When it comes to being environmentally friendly, I’ve never been all that great. Give me a car with heated seats and air con and I’ll use them both, at the same time. I used to do huge weekly shops with lots of impulse buying, resulting in handfuls of fresh produce being thrown out at the end of each week. This year, I’ve set myself the challenge of becoming more aware, and better educated, about environmental issues, particularly where food is concerned. So, first things first, how to reduce your food waste – and who better to get advice from than Turl Street Kitchen’s Head Chef, Carl Isham.
Carl, who has been Head Chef at TSK since it launched in 2011, started his career in the kitchens of Merchant Taylors’, one of London’s oldest kitchens. Here he catered mostly for banquets, occasionally feeding royalty like the Emperor of Japan. After his stately stint he moved on to The Gloucester Hotel and The Bailey’s Hotel, both in Kensington, before moving on to St John’s Tavern, a highly regarded gastro pub in Archway, North London. Carl’s love affair with Oxford started at Magdalen Arms – not a bad place to start – before taking the lead at TSK in 2011.
Created as a revenue stream for sister charity Oxford Hub, TSK runs as a non profit social enterprise, alongside a lesser known B&B, The Tower House and soon to be joined by Oxfork, along with the future planned Turl Street Pantry – watch this space for previews of both!
The ever popular and nationally regarded Turl Street Kitchen are well known locally for having very little food waste, while still managing to serve up imaginative and ever-changing dishes. Producing, rather impressively, a brand new menu for each and every lunch and dinner service – that’s fourteen full menus every week, with menus being published a mere couple of hours before service. *GULP*
So, how on earth do they manage it?! According to Carl, it’s all in the planning – menu planning that is. Menus are planned at least 1 day or shift ahead, with room for leftovers from previous service to be incorporated. Mains usually consist of 2 meat dishes, 2 veg and 1 fish, with 20-30 portions of each. The trick here is to use local produce (some of which is sourced a few footsteps away at Oxford’s Covered Market) and to have a repertoire of versatile dishes. So, what’s in Carl’s repertoire? Grilled whole fish, braised and slow cooked meats that can be cooked on low overnight, roasts and cook to order dishes, plus soups and frittatas – most of which are excellent for using up leftovers from their previous shift.
I asked Carl for his top tips on reducing food waste at home:
- Have a repertoire of dishes for leftovers. Carl recommends soups, bakes and frittatas*
- Plan your weekly menu and write a shopping list for everything you need
- Make it tasty – who wants to leave food on the plate when it tastes great!
- Buy less – if you need more, just pop to your local grocer/butcher/market
* If you fancy trying Carl’s frittata out for yourself, his recipe is pretty simple: 2-3 eggs plus roughly 80ml of semi skimmed milk per person, added to your choice of fillings. Or, if you fancy something a little more decadent, Carl’s base mix for a bake is 70g creme fraiche plus 80ml double cream.