Celebrity Masterchef Yvonne Connolly on cooking up a storm with leftovers

Yvonne Connolly says lists are key when cooking with leftovers, writes Clodagh Finn

THEY say that every part of the pig is edible — except its squeal. When TV broadcaster and cook Yvonne Connolly talks about cutting food waste, she doesn’t quite put it like that but she’ll tell you she always uses every part of a chicken.

Managing food so that nothing is wasted is a skill she has honed since she made a big culinary splash on Celebrity Masterchef in 2013. She went on to graduate with a certificate in cooking and is now a regular in the kitchen on the Six O’Clock Show on TV3. With each step, she has become better at planning meals, managing food, and cutting waste, she says.

She has gone from being the person who let food go off in the fridge to teaming up with Lidl and FoodCloud to launch an initiative that will redistribute unsold but perfectly good food to local charities.

Since working with the food waste heroes, Connolly, a mother of three, has doubled her list of food management tips, she tells Feelgood. And top of that list is to never shop hungry. She also shops regularly — “I think I spend half my life in the supermarket” — to make sure that perishables stay fresh.

She has revised her view of best-before dates, which are not the same as expiry dates. Food is often still edible after it has reached its best-before date; common sense will tell you when you need to throw something out, she says.

One of the most important things is to make a list. “Without one, it’s just guesswork. I organise my fridge and cupboards, see what’s in them and see what I need.”

After that, she plans the week ahead. That is not easy because her three children — Jack, 18, Missy, 16, and Ali, 11 — rarely eat the same meal. “I’ve let them get into bad habits.”

There is an upside, though. Jack and Missy are both rather accomplished cooks and turn to YouTube for inspiration before developing a recipe of their own. Anything that encourages them to have a wider menu than Connolly had in her student days is to be encouraged. “All I cooked was spaghetti bolognese, chicken with parmesan and breadcrumbs and carbonara. I cooked them every second day.”

These days, dinner is usually Asian-inspired and spicy — something that goes down well with everyone.

Connolly, a former model, thinks there’s something of a food revolution going on with young people now because they are all online. She hopes renewed focus on food will be shaped by some of the staggering statistics on food waste.

In Ireland, each person throws out about 80kg of food a year, according to Stop Food Waste. Fruit and vegetables, plus roots and tubers, have the highest wastage rates at up to 40%-50%, according to UN figures.

FoodCloud, in conjunction with Lidl, hopes to change that.

FoodCloud co-founder and chief executive Iseult Ward tells Feelgood the campaign aims to involve all 180 Lidl stores nationwide and to deliver up to 1m meals, which might have gone to landfill otherwise, to local charities by 2020.

Five years ago, she set up the food waste social enterprise with fellow student Aoibheann O’Brien and, since then, nearly 10,000 tonnes of food from 1,900 retailers have been redistributed to over 3,600 charities.

FoodCloud passed a landmark earlier this year when the number of meals redistributed in Ireland and Britain passed 20m.

While the FoodCloud/Lidl campaign is designed to redistribute retail surplus, you can take simple steps to cut food waste at home:

  • Shop smart. Plan meals, stick to a grocery list, and avoid impulse buying.
  • Don’t give in to bargains. If it wasn’t on your list in the first place, then you definitely don’t need two just because it’s a buy-one-get-one-free ‘bargain’.
  • Use-by dates are a guideline of food quality, not food safety. Use common sense in judging the freshness of food.
  • Don’t be afraid of ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables. They can be just as fresh and tasty as their brighter and shinier counterparts.
  • Drying, canning, sugaring, salting, and pickling are all good ways to get more out of your food.
  • Plan one ‘use-it-up’ meal a week. Get
    creative and use up all products close to
    expiration date, experimenting with different
    flavours and spices.


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