Archives for category: Food waste challenge

I have to confess almost total failure in the food waste challenge this past week. Do not read beyond this point if you were hoping to be impressed by inventive little store cupboard meals coming out of the Urquhart/Beynon kitchen.

Sunday was not too bad:

  • My daughter, Maria, made yet another test wedding cake  to to try out our new silicone baking pans which we were hoping to use for the cake she would be making  for my niece’s imminent wedding
  • I made a batch of granadilla curd with granadillas from the garden using the leftover egg yolks from the  cake. We filled the cake with half  the curd and ate the rest of the curd with yoghurt (bought) for breakfast on Monday and Tuesday
  • We made a salad using our new favourite combination of watermelon, aubergine, rocket and hummus, and
  • We made a repeat of the previous Saturday’s supper – pasta with a sauce made with various dried  mushrooms, their soaking liquid, mirin, fried ‘onion garlic’, rosemary, black pepper and truffle oil.

Supper on Monday and Tuesday night was – dare I confess this –  takeaways.

Then Maria and I packed all the baking pans, piping bags, macaron trays, silicone mats, sugar thermometers, scales etc and dashed to the airport to catch the plane to Cape Town so she could bake the wedding cake and ice the cup cakes for my niece’s long awaited wedding.

We were running rather late and were slightly worried that they might close the boarding gate before we got to it  but we grabbed cappuccinos and our favourite ‘quattro’ muffins from Vida e Caffè as we screeched past the coffee shop en route to the gate. After the mad rush to reach the gate on time it turned out the flight was delayed but we were quite happy to wait in the queue eating our muffins and sipping our cappuccinos feeling smug knowing we wouldn’t have to buy ourselves boring sandwiches and inferior coffee from the on-board trolley.

On boarding the Kulula flight I was rather surprised to see Jenny Morris in a ‘Food Network’ branded chef’s jacket sitting in the front row. How strange to be travelling in your sponsor’s garb, I thought. Perhaps it’s actually an onerous condition of having the sponsorship?

I nodded off while the plane was taxiing down the runway and dreamt that Jenny was telling me that I was about to be served a three course meal designed by Reuben Riffel with a choice of red or white wine. At no cost to me. Great dream to have when squeezed into a minuscule seat with two hours to kill before arriving in Cape Town.

Then sashaying down the aisle came two impeccably dressed waiters handing out some very nicely designed menus. How thrilling to realise this was no dream.

  • Starter – Feta and leek tartlet with a fresh grape, celery and jalapeño salsa, ripe roasted tomato and toasted pecan nuts with crushed chilli jam
  • Main Course – Pistachio and black pepper crusted beef fillet, sesame and rosemary roast potato tourné with cranberries, rich red wine soy and orange glaze, braised pearl onion and sautéed portobellini mushrooms OR coconut curry chicken breast with cinnamon spiced rice, glazed carrots and toasted almond flakes OR halloumi and mint ravioli in a creamy Napolitana sauce with crumbled feta, crunchy sea salt and roasted pine nuts.
  • Dessert – short crust pastry filled with cinnamon and mixed spice custard with Turkish delight, glazed strawberries and a macaron shell.

Pretty soon the trolley came along and it certainly didn’t look like we were being served your average economy class aeroplane meal. We were presented with real crockery, proper glasses, an array of cutlery, a fabric serviette and some rather superior food.

Good food, beautifully presented, and a glass of wine is all it takes to make a girl feel like she’s been bumped up to business class.

I did come crashing down to the ground though when I had to take up my role as a scullery maid to Maria who spent the next three days baking layers of cake, mixing huge batches of cream cheese icing, whipping up rose scented white chocolate ganache filling, baking purple hued macarons and decorating a hundred cupcakes.

But the week ended on a high with a happy couple and a delicious cake.




I started the week feeling like a character out of  The Wolf of Wall Street but  after seven days on my very own food waste challenge I ended the week feeling happy.

I’m excited thinking about this week’s cooking and I’m also feeling excited about the little germ of an idea I have growing sparked by Mazi Mas and A Girl Called Jack. I don’t have much time to pursue those thoughts right now – I’m too busy  juggling cooking and work.

So what did we cook last week?


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon
  • Baked – a loaf of ‘Rosies Brown Bread’ from one of my all time favourite recipe books, Pam Hirschson’s Treasury of Recipes.

Treasury of Recipes

  • Baked – a sponge cake to use a test batch of cream cheese icing make by my daughter for the wedding cake she is making for my niece next week. We served this with some of the left over roasted plums in the fridge.
  • Supper – left over green bean bredie with an added tin of cannellini beans. This was served with a grain salad made with bulgur wheat, a tin of chick peas, read rice. We added basil, mint and chopped red pepper out of the garden and dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice and garnished with fried onions(garden produce too).


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon
  • Lunch a slice of ‘Rosies Brown Bread’ with scrambled eggs and rocket
  • Children’s school/university  lunch – left over grain salad
  • Supper – Lettuce and Lovage soup from the freezer. While defrosting the lovage soup I discovered that in fact one of the packets was not lovage soup but a lentil and cumin soup. The combination of the two soups ended up being delicious and inspired me to add a tin of coconut milk to the mix. I garnished the soup with fried onion, more cumin, slivered apricots (from the South African Food and Wine Blogger Indaba’s overflowing goody bag courtesy Cecilia’s Farm) and chopped almonds from my sisters perfect piece of land in McGregor. And served the soup with pappadums.


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon
  • Lunch -pancakes with cinnamon sugar and lemon. It was a gloomy, rainy day and my daughter enticed me away from my desk to indulge her.
  • Supper – Pasta with freezer tomato sauce which on tasting was very hot(too many chillies) so I added two tins of cherry tomatoes from Super Sconto and a generous portion of ‘olive toffee’. The olive toffee was the result of a failed attempt to make olive jam. I think I’ve now hit on the perfect tomato sauce enhancer. I still have enough ‘olive toffee’ to enhance another 8 pasta and tomato sauce meals….


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon
  • Lunch – scrambled egg made with four left-over egg yolks(from the wedding cake trial) and two whole eggs on ‘Rosie’s Bread’ served with rocket and balsamic glaze.
  • Cooked 500g of chick peas
  • Supper – Salad of garden watermelon,cubed, on a bed of rocket with roasted balsamic glazed beetroot, shredded beetroot leaves, ‘confettied’ beetroot leaf stalks, a handful of chickpeas and olives marinated in lemon, garlic and olive oil. Potatoes roasted with bay leaves. Home-made hummus done the Nigella Lawson way from How to Eat. Chickpeas soaked and cooked according to her instructions too. There is no other way to do this!
  • Also made a quinoa and chick pea salad dressed with the left-over lemon, garlic and olive oil marinade made for olives.


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon. We should be sick of this by now but we’re not. Panicking a bit that we are going to run out of oats.
  • ‘Rosie’s Bread’  with hummus, rocket and cheese
  • Supper – pasta with the balance of the tomato sauce, thinly sliced fried salami and parmesan.
  • YA’s lunch for school and university – quinoa and chick pea salad
  • Also made another loaf of “Rosie’s Bread’


  • Breakfast – oats porridge with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon.
  • Lunch – bread, hummus, rocket, slivers of parmesan.
  • Supper – fritters made with the balance of the quinoa and chick pea salad mixed with two eggs, some chick pea flour and  – the first bought item of the week – a packet of bacon. These were served with a watermelon, rocket, basil, left-over roasted beetroot, olive, sesame seed, sunflower seed  and hummus salad.


Pasta with porcini mushrooms

Also made during the week

  • One jar of tree tomato, rose and vanilla jelly
  • Two jars of tree tomato jam
  • Two loaves of banana bread (one in the freezer)

Everything we ate came from either the garden or the store cupboard except for one packet of bacon. I call that a successful week. But what on earth did the rest of the family think?

Over supper on Friday night I asked the family what the favourite meal of the week was?

They all loved the soup from Monday night and voted the quinoa and chick pea fritters a close second. On Saturday night they seemed to think the pasta with porcini mushrooms and truffle oil was the meal of the week.

On Sunday Richard and I threw caution to the wind. We shelved all our carefully made plans to see movies, tend our vegetable garden,  get a couple of hours of intense work in and read for a couple of hours too.  Instead we set ourselves a major new challenge.

I was lying in bed reading on Sunday morning after a  rather indulgent and very good Saturday evening meal at Zest in Pretoria when I was rather struck by an article,  The writer’s challenge: Food waste on The Guardian website. Guardian columnist Zoe Williams was given the challenge to live off her store cupboards and her veg box for a week. To supplement what she hand on hand, she was only allowed to buy eggs and cheese.

I thought it was a great idea to try to eat for a week from your grocery cupboard. And in our case from the vegetable garden too. We haven’t bought any vegetables (other than some onions, a couple of kilograms of potatoes, garlic and lemons) for four months now but the growing season seems to be slowing down so now was a good time to explore the store cupboard and follow Zoe’s example by using what we had and trying not to shop at all for a week. Would it be possible to go for a whole week without finding myself loading up a trolley in the supermarket?

In fact I was so inspired that I wondered if we could do this for more than a week? Could we actually eke out the supplies for a month? I am always trying to run down our supplies before shopping again. I never succeed. Maybe this was my chance. Richard insists that my ideal grocery cupboard is an empty grocery cupboard. But he would, since he’s a squirrel. He likes to know there are at least a couple of tins of tuna in the cupboard and a chicken in the freezer.

I clicked on the link to sign up for the food waste challenge and was disappointed to discover that the challenge for readers was not nearly as exciting as the challenge to Zoe Williams. The readers’ challenge was merely to promise not to throw away any food at all for one week.

I do think that is an admirable challenge but it didn’t feel quite big enough, even though I am sure we do throw away more food than we’d care to admit.

As the Guardian says ‘The average UK household throws away 5kg of food a week – the equivalent of a whole chicken, garnished with 22 carrots and 11 potatoes… If just one hundred of us sign up, that will be 500kg less waste. If 500 people sign up that would be an amazing 2500kg of waste.’

I tentatively mentioned my version of the challenge to Richard. What did he think of the idea of seeing how long we could eat from our store cupboard and vegetable garden without shopping? To my delight he jumped at it but he wondered exactly how much food we had in the kitchen. We don’t have a pantry. Our kitchen cupboards were really very badly designed  (by us) and incredibly chaotically kept. We have a drawer for baking ingredients, a narrow but awkwardly deep grocery cupboard, a spice drawer, a tea drawer and a small cupboard for jams and cereals.

Surely it was not going to be possible to survive very long without shopping? In fact maybe we should have rushed out and stocked up before we started the challenge? We should definitely have allowed ourselves to have bought more than Zoe’s cheese and eggs.Perhaps we should have given ourselves permission to buy ten items not two?

Ten minutes later we were in the kitchen unpacking all the groceries from our cupboards, the fridge and the freezer. We weighed, measured, categorised and listed all the food. We went out into the vegetable garden to see what we’d be harvesting in the next week. We did a major food audit.

We started with the pasta. Every shape and size you could wish for. Everyday macaroni  bought from our local supermarket and all manner of exciting shapes and brands bought from Super Sconto in Louis Botha Avenue, Orange Grove. There were teas and coffees from all over the world – coffee beans from Laos and Ethiopia, herb and flower tea from the Italian Alps and Lithuania, nettle tea, chamomile tea, rooibos tea, spiced chai, green tea , Thé à L’opéra from Mariage Frères Mariage Frères Thé Blanc Rose, Fauchon Bountons de Rose, Kuhestan Organic Damask Rose  Extract (two bottles). Vanilla – pods, paste, extract, essence, sugar. Saffron, sumac and sesame seeds. 

Fauchon Boutons de Rose

How exciting: we had a chest of forgotten treasures!

But it was also a shameful experience. It made me feel sick, not joyous.

Seven kinds of flour, five kinds of rice, three kinds of dried mushrooms, over a kilogram of seaweed, all the olives, the seeds, the nuts, the jars, the tins, the packets….

I felt deeply embarrassed by the amount of food we had on hand. And part of the reason I felt so ashamed is because I have been following A Girl Called Jack for quite some time now. Her blog posts always make me think. They make me think about how we moan and complain about trivia, how we have too much unnecessary stuff, how we don’t take charge of a situation and make things better for ourselves – never mind for others –  how we don’t speak up and how we don’t always take pleasure in cooking a simple inexpensive meal that can be delicious even (and especially) when you’re operating on a tight budget.

I’m trying to think of something to do to assuage that guilt. Other than thinking more carefully about what I buy, throw away etc. I’m trying to think about doing something like Mazi Mas does. I love what they do. Can I do something similar in Johannesburg? I’m not sure, but maybe in a couple of months I might try.

In the meantime I’ll post the results of the food audit here. I’ll think about food waste. I’ll think twice before shopping. And in the next few weeks I’ll post some of the recipes for the very exciting and utterly delicious meals we have been making. This week, so far, we have not set foot in a shop. How nice for a change! We still have more food than I’d care to admit to (other than to the readers of this blog).  The cooking has been a whole lot of fun too. And guilt and shame aside I’m going to enjoy the rest of our food waste challenge.

Tins and jars of food


1.     PASTA:

  • 500g pkt Woolies macaroni
  •  + 200g loose macaroni
  • 500g Woolies wholewheat linguini
  • 500g Chitarra
  • 500g Rummo trenette No 14
  • 500g Woolies spaghetti
  • 500g Nidi semola
  • + 375g Rummo spaghetti
  • 250g Serena cannelloni
  • 250g organic pasta shapes (Thomas the Tank Engine!)
  • + 250g conchiglioni 87/b loose
  • + 125 fettuccini a nido

2.     RICE:

  • 85g basmati rice
  • 212g brown basmati rice
  • 139g brown basmati rice
  • 350g arborio rice
  • 123g red rice
  • 992 sushi rice

3.     PULSES:

  • 1098 green lentils
  • 1kg dried chickpeas
  • 500g red lentils
  • 620g quinoa
  • 189g polemta
  • 500g bulgur wheat
  • 293g pearled barley


  • 35g Norwegian dried mushrooms
  • 25g porcini
  • 15g shiitake mushrooms


  • 406g apricots
  • 434g pecans in shells
  • 767g McGregor almonds in shells
  • 151g ground almonds
  • 390g + 330g sunflower seeds
  • 38g breakfast seed mix
  • 348g sesame seeds plus 168g sesame seed
  • 132g mainly brazils
  • 122g linseeds
  • 150g poppy seeds
  • 29g coconut flakes
  • 127g dates
  • 338g desiccated coconut
  • 66g roasted salted peanuts
  • 80g golden raisins
  •  200g popcorn kernels
  • 250g halva


  • 1142g granola
  • 222g cocopops
  •  751g Jungle Oats
  • 200g unknown and strange cereal (infested with moths  – so we threw it out…)


  • 136g noodles
  • 406 Thai rice paper wrappers (much of it broken!)
  •  230g + 40g Wakame seaweed
  • 478g dried seaweed (unidentified)
  • 13 sheets of nori
  • 24g another unidentified kind of dried seaweed
  • 106g miso
  •  10 wraps


  • 630g self-raising flour
  • 40 g Instant dry yeast
  • tin of ‘old school’ yeast
  • 157g + 340g wheat bran
  • 876g + 253g nutty wheat flour
  • 2.5kg  white sugar
  • 1kg white flour
  • 490g corn flour
  • 702g demerara sugar
  • 111g chick pea flour
  • 89g buckwheat flour
  • 518 icing sugar
  • 450g palm sugar
  • 150g rice flour
  • 800g Doppio zero flour
  • Epsom salts, bicarb, baking powder, cream of tartar, Fauchon Bountons de rose, Kuhestan Organic Rose     Extract concentrate; almond essence, vanilla essence, vanilla pods


  • 1 ½ kg + 1kg Greek yogurt
  • 6 stewed plums
  • Olive oil/garlic/lemon mix for marinating olives
  • Green bean bredie (one smallish meal)
  • 270 g parmesan
  • 37g chevre
  • 107g cheddar
  • 121g salami
  • 600g tofu
  • ½ small jar of John West ginger
  • 100mls horseradish sauce
  • 60g creamed horse radish
  • 40g capers
  • 35g anchovies
  • ¼ jar sambal oelek
  • Small jar Seychellois tamarind atchar (v. hot)
  • ½ tiny jar ginger jam
  • Juice of preserved lemon
  • ½ small jar of Choppy Choppy spicy condiment
  • 30mls pomegranate syrup
  • small jar preserved ginger
  • 4 half jars of various olives
  • syrup from preserved ginger
  • ¼ small jar preserved hot chilli
  • ½ jar mayonnaise
  •  Jar mango atchar
  • ¼ tube of umami paste brought back from the UK when we were last on the boat + small jar of “umami shake” from Food Bloggers Indaba stunning goody bag– must do taste comparison
  • 2 teaspoons of home-grown chopped chilli
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 carrots

10.    FREEZER

  • 6l milk
  • 8 fishcakes
  • 3 pkts frozen lovage and lettuce soup (from garden)
  • 1 pkt homemade tomato sauce (from garden)
  • 2 pkts homemade… vegetable soup, or watery tomato sauce
  • Frozen rice
  • Few bits of left-over pastry
  • Several ½ packets of coffee and coffee beans
  • Frozen eggwhite
  • Two vegetarian hotdogs
  • 1/4 packets of seafood mix
  • 1/4 packet of frozen blueberries
  • Olive toffee – don’t ask


  •  2.5kgs artichoke hearts
  • 400g Italian peeled tomatoes x 11 tins
  • 400g Italian cherry tomatoes x 7 tins
  • 400g Italian chickpeas x 1 tin
  • 400g Italian haricot beans x 1 tin
  • 400g cannellini beans x 1 tin
  • Three big preserve jars of McGregor olives
  • Two jars of flopped olive jam
  • Two jars of preserved tree tomatoes
  • 1 small jar green fig preserve
  • 1 small jar prickly pear jam
  • 1 small jar za’atar
  • 1 small jar preserved caper berries
  •  2 small jars McGregor black olives in olive oil
  •  I small jar Japanese preserved ginger
  • 1 ½ small jars of tahini
  • 2 small jars marmalade
  • 1 <15-year-old tin of sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 jar French-style mayonnaise
  • 500g wild blossom honey
  • 1 Korma curry paste (Woolies)
  • 1 Thai red curry paste
  • 1 ½ pkts plain pappadums
  • 400g coconut milk x 2 tins
  • 170g tuna x 1 tin
  • 200g custard powder


  • 2.1l olive oil
  • 900ml pure coconut oil
  • 40ml truffle flavoured olive oil
  • 30ml sesame seed oil


  •  300mls Soya sauce
  • 500mls Sushi vinegar
  • 400mls mirin
  • 100mls sweet chilli sauce
  • 470g Mrs Balls chutney
  • 100mls + 300mls tomato sauce
  • 50mls hoisin sauce
  • 70mls white balsamic cream
  • 125mls Worcestershire sauce
  • 100mls + 300 mls fish sauce
  • 125 rice wine vinegar
  • 80mls balsamic reduction
  • 350mls apple cider vinegar
  • 10mls tobasco sauce
  • 100mls sake
  • 500g maple-flavoured syrup
  • Jar of marmite


  • Several cabbages
  • The last of the tomatoes
  • One meal or so of potatoes
  • Lettuces
  • Rocket
  • Onions
  • Spring onions
  • Basil
  • Eggplant
  • Red peppers
  • 6 or 8 measly sweetcorn cobs
  • The last of the beans
  • A few baby marrows
  • Swiss chard and spinach
  • Many tree tomatoes
  • Many granadillas
  • Three watermelons (one largish, two smallish)
  •  5 bananas – bought
  • 1 ½ cloves garlic – bought
  •  3 (bought) potatoes

–       2 onion garlics


  •  One roll of phyllo pastry
  • Half a roll of puff pastry
  • ½ small jar of John West ginger syrup only gone solid
  • 1/3 jar of sulphurous trout caviar left over from Christmas eve
  • Part jar of chunky salsa 
  • Two small quantities of ageing cream cheese
  • ¼ homegrown red cabbage
  • 4 prickly pears (horrible ones)


  • The teas and coffees
  • The spices and herbs