Ready, Steady, Christmas: Leftovers and food waste

Dealing with Christmas leftovers is a perennial issue, but has been brought into much sharper focus by the awareness of food waste. In the UK it is estimated that 2.25m tonnes of edible surplus food goes to waste in the supply chain each year. FareShare are the biggest UK charity dealing with this issue, but they are only able to access and redistribute a tiny 1% of this food. There is a long way for us all to go, and this shows the huge scale of the issue.

Cooking with Christmas leftovers
Hairnet at the ready!

Tackling food waste head on

FareShare first teamed up with sandwich makers Honest Crust, a part of Leicestershire’s Samworth Brothers, in 2018. The partnership has already seen Honest Crust funding the equivalent of 200,000 meals to those who need it the most. Today I went to an event in Beaumont Leys, my home patch. The third partner in the event was E2 training providers. Everyone taught me about combating food waste and finding innovative ways to use up those Christmas leftovers.

We had some talented chefs from FareShare and Honest Crust devising a special menu. They had a surprise stock of surplus food that had been rescued by FareShare. It was kind of like Ready Steady Cook of old. Making something delicious on the hoof from whatever ingredients landed in your lap. There were vegetables, some store cupboard ingredients as well as some very Christmassy elements – like cooked turkey.

Along with the chefs, we had some extremely talented and erudite learners on the E2 Introduction to the Hospitality Industry course, part of the Strike Out programme. These are young people that have been marginalised from the mainstream education system, so they are learning new skills and gaining qualifications in a small class, hands-on environment. Between them, they helped guide people like me and members of the local community to contribute to making our lunch together! They also talked to me in detail about what they had been learning across their course, their aspirations and hopes – a thoroughly pleasant group of young people who I wish every success in their studies. They are clearly working hard!

Fareshare Christmas leftover recipes

Christmas Leftovers

In just a couple of hours of brisk endeavour, our little group had created a three course meal fit for a king. All the courses are fantastic inspiration for how to use up your own leftovers this Christmas Day. To start we had a vegetable soup, where you can chuck any and all leftover veg! The flavour was amazing, and made all the more enjoyable by a garnish of crispy croutons, crunchy seeds and chopped herbs. A brilliant balance of flavours and a real winter warmer. Boil up those veg in stock and blitz – simple!

Next up was our turkey pie. It wouldn’t pass muster in the British Pie Awards. It was a filling with a lid and not entirely enclosed in pastry, but needs’ must when it came to our time limited event today!! Our pie was turkey, leek and potato in a creamy sauce. A classic combination and again a great way to use a variety of leftovers. I can imagine any veg working well from roast dinner leftovers. Personally I would love a bit of stuffing in there, or chopped up pigs and blankets… But in what world do they get left over? We had a perfect puff pastry dish popped on top. Then the whole was served with some deliciously more-ish herb new potatoes. There’s an argument that a pie like this would make an excellent Christmas dinner on its own!

What’s the difference between a tiffin and rocky road?

Finally, we had the ultimate ‘whatever is in the cupboard’ dessert. The tiffing was made a range of biscuits, dried fruit (including the ubiquitous dried cranberry). It was all crushed up into melted chocolate, topped with crisp rice and left to set in the fridge. Again there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making tiffin. Except don’t add marshmallow – because if you do it becomes Rocky Road. Which is also fine. All fridge cakes are equal in my mouth.

Looking for more inspiration? Why not try the Honest recipe suggestions from the FareShare charity chefs?

An Early Christmas Lunch

Thanks to FareShare and their redistribution of surplus food, we were able to enjoy our Christmas leftovers before we had our Christmas dinner! We were treated to an exclusive view of the festive sandwiches that the talented Honest Crust guest chefs, Jessie and Jill, have developed. They received a hamper for their fabulous work. There is a Festive Brunch and a Turkey Dinner sandwich specials. The Boy and I are saving them for tomorrow’s lunch to try!! Jessie and Jill are the owners of Pulp Friction. This is a social enterprise that supports people with autism and/or learning difficulties. They give experience by running a working canteen and taking out their smoothie bikes.

I am extremely grateful to have been invited along to this event to enjoy some delicious food. It was great to find out about how food waste and food poverty are being addressed by some brilliant groups. Over 8 million people in the UK are currently struggling to afford to eat. So I would also urge my readers to think very carefully who you give your vote to on December 12th. But I shall say no more.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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