You may have noticed from my previous posts that I am a volunteer with OzHarvest and feel fairly strongly about promoting sustainability and reducing food waste. Approximately one third of the food produced in the world each year gets lost or goes to waste (1.3 billion tonnes). Aside from the hundreds of millions of people who are not getting enough to eat, this also has a devastating impact on our environment and the capacity to provide food for future generations (particularly when coupled with the effects of climate change). All of this is fairly depressing, and it is one of those things that I sometimes don’t feel like thinking about.
A large portion of this food wastage is the rejection of food that is fit-for-consumption by retailers and consumers, due to it being not the right size, colour or shape. Earlier this year, I was pleased to see that one of the large French supermarkets, Intermarche, launched its Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables trial campaign. They drew attention to the issue by introducing its good but ugly friends: the grotesque apple, the ridiculous potato, the hideous orange, the failed lemon, the disfigured eggplant, the ugly carrot, and the unfortunate clementine. The fruit and veg were offered for sale alongside their picture perfect siblings, but at a 30% discount. This was not only a brilliant marketing device (at least it was for a good cause!) but also caused the supermarket to sell out of the inglorious produce within 2 days. Happily, Waitrose in the UK followed suit, and now it seems that Harris Farms in Australia is also joining the party with its imperfect picks campaign.
So this week I bought a whole box of imperfect eggplants (because surely 2 people can eat 12 eggplants in one week) and a couple of imperfect zucchinis. A photo of one of the zucchinis is pictured above. I can’t actually see what is wrong with it, aside from it being super sized (see size comparison with the iphone 5) and having a few scratches on it. I chopped one up earlier in the week and ate it with pasta – it tasted pretty good, imperfections and all.
I decided to use another one of the zucchinis in a salad I had made most recently during my visit to Europe over their summer. My good friends, Rebecca and Marcus, live in Winchester, England and I was able to squeeze in a visit across the Channel to see them. We had a lovely weekend catching up, with the English summer turning on deliciously warm weather, and showcasing the beauty of the Hampshire countryside: we cycled through small country lanes past expansive fields and thatched rooves (oh, how I love thatched rooves…), stopped at an English pub for a well deserved cider and picnic by a stream; and visited the local farmers markets and bought some amazing produce, including smoked garlic and fresh goats cheese. After sampling this smoked garlic, I now have a minor obsession with smoked garlic, but that is a story for another day. Rebecca and Marcus have a huge garden, and we raided their garden for some super fresh zucchini (courgettes for the English) and Marcus barbecued them up to be included in this simple and delicious warm weather salad.
I’ve reproduced the recipe here, minus the English summer sun and smoked garlic (for now). You don’t really need the eggplant in the salad, but I included it as we have so many of them taking up space in the fridge!! We served it for dinner last night with friends, alongside some fresh corn with jalapeno dressing and polenta. The recipe serves 4.
- 1 giant zucchini (or 2-3 small zucchinis), sliced into long, thick strips (0.5-1cm thick)
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into long, thick strips (0.5-1cm thick)
- 400g fresh broad beans, shelled
- 1/2 bunch of mint
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch of celtic sea salt
- 1 lemon, juiced & zested
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 100g fresh goats cheese
- 1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
- A small handful of toasted pumpkin seeds, for sprinkling
- Olive oil, for cooking
- Pepper, to taste
- Put a cast iron ridged grill pan over medium heat, splash in a little olive oil and then add the zucchini and eggplant (in batches, depending on the size of your pan). Chargrill the vegetables until they are just cooked, turning them a couple of times and adding a splash of water if they start to stick too much. Aim for some nice chargrilled lines across them. If you don’t have a grill pan, you can use a barbecue or the oven grill.
- While the vegetables are grilling, fill a a medium sized saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Pod the broad beans, and then cook for 3-4 minutes in the boiling water. Drain and then run under cold water, to prevent them from cooking further. If the broad beans are not young and fresh, you may need to double pod them.
- Make the dressing by smashing the garlic with some salt in a mortar and pestle until it is a paste. Add in half of the mint leaves and smash further, and then stir in the lemon juice. Finally, stir in the olive oil and lemon zest. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed.
- Arrange the grilled zucchini and eggplant on a serving platter, sprinkle over the broad beans, remaining mint leaves, preserved lemon and goats cheese. Pour over the dressing, mix and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds before serving.