(Pig’s) Heart on the table – Where do our ingredients come from?

Last week, The Forgotten Feast cooked for over 350 satisfied diners. Held at FareShare’s Bermondsey Warehouse, we were able to produce four fantastic feasts using more than 85% of ingredients sourced from surplus and unwanted stocks.
By intercepting this food on its journey to landfill, we were not only able to prevent a load of unnecessary waste, but to also prove that even food labelled as ‘waste’ can be transformed into a high quality cuisine.

The food that is donated to us from FareShare is of top-notch quality. They receive donations from major supermarkets and catering companies. Where the products have been labelled as waste, due to either an unnecessary short shelf life, cosmetic imperfection in the packaging, or even the appearance of a wonky vegetable.

At the Forgotten Feast, we take a different approach to our food sourcing. We create feasts from food that would otherwise be wasted. It is therefore imperative that the food we serve is delicious beyond belief.

The ingredients we use are of the highest quality. With so much good food being chucked out as waste, we can afford to be picky with the ingredients we choose to cook with. A lot of creativity is needed in choosing the menus for the Forgotten Feast. Much of our inspiration is taken from the European ‘nose to tail’ approach to cooking, where all food is considered a potential ingredient. In this country, food is thrown away merely due to its lack of demand. At the Forgotten Feast, we are able to source organic and sustainably conscious products, which would have else been thrown out in the garbage.

Beetroot donated by Abel and Cole, Bread collected stale from our local baker

Vegetables – For valentines, we received a generous donation of lovely organic vegetables. These vegetables were destined for landfill, not because they were rotting, but because they were surplus to demand and could not be sold. Within this haul were huge bell peppers, gnarly celeriac, grass green leeks, pears and carrots. The peppers were fresh and full of flavour. A couple in the box had to be put in the compost, but the overall quality was amazing.

We cooked the pears in a game and saffron stock (recipe to follow), which resulted in a delicious, aromatic accompaniment to the game stew. Some of the pears were softer than others so required different cooking times. The leeks made our stocks delicious and savoury sweet, and the carrots were so good we kept the skins on to roast.

These vegetables were of a better quality than I’ve seen delivered to numerous restaurants over the years. It seems to me that food legislation has gone crazy and lost touch with common sense. Why should a cabbage be put in a packet with a sell by date!? Surely it is clear when a vegetable is past its best.

The fact that companies are donating food to campaigns such as ours is remarkable and shows that they are willing to change.

Meat – Meat is not wasted in the same way as vegetables. It does have a sell by date that needs to be adhered to. This means we at the Forgotten Feast need to be more inventive when it comes to our meat sourcing and creative in our menus.

In the UK we just aren’t as thrifty as our European neighbours. Offal isn’t considered a delectable type of meat therefore is not bought on a wide scale. Sure you can find liver and kidneys for sale in the supermarkets, and the ethnic markets have an amazing selection of hooves and tripe, but ‘nose to tail’ recipes are not in the average repertoire of the home cook. Even if Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall sings its praises on prime time television, offal remains to be seen as second quality meat.

This means that most offal is sent to a rendering plant, where it is processed into grease and protein meal. Offal is made up of any extremity, or insides, that are not a common cut, including the intestines used to make sausages and chicken wings. This gives Forgotten Feast a wonderfully rich and diverse list of ingredients in which to create dishes. At valentines we made pate with minced pigs cheeks and liver, and a paprikash of pig’s heart (one of the most popular dishes).

Pate made with minced pig's cheek and liver

Game – is another way that we have managed to expand our ingredients list. We have received donations from shoots, where birds are shot for sport and less so for food. The hunters may take some of the game home, or the dogs may receive a generous reward, however, if the shoot is successful, many of the animals will be just left and the meat will be wasted.

Pest control is another example of where delicious meat is being forgotten. Many farmers and gamekeepers protect their crops and livestock from hundreds of rabbits and hares. Often the bodies are left where they are shot again resulting in an incredible waste of delicious meat. Kindly, farmers are donating these animals to us to be used in our appetizing dishes.

Pheasant, jointed for stew

Foraged food – There is of course a bounty of wild food, growing all around us. Some are rare and should be picked sparingly, but other ingredients grow in abundance. We tapped into this abundance at ‘Valentines for Everyone’ with Douglas fir tree and wild horseradish. These being kindly picked for us by Peter @absolutelywild. Having never cooked with these ingredients before, I was inspired to try out some new dishes. We first bruised, then infused the Douglas fir in oil. Then roasted it with the carrots. The wild horseradish was grated fresh onto the soup, giving off a lovely pungent aroma. I now look forward to cooking more dishes, using the wild delicacies that our country boasts.

We are always trying to discover new ways to save food from being wasted. If you have any questions, or ideas please leave a comment below.

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