With the release of our latest waste-fighting eBook The Clever Cook, we sit down and have a short Q&A with the eBook’s author (and our comms coordinator) Maria Hannaford to learn what developing the book taught her about our power to improve our environment.

What’s the premise of the eBook?

Out of the 4 MILLION tonnes of edible food Aussie households throw in the bin every year, 60% of it is fresh food (fruit & veg left to wilt) and leftovers. It’s crazy of course! One of the major reasons why we waste food like this is because we buy more than we need and we simply don’t know what to do with our leftovers. The Clever Cook features 60 recipes that revolve around this theme of using up leftovers and shows you how to reinvent all sorts of leftovers into fab new meals. Doing this saves money as well as reduces waste.

What impact can reducing our individual food waste really have on the environment?

I think many of us underestimate the effect food waste has on our climate and environment. Let’s put it this way – for every tonne of food waste not sent to landfill, almost one tonne of CO2 emissions is saved. Our actions really do make a difference!

What was the motivation behind developing the eBook?

We all know food and packaging waste is a big issue. When we focussed our 2014 Give a Fork! campaign on the topic, we were blown away by how much interest people had in it. But the sentiment we saw expressed over and over again was that most of us didn’t know how to combat it. We decided to develop something really practical, that gave people concrete tips and methods to reduce waste in their daily lives. Ergo, The Clever Cook was born.

Why is reducing our food and packaging waste so important?

Reducing waste is vital if we are to curb the damage that’s being inflicted on our planet. If we continue to waste like we do, we’re effectively continuing to pollute our air, waterways and soil. We’re effectively continuing to waste all the resources it took to produce the food in the first place (farmer labour, livestock, water etc). It’s also important to remember that while we throw away tonnes of edible food each year, 2 million Australians don’t have enough food to eat. By continuing to waste, we’re perpetuating the inequity that exists between those who can afford food (and afford to throw it away) and those who can’t.

What’s your favourite recipe from the eBook?

The Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup is probably one of my all-time favourite feeds. It’s the dish I crave whenever I’m feeling unwell or it’s cold outside. I love it not only because the flavour is out of this world, it’s also the easiest thing to make, requiring only 4 ingredients and no effort. If you use a whole chicken (freerange/organic of course) you end up with loads of meat to stretch over a number of quick meals throughout the week, which is a bonus.

Chicken & Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

A traditional heart-warming and nourishing soup from Greece, Avgolemono is a terrific and very economical way to cook up a whole chicken. The ingredients are minimal but the flavour is intense due to the long cooking time. You can also use the carcass left over from a roast chook.

1 whole organic or freerange chicken or carcass from Cheat’s Roast Chicken (featured in The Clever Cook)
1/3 cup short grain rice
1 organic or free range egg
juice of 1 lemon
salt and white pepper, to taste

Use leftovers to make
Balinese Chicken Salad, featured in The Clever Cook
Mixed Business Hot Rolls, featured in The Clever Cook

With the vegie scraps
Chicken bones: keep in the freezer for stock
Lemon skins: make Lemon Spoon Dessert or see more ideas in The Clever Cook

Step 1.
Place the chicken breast side up in a large pot. Cover with cold water, place the lid on and leave to simmer on low for 2 hours.

Step2.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the rice and boil gently until al dente.

Step 3.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and lemon juice until light and frothy.

Step 4.
Grab a soup ladle and ladle a small amount of the hot soup into the egg and lemon mixture. Blend and repeat a few times until the temperature of the egg/lemon mixture matches that of the soup.

Step 5.
Pour the mixture into the pot of soup and stir well to combine.

Step 6.
Shred some chicken and add to the soup. Simmer very gently over low heat until the soup starts to thicken (be careful not to bring to the boil). Add salt and white pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Grab a copy of The Clever Cook today for only $12.50. And right now until 3rd August, buy a copy of the eBook and you could win an Ultimate Zero Waste Kit valued at over $100!