Last weekend I was invited to take part in Low Carbon West Oxford’s ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ style competition at their ‘Beet the Waste’ 10th anniversary celebrations at Tap Social in Oxford. My fellow competitors were cooking professionals, Christina from Relish and Sandra and Marie from Waste2Taste.
I hadn’t realised that I was supposed to be a team on my own. I thought I was joining one of the other teams, so I had only brought one frying pan, a chopping board, one knife, some spoons, some spices and a big bunch of herbs I’d picked from my garden. When I was shown to ‘my station’ and saw the two gas burners I was a little daunted. What was I going to cook with just me and my one pan?
As three competing teams, we had an hour to select our ingredients from the food surplus at Oxford Food Bank, and then cook up a feast with what we found.
The first thing I noticed was a box of black spotty bananas and I thought, ‘They really need to be used,’ so I decided to cook a variation on Shane Jordan’s banana skin curry and to make banana peel crisps to garnish the curry and chocolate banana nice-cream, both of which are recipes from Leftover Pie.
As the hour was progressing I was laughing at myself, just making one simple main dish and a very simple pudding. Meanwhile the ladies either side of me were making tray after tray of amazing food, all beautifully presented. I have been at several events with Christina and with Sandra and Marie as we are all campaigning to reduce food waste. I’ve tasted their wonderful food so I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing, feeling that I couldn’t possibly win, and so I just wanted to come up with something fun.
After a while, Marie from Waste2Taste noticed my one overflowing pan and offered me a bigger frying pan and a saucepan in which I was then able to cook some rice.
While the judging was going on I was being questioned by a whole lot of children who were very interested in my banana skin crisps and were also eyeing up the chocolate banana nice-cream (of sorts – we had none of these Masterchef type facilities such as super fast chillers, so it was more of a chocolate banana mousse.)
I was trying to listen to what the judges were saying about the delicious food on offer either side of me, whilst also trying to answer all the questions about banana skins, giraffes, chimpanzees etc that were being thrown at me by all the children lining the front of my station.
Then I got a dig in the ribs from one of the judges standing next to me. She said, “You need to pay attention over here for a moment.”
I couldn’t believe I won!!
I guess my secret weapon was a head full of recipes from my new book, Leftover Pie which features contributions by Thomasina Miers and Tom Hunt as well as Lorna Hall’s banana peel crisps and Mandy Mazliah’s banana nice-cream, that were part of my ‘winning’ feast. Christina from Relish has also contributed a recipe to Leftover Pie and Waste2Taste are featured as a case study. I suspect it was the quirkiness of using banana skin as an ingredient that really swayed the judges. The food that was produced was all delicious and really highlights the fact that so much great food is often wasted. Oxford Food Bank saves over £1 million worth of food from being wasted every year.
Here’s my version of banana skin curry inspired by Shane Jordan’s recipe from his book Food Waste Philosophy.
Beet the Waste Banana Skin Curry
1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
3 shallots – diced
2 large carrots – diced
1 sweet potato – diced
1 tin of lentils (use the liquid too)
2 courgettes – diced
1/2 cup water
4 banana skins cut into strips about 4 cms long
Rape seed oil for frying
Parsley and coriander – roughly chopped
Rice to serve
1 tablespoon of coconut oil to fry the boiled rice
Salt and pepper to season
Heat the rape seed oil in a pan and add the chilli flakes and curry powder and stir for about half a minute then add the diced onion and heat until the onion starts to go translucent and is well coated with the spices. Add the carrot and sweet potato and drain the liquid from the lentils into the frying pan so that you have liquid to steam the sweet potato and carrot. Add in the water if necessary. Stir fry this until the carrot and sweet potato are soft then add in the courgette and 3/4 of the banana skin strips, then add the lentils.
I boiled the rice just in water – it was just ordinary long grain rice -but it needed a little help, so I then fried it in a little coconut oil and added salt and pepper then sprinkled the coriander and parsley on top of the curry and the rice.
I fried up the rest of the banana skin in salt and pepper and a few chilli flakes to serve as crisps on the top.
For pud – I mashed up the bananas and mixed them with a couple of small sachets of cocoa powder (like the banana nice-cream in my book).
It should be said, though, that I’d have used a larger range of spices if I’d had them – e.g. mustard seeds, cumin and coriander – and I’d have made it a little hotter, but I was surrounded by a lot of children and I didn’t want them all rubbing their eyes from the spicy fumes coming off my frying pan. So to my mind I did a very low key under spiced curry, really, plus I didn’t have a teaspoon so it was all approximate. The next one I make will be a little spicier, I think, but the key to any good curry is to ‘taste as you go’, add in a little more spice as your taste buds guide you and don’t stop until you can’t stop tasting it because it is so yummy. No double dipping with that spoon though!