Tag: Waste reduction

Braised Lentils with Pork Chops

Braised Lentils with Pork Chops

Sometimes, Lentils can seem a little… healthy.  You know when you are eating them that they must be good for you, but that doesn’t necessarily make them enjoyable.  When they are treated well though, they make a fantastic addition to a meal. So how can you get the best out of them?  For me, the answer to that question is braised lentils.  Here they are packed full of flavour and beautifully tender.  Crème fraiche and butter bring a silky texture that offsets the soft, mildly spicy flavour of the lentils perfectly. Add to that the smoky, savoury hit of crispy bacon and you have a dish that dreams are made of.

This recipe is adapted from one I saw, about a decade ago, on a Canadian TV show.  Unfortunately I can’t remember who originated it, but I have tweaked it over the years and adjusted the measurements into UK friendly values (who measures butter in cups?!). The braised lentils are really versatile, going nicely with chicken, steak or roasted vegetables, but I’m serving them here with pork chops as it is a cut of meat that I love but don’t often eat, so it feels like a real treat.

Finally don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list – a number of items appear more than once and all are common items in the supermarket.


  1. You could make the lentils vegetarian by changing the chicken stock for vegetable stock and omitting the bacon. Adding a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a tablespoon of miso paste should bring some of the smoky, umami flavours that the bacon provides. You could serve with wedges of roasted butternut squash to replace the chops.
  2. While the fresh herbs bring some lightness to the dish, they are not essential. If you don’t have them to hand, just leave them out – it still tastes delicious.
  3. Experiment with adding other bits of veg. I have added finely sliced cabbage and diced pepper in the past, when I have needed to use them up. Both worked brilliantly.
  4. The exact timing for cooking the pork will depend upon the size of the chops. As a rough guide however, you should start cooking the chops at about step 4 of the lentils recipe –when the carrot, leek and onion are added to the pan.

Braised Lentils with pork chops – serves 4


To pre-cook the lentils

200g dried puy lentils

½ medium onion cut into 3 wedges, root attached.

2 stalks celery, halved

½ medium carrot, halved

1 bay leaf

To braise the lentils

4 rashers of smoked back bacon, cut into strips approx. 1 cm wide

½ medium onion, diced

1 small leek, sliced thinly

½ medium carrot, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

75ml white wine

250ml chicken stock

50g unsalted butter

3 tablespoons crème fraiche

1 small bunch of fresh soft herbs such as parsley, marjoram or tarragon, finely chopped.

For the chops

4 large pork chops or cutlets

3tbsp vegetable oil

50g butter

6-8 sprigs thyme

1 clove garlic



Braised Lentils

  1. To pre-cook the lentils, place the lentils, onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf into a saucepan and fill with cold water to about an inch above the lentils. Simmer, uncovered until the lentils are tender – approximately 25mins.
  2. Once cooked, remove the vegetables from the pan, then drain the lentils. Set the cooked, drained lentils aside.
  3. In a large, high-sided frying pan, cook the bacon in a little vegetable oil, over a med high heat, until it starts to crisp.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium then add the onion, leek and carrot. Allow the vegetables to sweat for a few minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning. Once the leek and onion are tender, add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  5. Add the wine to the pan, to deglaze. Allow the wine to reduce a little before adding the lentils and chicken stock. Stir gently to combine all the ingredients then simmer for 5-10 minutes until the liquid reaches a sauce like consistency.
  6. Finish the dish by stirring in the butter and crème fraiche. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Stir in the fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Pork chops

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (fan). Season the chops with salt.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Heat the oil then add the chops and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Add the butter, thyme and garlic. As the butter melts, use a spoon to baste the chops in melted butter. Continue to do this for a minute or so before transferring the pan to the oven (use an ovenproof frying pan if you can –otherwise transfer the chops into a roasting pan).
  3. Roast the chops for 4-7mins (depending on size) then remove and set aside to rest while the lentils finish.



  • If you have any lentils leftover they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, and are every bit as tasty reheated or eaten cold.
  • Reserve the water and veg that the lentils were cooked in and use it as a base for soup. Most stock cubes/pots produce about 500ml, so add the remaining stock, a peeled, chopped potato and a few other bits of veg such as carrot, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage etc.  Simmer everything together until all the veg is tender, liquidise with a stick blender, then strain through a sieve to remove any stringy, tough bits. The resulting soup will be a rather muddy colour, but extremely nourishing and tasty. Serve with croutons and a dollop of crème fraiche, if you like.
  • Leftover crème fraiche? Try these other recipes: Quesadillas with beef burger and peppers or Fusilli with pork, peas, leeks and mushrooms.
Beeswax Wraps – reusable kitchen wraps: Review

Beeswax Wraps – reusable kitchen wraps: Review

I am always on the lookout for ways to reduce the amount of single use plastics that pass through my kitchen, so when I learned about beeswax wraps I was keen to try them out. The Beeswax Wrap Co. claim that the wraps are all natural and totally biodegradable, being made using organic cotton, and a blend of beeswax, jojoba oil and pine resin. Each wrap should have a life span of about a year if cared for properly.

First Impressions

There are a variety of different packs available, ranging from £10-60 in price.  I chose the large kitchen pack which, for £30, contains 2 small wraps, 2 medium wraps and 1 large wrap. Upon receiving the pack the first impressions were good. The packaging is entirely recycled cardboard, and the brown paper envelope opens up into a reusable bag. Straight away it is clear that thought has been put in to preventing any waste.  The wraps themselves are visually striking. To the touch they feel robust and tacky, giving confidence that they will stick and seal.  My only reservation at first glance was with the small wraps which seemed too small to be useful.


I needn’t have worried however. The small wraps are perfect for covering small bowls, and wrapping half-finished bits of fruit and veg.  With two small children, these are common tasks for tin foil or cling film in my house. I have had at least one of the small wraps in use at all times since opening the pack.

The medium wraps have had a little less use but are equally useful.  They are large enough to wrap sandwiches and so perfect for picnics and packed lunches.  They would also be ideal for wrapping pieces of cheese or covering larger containers.

The large wrap is also fantastic. It is big enough to wrap up a small loaf of bread (a larger, bread wrap is also available) but also proved useful when baking.  Rather than using cling film when proving the dough, the large wrap is perfect for covering the dough.

All of the wraps are really easy to use.  The warmth of your hands softens the wax, allowing you to effortlessly shape the wrap around whatever you are covering.  They then stick easily to themselves, creating a seal around the food.  Once left alone, the wax cools, holding the wrap in place.


Overall I think this is an excellent product.  In fact my only complaint is that the patterns on the wraps could have been used to help identify which size of wrap is which.  It doesn’t take long to figure out, but being able to judge it at a glance would be a small improvement.

While I may still need to use tin foil for some tasks (the wraps are not oven safe), Beeswax wraps almost completely eliminate the need for cling film and sandwich bags.  They are pleasant to use, easy to clean and require very little care to maintain them (all the information needed to do so can be found on the Beeswax Wraps Co. website).  If you are looking for ways to reduce the plastic in your kitchen, or just want a convenient way to cover up leftovers, then this is a must have product.

Reducing Food Waste: 5 tips for reducing waste at home

Reducing Food Waste: 5 tips for reducing waste at home

Food waste is an ever growing concern.  Huge quantities of perfectly edible food get binned for various reasons: expectation that food should look ‘perfect’, poor storage and misunderstanding of best before dates to name a few.

A 2015 study by The Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) estimated that in the UK, 7.1 million tonnes of household food waste was produced. Of that, 5 million tonnes was edible waste. The study also estimated that household food waste accounts for more than two thirds of the total food waste produced.

Why is food waste a problem?

In simple terms, because our planet’s resources are being stretched too thin by human overpopulation.  Growing and rearing our food requires vast amounts of time, space and natural resources (water and feed).  So much so that many people believe that in the not too distant future, insects will become a major source of protein in our diets as we will no longer have the resources to rear meat.

For those of us fortunate enough to live in first world countries, and earn enough to be able to eat how we like, it can seem like there is little we can (or need to) do.  But by reducing our personal waste we can all contribute towards a more efficient food production system which will ultimately benefit everyone.  To put it another way, the longer we can go before having to eat centipede sausages, the better. It will also save you money, so there’s that too.

A big part of making a difference is taking some time to think about where you waste food, and how you can change that. To get you started, here are my top 5 tips for reducing your food waste.

  1. Plan your meals.

This might seem obvious but if you head to the shops with no idea what you are going to buy then inevitably you will find yourself with stuff rotting in the back of the fridge.

Plan your meals for the week the day before you go to the supermarket and stick to your plan.  This is a good time to have a look in the fridge to see what you need to use up.  Also, depending on how many people you are cooking for, you may often find you only need half a pack of something to make a recipe so decide now how you will use the other half.  Can it be used in another dish? Cooked off and used to make sandwiches for lunch? Or perhaps it will freeze?  If you plan ahead it is far less likely to wind up in the bin.

Finally, think about how long different items will keep when you get them home.  There is no point buying a bag of salad when you go to the shop on Monday, if you are not planning to eat it ‘til the weekend. At best it will be wilted and unappetising, if not completely inedible.

  1. Shop sensibly.

When you are in the supermarket, think carefully about the items you are picking up.  A lot of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables won’t last the whole week in your fridge, so check the ‘use by’ dates*.  If you are looking for something to last 5 days in your fridge, check behind the most visible items on the shelf.  Supermarkets rotate their stock so the old stuff sells first (they want to reduce waste too) but often there will be newer stock hidden at the back.  That being said, rummage responsibly.  If you need it to last two days, don’t leave perfectly good food on the shelves in favour of the same item with a week’s shelf life.

Furthermore, resist the temptation to buy items that you don’t need because they are on offer. Buying more of something than you plan to eat might seem like good value at the time but will ultimately wind up costing you when the excess winds up in the bin.

*A side note on ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates.

Generally, meat, fish, dairy and fresh ingredients/products will be stamped with a ‘use by’ date.  Eating the product after this date could be harmful so should be avoided.  ‘Best before’ dates are simply an estimate of how long the item will be at its best.  Once expired, the product will be less tasty but unlikely to be harmful. So that jar of curry powder hiding at the back of your cupboard that passed its ‘best before’ date ten years ago is unlikely to make you ill, but will probably make your curry taste more like dust than dhansak.

  1. Befriend your freezer.

One of the best ways to preserve your food is to freeze it.  If something won’t last in the fridge until you plan to eat it, stick it straight in the freezer. Freeze sausages, burgers, chicken breasts, even steaks then defrost in the fridge the day before you plan to eat them.


Bread – probably one of the most wasted items in British homes – freezes brilliantly.  Sliced bread can be toasted from frozen.  When you make sandwiches for a picnic or lunch-box, bread can be used still frozen and will have defrosted completely by lunchtime. In addition, virtually all supermarkets sell a decent selection of part-baked bread. As well as having a longer shelf life than its fully baked brethren, It can be cooked from frozen in almost exactly the same amount of time.

Batch Cooking

Batch cooking food and freezing portions is another great way to reduce food waste. It can be a huge time saver too.  Make large pots of pasta sauces, stews or casseroles, then portion and freeze whatever you don’t need right away. Next time all you need to do is defrost and reheat.  Even if you have only a few spoonfuls of Bolognese left after dinner, pop it in the freezer.  Then next time you make the dish, chuck the old batch in with the new.

My final tip on freezer use is to buy a whiteboard pen. While the freezer is a great tool for keeping food fresh, it is easy to forget what is in there. Label the bags and Tupperware you use with the contents and the date. Keep things in a logical order.  Take a little time when putting stuff into the freezer and you will get a lot more out of it!

  1. Keep a well-stocked larder.

Most of the tips I have given so far have been about avoiding leftovers and needless purchases. In real life however, there will always be odds and ends that don’t get eaten. Plans change, leftovers happen, life gets in the way. Finding a way to use up these stray bits of food can be a real challenge.  Keep a cupboard stocked with canned and dry goods like rice, pasta, lentils, tinned tomatoes and other non-perishable items. This creates a toolbox of ingredients that can be used to turn odd scraps into decent meals.

  1. Find recipes that use the ingredients you often throw out.

There are all sorts of recipes that can make use of food that is perceived to be past its best. Try my banana bread recipe, which uses overripe bananas or mushrooms on toast – stale bread is perfect for toasting.  Keep an eye on future recipes on this blog for more ideas on how to use odds and ends.  Recipes will include tips for using spare/alternative ingredients wherever possible.

  1. Bonus Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Any reduction in waste, however small, IS making a difference. If every person in Britain were to reduce their food waste by just one kilogram per year (roughly equivalent to half a banana per month), then as a nation we would reduce our food waste by 63000 tonnes. It may take a little effort to change your habits, but the long term benefit will be felt by everyone. There will always be some waste. Picky children, droppages, culinary disasters, fridge malfunctions – the list goes on. So if a block of cheese goes blue or a lettuce goes limp, don’t fret. Food should bring us pleasure, not be a source of stress.

Have you got any food waste tips of your own?  Share them in the comments below!