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Save more by wasting less at mealtimes

By Features Reporter

Food writer Melissa Hemsley.Picture: Ebury Press/Sarah Malcolm/PA
Food writer Melissa Hemsley.Picture: Ebury Press/Sarah Malcolm/PA

Waste warrior, food writer and cheerleader for sustainability, Melissa Hemsley talks about her new veg-led cookbook.

Wherever you stand on the plastic straw debate, food writer Melissa Hemsley is right: “You don’t get two in your mojito on a Friday night now!”

Things are undoubtedly changing. Call it the Blue Planet II effect, or simply an inevitable waking up to the demands we put on the planet, but more than ever before, the choices we make daily – and especially at dinnertime – come with a side of: is this environmentally justifiable?

It’s an idea that threads its way through Hemsley’s lively new cookbook, Eat Green.

Veg-heavy (but not fully vegetarian), it focuses on all the little ways we can cut waste and get dinner on the table without feeling like quite such dreadful, energy-sapping humans.

Eat Green presents some of those possibilities. Packed with tips for using up some of the most binned fruit and veg items (looking at you, carrot tops and cauliflower leaves), it’s positively boisterous, teeming with feelgood ways to stretch your food, fill your belly with good stuff and greenery, and make your cooking life a little easier.

Self-taught chef Hemsley encourages batch-cooking, cooking from scratch, avoiding plastic (wherever possible), not overusing the same ingredients (poor beloved avocados and chickpeas), eating seasonally, making a judgement on eating certain items past their sell-by-date, and being flexible (“My mum basically taught me: be flexible, use what you’ve got”).

And that’s not even mentioning her favourite thing; filling up the freezer, so all you have to do is defrost dinner in culinary Blue Peter style – here’s one I made earlier. Ta-dah!

She also hopes to help override that feeling we all get upon opening the fridge, that there’s nothing to eat. That dinner can’t be rustled up. “There is always something,” says Hemsley. “So why waste your energy trekking out in the rain and the cold to the shops, to just go and spend more money?”

It’s simpler if you have well-stocked cupboards and a chest-freezer of buried, edible treasure, of course.

But Hemsley is clear – she just wants her recipes to be helpful and useful: “I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their lives.”

But if she does manage to help you cut waste and align better with the seasons (“I don’t want to offer people cherry tomato recipes in December”), that can only be a good thing.

“What I do know is that every single one of us can play a part,” she says, adamant. “With no judgement or guilt tripping, what can you, I, do, that feels sustainable in terms of, can we repeat it every day?

“And if so, let’s do it, and let’s keep on doing it.”

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