Sunday 9 December 2018

Boiling Point: Catherine Fulvio's anger at food waste

Catherine Fulvio
Catherine Fulvio

John Brennan

Chef and teacher catherine fulvio sounds off on the €700 worth of food that every one of us wastes each year.

What really grinds me more than anything is food waste. I grew up on a farm and you can be spoilt growing up on one, because you can just go outside and pull the scallion or the head of lettuce that you need from the ground. Nowadays, modern shopping trends have changed and you go in and buy everything that you need for the week, or what you think you need for the week - so much of it gets wasted.

There's a financial aspect to it: according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Irish householders throw away €700 worth of food each every year. The EPA found that 50pc of the salad we buy gets thrown out, and 25pc of fruit and veg is binned. Apparently, potatoes are the most wasted vegetable.

I remember one time in a busy class in my cookery school, we had a recipe which required half of a celeriac. About 50pc of the class put the other half of the celeriac in the bin! I was perplexed by this, but to be fair when you're not in your own home environment you don't always think things through. Peelings are peelings but we use them here for compost, and you can also use peelings for making stock.

Restaurants have to run cost-effectively and properly trained chefs know how to use up leftovers.

Everybody eats with their eyes, so when they shop for food they shop with their eyes too. Meat and fish are probably the least wasted foods, this is because they are more expensive. Supermarkets are good at moving stock along, they usually have areas where you can pick up food with a shorter shelf-life for cheaper.

Some supermarkets have a section for misshapen 'wonky' vegetables, which I think is a brilliant idea. Having had the benefit of growing up on a farm and seeing fresh produce, I understand that not all vegetables are good looking, but they are all edible and tasty.

It's not just the raw ingredients that are wasted, it's cooked food too. We need to educate people about what to do with leftovers - for example, you can make soup with those leftover potatoes or roast vegetables.

It's important to show people not to over-shop. I think it's best to maybe shop twice a week instead of one big supermarket trip. Have fresher food and buy less of it. I appreciate that there is a convenience in buying for the week ahead, but then your fridge is absolutely jammers and you can't see half the food you bought and by the following Friday you're sick of looking at it.

The other thing that will help to reduce food waste is portion control. When we're putting on the pasta or rice in Ireland we never measure it. You're left with a half saucepan of rice when the curry is all gone!

More food takes longer to cook, so it's a waste of electricity as well as the food itself. Portion control is important not only for the raw ingredients but for the cooked food too. So take the time to consider how much food you are going to need before you cook.

And if you do end up with extra, find out what to do with what is leftover. Leftover pasta makes a beautiful pasta bake. Pop it in the oven with some chicken or some fish, maybe some broccoli and some breadcrumbs and a bit of parmesan. It's a perfect way to reduce the 80kg of food that the Environmental ProtectionAgency found that each of us throws out each year.

To find out more about Catherine Fulvio's cookery courses at Ballyknocken House in Co Wicklow, visit or call (0404) 44627

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