You can still eat me if I’m out of date

There’s a big drive in France right now, as in other countries, to cut down on food waste. And rightly so.

I have a massive guilt trip every time I throw away unconsumed foodstuffs and try and do this as little as possible. I will regularly buy 5 new ingredients to create a dish using just one other ingredient that I’m loathe to bin (see Prawn & mango salad). My husband, whose Serbian grandmother would recount stories of WWII when literally nothing went to waste, is capable of toasting a breeze-block like baguette at the end of its 3-day life.

So I was interested to see this infographic entitled You can still eat me if I’m out of date go past on Twitter the other day. It suggests you can still drink milk 2 months beyond its best-by date (the UHT kind only I assume…), and frozen food and pulses up to several years later. To put it to the test, I’m about to make a soup with split peas which supposedly went off in October 2015, and were hiding at the back of the cupboard. We’ll see how that turns out.

It’s difficult to know if the reportedly inaccurate best-by dates are linked to some evil conspiracy by supermarkets to force us to consume ever more, or just a means of covering their backs in a society plagued by supergerms and food scares.

In any case, I think it’s a good thing to encourage consumers to push the boundaries and use good-old common sense when it comes to the foodstuffs they buy, store and consume.

Pulled lamb and jewelled couscous

The lamb in this takes a while to cook but the whole recipe is dead simple. It’s worth making a fair bit so that you can get a couple of meals out of it.

Ingredients (makes 4-5)

The lamb
1 shoulder (or leg) of lamb
Couple of dessert spoons sunflower or rapeseed oil

The couscous
½ litre vegetable stock
300g couscous
1 pomegranate
A few mint leaves
Handful of pine nuts
Handful of watercress
3 dessert spoons olive oil
Juice of ¼ lemon
Salt & pepper

1. Rub the lamb with the sunflower or rapeseed oil and a bit of salt and place in an oven dish. Cook at 140° for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and the lamb should pull off the bone easily.

2. Pour the vegetable stock over the couscous, add some salt, pepper and a dessert spoon of olive oil, and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

3. Finely chop the mint leaves and bash the seeds out of the pomegranate (see here for method). Add the mint, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and watercress to the couscous.

4. Mix together the lemon juice and a couple of dessert spoons of olive oil with the salt and pepper, correct if necessary with more/less olive oil.

And that’s it!

Les Pâtes Vivantes (Paris 9)

Les Pâtes Vivantes is one of a few places in the Richer / Montmartre neighbourhood in the 9th district that makes their own noodles on-site and within full view of passers by.

This particular restaurant has had good reviews in various magazines, and as it turns out, deservedly so. Although I have to say that if I hadn’t read any articles about it I wouldn’t have bothered as it looks completely crappy inside and out, and forces you to assume that they serve up the same mediocre, monosodium glutemate-fuelled fare found in many similar looking places in Paris.

I got the traditional noodle dish with crispy duck, which was amazing, and washed it down with a Tsingtao beer because I was feeling reckless (that’s about as reckless as it gets nowadays).

A total of 16 euros for both, and that delicious feeling of not needing to eat for another month thanks to a ridiculously generous portion of noodles.

Peach, prosciutto and pecorino

This was delicious, very light and airy, and loads of flavour.

I used what are probably among the last peaches of the season, from the same batch as the end-of-summer breakfast.

Ingredients (for 2)
Some sprigs of rocket
2 peaches
Couple of slices of prosciutto (or Serrano ham in my case)
A few shavings of pecorino (I used fresh parmesan though, just as nice)
Snipped chives
1/2 lemon
Splash of olive oil

You assemble all the ingredients on a small plate. For the parmesan shavings use a vegetable peeler. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil and drizzle over (you’re also supposed to add pomegranate molasses here but I chucked mine away recently after 4 years of meaning to use it and never getting round to it). Then snip the chives and sprinkle over.

Thanks Waitrose Magazine for this one.

End-of-summer breakfast

I love the changing of the seasons, but it’s always with a hint of sadness that I use up what are likely to be the last peaches of the summer. In the knowledge that it won’t be for another 10-11 months that I eat the next ones.

This morning’s breakfast is a great mix of end-of-summer fruits: little mirabelle plums, a fig, half a banana, a damson plum, and a peach. And tonight I’ve planned a starter with the last of the peaches in our bowl, to really make the most of them before we’re officially in Autumn.

Julhès deli (Paris 10)

Was in Julhès (54, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010) on Saturday doing the weekly-ish deli shop. ‘Deli’ doesn’t really do it justice though – I’d call it more a purveyor of traditional and France-produced delicacies (also because I’m in PR).

Said weekly shop usually consists of cheese, some form of cured ham or saucisson, and yoghurts produced by an independent French dairy. The latter have that inimitable sour taste you rarely get with industrial stuff (even though I also buy various Danone products by the vat).

There’s a brilliant selection of wines too, and a sommelier on hand to advise (although he’s your stereotypical mardy Frenchman who can bring down even the most enthusiastic Saturday morning shopper).

Despite the sommelier the place has that unique power whereby you instantly want to remortgage your house so you can buy everything in there. Thankfully I have resisted so far.

Porridge and stewed plums

So the first exploit with the fruit we picked off the tree is stewed plums. Really easy, and because I’m addicted to porridge (there are worse things), I decided to cook some of them up for breakfast.

I realised recently when I made an apricot puree without sugar for my daughter (she hated it and as a result I inherited it), that combining starchy oats and acidic apricots worked really well. For some reason heating certain fruits accentuates their acidity – I’m sure there’s a Michelin-starred chef out there that can explain that – the same principle applies for apricots as it does peaches and plums.

Conclusion: the porridge in the picture was delicious.

For the porridge, pour a small cup of oats into a saucepan, add double the amount of milk. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the ingredients have turned into a creamy mixture. For the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones, place in a saucepan and also cook on a low heat for 20 minutes or until the fruit are soft.