Reducing food waste by embracing leftovers

In past generations a chicken carcass was another meal, not just bones to be disposed of 

Making soup with vegetables and leftover chicken is easy and delicious. Photograph: iStock

Making soup with vegetables and leftover chicken is easy and delicious. Photograph: iStock

 

I love the way chicken fat congeals, creating a glorious brown jelly that seems to hold the joints of the bird together. Too often in our daily food lives we give little time to leftovers, to those items that were perhaps cooked yesterday or the day before. A roast chicken from yesterday can turn into a glorious chicken salad, with hazelnuts and beetroot. There’s still plenty of bitter leaves growing in Ireland at this time of year.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related articles in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related articles in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth

Or how about a quick chicken broth with all the leftovers. Fry off some vegetables (onions, carrots and celery) with some bay leaves and rosemary in a pot. Add your chicken carcass and cover with water (or with chicken stock for a fuller flavour) and simmer for an hour. Why not add some seaweed, such as kombu or sugar kelp? This will not only give it a rich umami taste but will also increase the vitamin and mineral content. After an hour strain and enjoy the deepness of the broth. 

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Fast food

In the course of writing my Irish food cookbook, I’ve talked to many of my elders about the cooking of their grandparents. Chicken broth seems to arise a lot. No doubt this was due to the different value placed upon chicken then. A carcass was another meal, not just bones to be disposed of. 

Chicken is now a fast food, disposable at every turn in our modern lives. Now some of us eat chicken three times a day. The previous generation would have eaten chicken once a month or even less. We could learn a lot from their way of life, of looking back to try to move forward in a more sustainable manner. 

Buying whole chickens is also another way to combat food waste. What do you think happens to the bits of the chicken we don’t want? Exported to some other country to use no doubt. Eat less chicken but eat better chicken and buy it whole and make the most of it.

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