Lettuce soup as a starter for smart food thinking
An article in The Guardian Cut Your Food Waste tells me that the amount of food we throw away in the UK is frightening. “The average UK household throws away 5kg of food a week – the equivalent of a whole chicken, garnished with 22 carrots and 11 potatoes, every week”. That kind of waste is wrong on all kinds of levels, from environmental to monetary. Organisations like Wrap have done a lot to inform, educate and publicise the issue and in turn The Guardian asks its readers what’s the best way to reduce our food waste?
As a vegetable grower I can dream that if more people tried growing just a few veggies then the realisation of how much work and effort goes into growing our food would lead to less waste. Imagine the scenario where you’ve lovingly grown and tended your veggie patch what’s the last thing that would happen, that you pick your salads, peas and beans shove them in the fridge and then promptly forget about them only later to throw them away? Of course not, you use them as soon as you pick them, they are special, and they taste amazing. For the majority growing a few veggies is beyond reach and the best option to reduce food waste is according to Wrap “planning, portioning, storage, date labels, and leftovers”.
When it comes to salads we could all use Wrap’s sound advice, the biggest throwaway item from fridges is salad bags. In 2013 Tesco admitted that up to two thirds of its bagged salads are thrown away each year with 68% of salad sold in bags was wasted – 35% of it thrown out by customers (source – BBC News )
The food industry is looking at ways to reduce the rubbish… but only yesterday in my local Morrisons I saw double bags of salads being sold as “special” offers, it seems we have a way to go. While the food industry continues to find more ways to sell more to us we can look at how to use our food smart. Lettuce soup is a start to smart food thinking.
Looking at food availability and the need to reduce waste brings me to a book on the former Hastings resident, Miss Emily Crane of Lavender Cottage. Through her diaries and letters to her cousin in Canada she reveals the details of her daily life following WWII. Seymour’s book is sprinkled with recipes, gardening titbits and household hints. “With the same cheerful stoicism that was part of the war effort, Emily continues to “make do” and follow the government’s strict regulations on salvaging (re-cycling), that gives lessons to the 21st Century. The wartime spirit of all being in it together still lingered but Miss Crane found time for sedate amusements and discreet gossip about neighbours.”
Austerity Diary from Lavender Cottage Hastings 1947 – Victoria Seymour
“Clare made lettuce soup yesterday. This may sound a somewhat bland dish but it was certainly not. The recipe produced about one and half pints of soup, which we had for lunch. Edith went quite mad on it and consumed three platefuls; soon after lunch was over she fell into a deep sleep on the sofa. I had to go out to our little shop nearby and I mentioned in passing to the proprietor Mr Watson, the new soup recipe and Edith’s falling so deeply asleep. He, font of all knowledge, said he had read that lettuce contains laudanum and perhaps that was why Edith was so sleepy. As it was, she slept right through the afternoon, waking only to join us at supper, and then going to bed very early. She was none the worse next morning and said how refreshed she felt.”
The original recipe calls for a greater proportion of potatoes and lettuce, I’ve adapted the quantities to suit me and my life, or rather a lonesome potato that needs using along with a lettuce and the remains of a bag of salad that were lurking in the bottom of the fridge. For those wondering, the weight of the lettuce and salad was 200g and the soup serves 4.
Lettuce, parsley and potato soup
- 2 tablespoons of dripping or some other fat (I used butter)
- ½ an onion or 1 leek or several spring onions sliced and chopped
- 1 large peeled potato cut into small cubes
- 1 lettuce
- A bunch of parsley (roughly 6 tablespoons chopped)
- 1 pint of vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Gently fry the onion or leeks in fat until soft
- Add the potato and cook gently for a further 3 minutes
- Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes
- Add the chopped lettuce and parsley and continue simmering until all ingredients are completely cooked (approx. 5 to 10 minutes)
- Sieve soup and season to taste with salt and pepper – I used a liquidiser to blend the soup till smooth
Notes on lettuce as a soporific and a Beatrix Potter link –
Reading of Edith falling asleep after eating her lettuce soup reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s Flopsy Bunnies eating too much of Mr McGregor’s lettuce and falling into a deep sleep, for those interested in the sleep inducing qualities of lettuce I found a wonderful article on The Tangled Nest Soporific Salad and lettuce Opium – sweet dreams!