“Best before” labels: do they increase food waste?

Food which is otherwise thrown out, is being salvaged and sold at heavily discounted prices to people who need it. “Foodies” of Cape Town, South Africa are selling damaged food or food which is past its “sell by” or “best before” date at significantly reduced prices. the-issue-of-global-food-waste

The “sell by” date was first introduced by Marks & Spencer’s in their warehouses in 1953. The intention was for the retailer to know by when to sell their products.

Over the following two decades the “sell by” date was tweaked to “sell until”, “display until” etc.   It’s all very confusing for the consumer!  And as a result tonnes of food is wasted every year.

In 2009, the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs was quoted as saying that, the UK alone, throws away 370,000 tonnes of food each year.

Date labelling is mandatory under European law.

What happens if you consume food past the date on the packaging?

As long as you use your common sense and follow your nose, nothing will happen. Have you ever eaten a pot of yogurt “expired” by a few days?  Try it. I promise, you will live to tell the tale!

If you have fruit and vegetables in the bottom drawer of your fridge and they’ve been sitting there for the past five to six weeks, you do not need a date on the packet to tell you they’re not good to eat. They’re probably soft and mouldy and I suspect a foul smell hits you every time you open the fridge door.

“Sell by”, “sell until”, “best before”, “display until” are all meant for stock and quality control.  It is only “use by” which is meant to be taken literally, for food safety reasons.

A restaurant in Denmark is making use of fruit and vegetables which the supermarkets throw out.  The restaurant is sponsored by a charity and the proceeds from food sold go towards funding development projects in Sierra Leone.


Personally, I believe that one of the reasons retailers insist “best before” dates are not removed, is because they play on the consumers’ minds. No matter how much is said or written, a great number of people will still choose to “play safe” and throw out their “expired” products, resulting in increased sales.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think products past their “sell by” date are fit for human consumption? Leave a comment.

My thanks go to:

BBC News (Africa)

The Guardian online

The Telegraph online (food and drink)

Visit Copenhagen


How to peel a butternut squash

Yesterday, when I was getting my fruit and veg, one of the ladies at the shop, asked me how I peel my butternut squash.  She reminded me of a friend of mine who expressed concern for the safety of her fingers when peeling squash.

I used to peel the squash with a sharp knife, until I discovered this very easy method.

Peeling butternut squash in 5 easy steps

  1. Scrub the skin of the squash under running water and pat dry.Scrub butternut squash under running water
  2. Pierce the skin with a fork and rub the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pierce skin with fork
  3. Place on a lined roasting tin and put in a hot oven (230 degrees C.) for 60 minutes – turning once – until tender.Coat squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  4. Let the squash rest at room temperature until it is cool enough to handle.Roast butternut squash (2)
  5. Peel the skin off with a paring knife or with your fingers and use the squash as required.  Roasted squash keeps for a couple of days (in a closed container) in the fridge.peeling butternut squash

Indeed, you can peel or scrape the skin off a butternut squash without roasting it.

However, experience taught me that the squash has a better taste when roasted and it is so much easier to peel.

Another option would be, placing the squash in the microwave for a five minutes. Personally, I am not a fan of this method, cause I find that the taste of the squash suffers in the process.

Try roasted squash in soups or in salads.  Once you roast your squash, you will not go back.

My thanks go to:

Good Housekeeping for video

How to work with kitchen measures

Have you ever felt lost when figuring out the amount of ingredients you need for your recipe?

Recipes come in imperial, metric or cup / spoon measure.  And as if that is not enough, there’s also slight variance between American and Australian cup / spoon measures.

Most recipes come with conversions in brackets to help you choose which measure you’d like to follow.  It is very important you do not use different types of measures interchangeably because conversions are approximate.  Example:  150ml is precisely 5.2794 fl ozs, but it would be impossible to buy a measure for 5.2794 fl ozs, so a recipe would be rounded off.

What measures do you need?

You do not need to invest in very expensive kitchen equipment unless you choose to.

But if you want your cooking to go off at a good start, you require some basic measuring tools such as kitchen scales, a measuring jug, a set of cup measures and a set of spoon measures.

How to measure ingredients

How important is it to measure your ingredients?

Measuring your ingredients is vital.

When you are cooking everyday food, you can get away with tweaking your recipe slightly, but when you are baking or preparing sweets, it is not advisable to make changes.

Recipes are tried and tested until the balance of ingredients is perfected for best results.  If you decide to halve the sugar, for example, you can easily imbalance your recipe with disastrous consequences.

Do not be tempted to guess the weight of your ingredients.  If you get the proportions wrong, your recipe is doomed to failure, even before it goes in the oven or on the hob.

With everyday food you can experiment more. If you are trying a recipe for the first time, it is a good idea to go by the book.  However, after using the recipe for a couple of times, you may choose to reduce the liquid for thicker consistency, or omit / replace an ingredient which did not go down too well.

By and large, a number of food recipes still work well if you make minor tweaks or if you do not weigh or measure your ingredients religiously.

Weighing scales

weighing scalesIn the catering industry, chefs use scales with weights.  However, these take up a lot of space and are not practical in the domestic kitchen.  Choose a precision-made model; I prefer digital scales because they are very accurate.  Some models come with a setting to choose whether you want to work with imperial or with metric weights. Go for what works best for you.  If you prefer working in metric, you do not need to find a model which converts from one system to another.

Most recipes come with the various types of measurements or you can convert if you’re working with online recipes.

Cup and spoon measures

cups and spoonsCup and spoon measures come in plastic or metal.  They are used for measuring small quantities of dry or liquid ingredients.  Do not be tempted to use normal spoons; sizes vary greatly and they are not good to measure ingredients because they will imbalance your recipe.

Do not over-fill spoon / cup measures.  Dry ingredients should not be heaped. Run the back of a knife over your dry ingredients to level the contents to the edge of your measure.

When measuring liquids, the content should be level to the edge of your spoon or cup.

Measuring jug

measuring jugThere are a variety of measuring jugs on the market.  Do not go for the cheapest one around because it may not be suitable to measure hot liquids.  Go for a jug which is heatproof and clear as this type proves to be the most durable and practical.

When measuring liquids or dry ingredients in a jug, place it on a flat surface and go down to see the contents at eye level.


5 tips to remember

  • Make your life easy: convert your recipes before you download them.
  • Choose one type of measure and stick to it throughout your recipe.
  • Do not be tempted to use normal spoons or cups.
  • Do not be tempted to guess the weight of your ingredients.
  • Download this cheat sheet and stick it in your kitchen.

Did you find this information useful? Leave a comment or drop me an email

My thanks go to

Good Cooking Kitchen Know-How


Allrecipes.com for the video

https://www.google.com.mt/ for images


http://www.craftsy.com/ and

http://www.independent.co.uk/ for the links




How to defrost chicken safely

There are three ways how to defrost chicken.  The safest way is to defrost it in the fridge.  But you can also defrost chicken in water, in a microwave or cook from frozen.

Defrosting chicken in the fridge

Defrosting chicken in the fridgeFood safety is important; plan ahead. Defrosting chicken in the fridge takes time, but it is the safest way.  The rule is five hours for every 0.453 kgs of chicken.  Therefore, a bird weighing 2.5 kgs will take approximately 24 hours to defrost.

To defrost the chicken keep it in its packaging and place, in a deep container, on the bottom shelf.  This will ensure no water from the chicken spills over other food.

Defrosting chicken in cold water

Another way of defrosting chicken is by placing it in cold water.  Put the chicken in a sealed plastic bag and place the bag in a large bowl of cold water or in your kitchen sink.  Change the water every 30 minutes to speed up the defrosting process.

Thawing chicken in waterThis method of defrosting is best suited for small pieces of chicken, such as breasts or thighs.  It takes one hour to defrost 0.453 kgs of chicken using this method.

Do not be tempted to use hot water; bacteria multiplies in hot water.

Once the chicken is defrosted, cook immediately.

Defrosting chicken in a microwave

Defrosting chicken in a microwave is the quickest way of getting the job done.  However, it is not necessarily the ideal way.

Defrosting chicken in a microwaveRemove the packaging and place the chicken in a microwavable container.  Check your microwave instruction manual and set the time accordingly.  Do not over-microwave your chicken.  Microwaving your chicken for too long, will heat up the meat and promote the growth of bacteria.  If you  leave the chicken in the microwave for too long you can partially cook the bird.

Can chicken be cooked from frozen?

Yes; chicken can be cooked from frozen but it takes, approximately, one and a half times as long for it to cook.

Bear in mind, under-cooking white meat (chicken, pork, veal) can be very dangerous.  If possible, use a meat thermometer to check the cooking temperature of the meat.  The correct temperature for chicken is 74 degrees Celcius (165 degrees Fahrenheit). If you do not have a thermometer, test the chicken by inserting a skewer or pointed knife in the thickest part of the chicken.  The juices should run clear.

Dos and don’ts about chicken

  • Do not defrost chicken on the kitchen counter; warm temperature promotes the growth of bacteria.
  • Do not refreeze defrosted chicken; not unless it is properly cooked and cooled down well.
  • Do make sure the chicken is piping hot, all the way through, before serving.
  • Do not wash raw chicken; you could splash bacteria around your kitchen.
  • Do wash your hands, knives and chopping board in warm, soapy water after handling raw chicken (and other meat).


For further reading, go to 




Photo credits