The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again and I am sure we are all looking forward to spending time with family and friends over food!
But before we all get too carried away preparing for the massive feast fest, I would like to alert everyone on the issue of food wastage so that we can all be conscious about the issue.
Here are some pertinent stats.
Singapore generated 786 million kg of food waste in 2015 which is about two bowls of food waste per person per day. At that rate, we will need a new incineration plant every 7-10 years, and a new landfill every 30 – 35 years! This is critical for all of us living here in land scarce Singapore, so we should all play a part in reducing food wastage and protect the environment!
This can be as simple as planning our menus properly to cater to the exact number of people and not being too kiasu and over cater such that there are lots of food leftover. I think it is one of the biggest problems whenever we organise things like pot luck because everyone tries to cater a single portion of food for everyone else and in the end, there is always so much food that is wasted! So plan such that everyone can just have a taste of your masterpiece. It’s actually not a bad thing if they go away wanting more! An app like HPB’s Healthy Chef can help you with planning the meal.
Another thing to keep in mind is to ensure that leftovers are packed and kept in the fridge quickly in order to prevent spoilage. In general, food should be either kept below 5°C, ie in the fridge, or above 60°C. You should not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours to ensure that it is safe to eat.
So, in situations where you have leftovers, what can you do with them?
For a typical Christmas meal, there will always be some leftover turkey, ham, roast beef and veggies. You can of course cut it all up and make fried rice, but fried rice is soooooo last generation! Nowadays the kids are going for cheesy baked rice! So, I am going to share with you a cheese sauce that is easy to make and is so versatile that you can convert almost anything into something the kids will go gaga over. In fact, this is so good, they might even look forward to the leftover meal instead of the actual meal!
Here is what you need:
Ingredients (Good for 2 trays like the one in the photo)
Shredded cheese 1 cup
Milk 1 cup
Cornflour 1 Tbsp
Chicken stock powder 1-2 tsp to taste
Extra cheese for topping
Bay leaves 3
Nutmeg – a pinch
Black pepper – a pinch
Add bay leaves and nutmeg to milk and heat up in a pot. Mix cornflour and cheese together evenly. When you see steam starting to rise from the milk, add the cheese gradually and stir till you get a nice creamy sauce. You do not need the milk to be boiling hot. Most cheeses will melt between 65 – 85°C. Set the cheese sauce aside.
To assemble, mix whatever leftovers you have and arrange in a baking tray. Spoon cheese sauce over the mix, top with more shredded cheese and bake at 180°C until the top turns golden brown.
1. Make sure that the leftovers have been properly stored in air tight containers and do not look mouldy or have a foul smell before using them. Store the leftovers in the freezer if you are not going to use them in the next 2 days. When baking the dish, do ensure that the food is cooked all the way through
2. . Traditionally, cheese sauce is made by first making a white sauce from a roux and then adding the cheese. This is a technique I learnt from Heston Blumenthal that works quite well and is much simpler as you do not have to make a roux first. The corn flour ensures that the cheese melts into a creamy consistency instead of breaking into an oily mess.
3. You can use any cheese, even leftovers, that can be shredded eg cheddar, mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, Swiss cheese, smoked cheese, gouda etc. Avoid using soft cheeses like brie and camembert. Adding hard cheeses like parmesan, pecorino, gruyere etc will add even more flavour!
4. Since this is a leftover food recipe, the only thing you really need to measure are the ingredients for the cheese sauce. The cheese sauce acts to bring all the other ingredients together. For a one dish meal, you will need some carbs. I am using rice in this case, but you can use macaroni or other pastas or even leftover bread. When handling rice, do note that you should never leave cooked rice at room temperature as toxins can form easily. If you are planning to store cooked rice, it should be cooled within an hour after cooking and placed in a covered container in the fridge. Do not store cooked rice in the fridge for more than two days and when you reheat, make sure that it is piping hot. It is also advisable not to reheat rice more than once. Whatever leftover veggies like capsicum, carrots, beans, sweet potatoes, potatoes, zucchini etc can be added. Leftover meats like roast beef, turkey, ham, lamb, sausages, bacon will add savoury flavour to the dish. If you find you have not enough cheese sauce, simply make another batch!
I hope this simple recipe will help to inspire you to use your leftovers creatively and do remember to make an effort to reduce food wastage this festive season! If we all could play our small part, it would really make a big impact on our environment! For more information on how to reduce food wastage, download this HANDY GUIDE.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
This post was sponsored by the NEA as part of the Food Waste Reduction campaign.