasn’t been tested properly.

So while I still love to salivate over food photos in books and magazines, and I can tell you I spend a lot of time drooling over cookery books, I don’t take any notice of the illustrations. And to answer the argument, how do you know what the dish supposed to look like – look at the plate!

Grow Cook Eat

Grow Cook Eat! Sounds like my kind of thing…and it is. This weekend, the 4th and 5th October, I will be at the Grow Cook Eat Event at West Dean. This is my third year and I am really looking forward to it, I meet so many lovely people. Do come along, it is a really lovely event – food, music, some great stands and cooking demonstrations. Looking forward to seeing you there. For more info go to

Tomato ketchup with a difference

Following tomato day I thought I’d let you in a secret of perfect tomato ketchup. the following recipe is from Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince. As you can see I have started eating it already.

Tomato Ketchup


3kg of really ripe tomatoes, 500g chopped onions, 8 plump garlic cloves, 1 large red pepper deseeded and chopped, 200g celery chopped, 225g golden granulated sugar, 250ml cider vinegar, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon tobasco sauce (optional – I added a chopped red chilli) and spices – 15 cloves, 20 allspice berries, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, 10cm cinnamon stick, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns.


Put all the spice ingredients in a grinder and whizz until reduced to a powder or if you feel energetic crush use a morter and pestle.

Put the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper and celery in a large pan. Cover and cook gently over a medium heat for about 15 minutes or until all ingredients are very soft. Pass through a fine seive or mouli. Return the ingredients to the cleaned pan and add the sugar, vinegar and ground spice mix. Simmer for around 20 minutes until it thickens. Remove from the heat add the tobasco if you are using it, pot into hot sterilised bottles, seal with vinegar proof lids and label.

The extra dimension? I used 150mls of cider vinegar and 100mls of elderflower vinegar. I thought this was being a bit extravagant but the addition made the best sauce I have tasted. The vinegar was from Stratta . who I hope will be a the Grow, Cook, Eat Event at West Dean on 5/6th Oct so that I can buy some more.


Grow, Cook, Eat

Coming up soon – the Grow, Cook, Eat event at West Dean on the 5th and 6th October. This is a new venture by West Dean and sort of replaces the Apple Affair they have run for years. It promises to be a great weekend so put it in your diaries now. The lovely Mary Berry will be there on the 5th and Brendan Lynch on the 6th. Plus lots of great local produce stands, music and above all a lovely atmosphere to welcome in the autumn.

and of course I will be there with my books so I hope to see you.

for more info go to, see their face book page ‘West Dean College and Gardens’  or follow them on twitter @westdeanejf