Happy new year! After a few weeks offline (and lots of phone calls to internet providers) we now have internet up and running in our new flat and I'm back blogging. The river's roar is easily heard with the windows open and we've been getting some interesting species on our window list; including cormorant. I'm looking forward to discovering what else lives around here and will always be looking out hopefully for the local otters that fish along the Exe.
Along with the unpacking we've been rediscovering Christmas presents (doesn't that feel a long time ago!?) and my nearest and dearest definitely know me well. Some of the green gifts I received were a bottle of local cider made from apples collected from roadside wild trees (ones that spring up from apple cores thrown out of car windows), the new River Cottage cook book Veg Every Day with lots of new ideas for yummy new recipes to tempt me away from meat in every meal, a grow your own fruit kits, a DIY wedding book and a sloe gin set for slightly more sophisticated bottling and presentation compared to my normal lemonade bottles.
This week I decided to do a bit of bulk cooking. With no freezer in the flat this means a bit more creativity than just cooking a massive pot of one dish and freezing portions. Starting with a big pot of cooked mince I took some out to make tonight's shepherd's pie, then by adding tomatoes, garlic and herbs what remained became a pot of bolognese sauce for later in the week, and then half of that has finally turned into chili con carne with kidney beans, chilies and a bit of grated carrot. Two packets of mince turned into three meals and 6 portions with very little effort. I was really surprised how far the meat when once all the other ingredient were added. I'd bought three packets of mince and only ended up using two, so any novel recipes for mince would be welcome since it needs eating soon!
Cooking in bulk is a great way to cut down on cooking costs. It doesn't take a lot more energy to cook double quantities and then reheating in the microwave is very quick and low energy. The cooker was on for maybe an hour (no more than would be needed to cook one chili con carne) but we wont need to turn it on again for at least three days. Planning your meals also means less waste food as you can make sure you use any leftover ingredients in other dishes later in the week.
Speaking of waste I'm slowly coming to terms with the recycling system in Exeter. There's no glass collection from homes which feels very odd. I haven't taken glass to a bottle bank for years but thankfully there's one just around the corner from us so it's not actually a problem at all. Other recycling seems fantastic though. ALL plastics including food wrappers, containers and plastic bags can be recyced as well as the normal paper, cardboard, tins and aluminum. I just wish there was a food waste collection here. That was one of the best things about the recycling in Preston because throwing away vegetable peelings and any food that we really can't use up feels like such a waste. Hopefully though I can avoid some of this by enlisting a friends help. Hopefully I'll be able to donate my non-cooked food waste to a friend who looks after an allotment plot and is always looking for more stuff to compost. One woman's rubbish another woman's treasure...
So that's where I'm up to in 2013 so far. Figuring out recycling, bulk cooking yummy winter warmers to save energy and having fun playing with the new gifts from Christmas. Still on my green to do list for the coming weeks are plant various seeds and bulbs, explore along the river for wildlife and try out some new veggie recipes as well as maybe an exciting visit to the local RiverFord farm where my veg boxes come from. Keep reading for more next week.