Low-waste dessert recipes that are perfect for using up any fruit you have lying around

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Stuck for ideas on how to use the wrinkled produce languishing in your fruit bowl? These delicious dessert recipes are good for the environment, your wellbeing and your budget.

When it comes to being green, most of us immediately think of driving and flying less, recycling more and switching off our devices when they’re not in use. But while we often talk about cutting our carbon footprint, we rarely discuss one of the major culprits creating an adverse effect on the environment: food waste.

UK households waste 4.5m tonnes of perfectly good food every year, according to a recent study by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – the equivalent of a staggering £14bn and 10bn edible meals thrown away. Household waste, in fact, represents 70% of all food waste produced (compared to 30% created by the retail supply chain and hospitality sector), showing that most of the problem starts inside our own homes.

The good news is that there are plenty of steps we can take to tackle our food waste, from buying local and seasonal food to setting up a compost bin. Then, of course, there’s looking into smart ways of using leftover ingredients.

New cookbook Home Bird: Simple, Low-Waste Recipes for Family and Friends by Megan Davies (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small) is one place where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for a more sustainable kitchen. It’s filled with delicious dishes that can be customised according to what you already have in the fridge, recommendations for using up leftovers, and ingenious ‘mini recipes’ that stretch out scraps that might otherwise be thrown away. 

Below, Davies shares two of her multi-tasking dessert recipes. Got some past-its-prime produce in your fruit bowl that you can’t bear to throw away (but don’t want to eat on its own, either)? Davies’ pot luck caramel tarte tatin will transform it into something worthy of seconds.

If you’re planning a socially-distanced gathering in the garden, meanwhile, Davies’ orange, hazelnut and caraway pavlova is a crowd-pleasing way of using up pesky bottom-of-the-bowl citrus fruit. Summer just got even sweeter… 

  • Orange, hazelnut & caraway pavlova recipe

    Low-waste dessert recipes: Megan Davies' orange, hazelnut & caraway pavlova

    Megan says: “This recipe has been my ‘feed the hoards’ go-to pudding for a while now. Pavlovas are my favourite dessert, so admittedly it’s an easy win, but also because I’m obsessed with orange, hazelnut and caraway together. I developed this one for my supper club and haven’t looked back. The assembly of crumbly-yet chewy meringue and nutty, spiced brittle with fresh orange, is a celebration for all. You can make the meringue a day in advance, and the brittle a week in advance, just make sure you store them both in airtight containers at room temperature.”

    Serves 12

    Total time: 2 hours, plus cooling 

    Ingredients

    For the meringue

    • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
    • 6 large egg whites
    • 300g cups golden caster sugar
    • 1 tablespoon cornflour
    • 1 teaspoon orange essence

    For the brittle

    • 3 teaspoons caraway seeds
    • 300g caster sugar
    • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
    • 80g chopped roasted hazelnuts

    For the whipped cream

    • 600 ml double cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 50g icing sugar
    • 2 oranges

    For decoration 

    • 2 oranges (use above, so only 2 in total needed), segmented and membrane squeezed
    • 20g chopped roasted hazelnuts
    • 2 large baking sheets, lined with parchment paper

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 130 ̊C fan/150 ̊C/300 ̊F/Gas 2.

    Wipe the whisk and bowl of your stand mixer with a lemon wedge to clean it then add the egg whites to the bowl. Starting slowly, then increasing the speed, whisk until the whites reach soft peaks.

    Next, gradually add the sugar as the whites continue to whisk, one heaped spoonful at a time.

    Once all the sugar has been incorporated, give it another 5 minutes of whisking, then rub a little meringue between your fingers. If it feels smooth, looks shiny and you can’t feel any grains of sugar, it’s ready. If you can, whisk it for a couple of minutes more, until smooth.

    Sprinkle over the cornflour, orange essence and 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of lemon juice (from a wedge), then whisk for another 30 seconds on medium speed to mix through. Pile the meringue onto a prepared baking sheet in a large pile, then roughly spread out to a 25 cm/9 3⁄4 inch diameter disc. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 1 3⁄4 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside overnight to cool fully, with a wooden spoon wedged in the oven door.

    Whilst the meringue bakes, make the brittle. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan/skillet over a medium heat and add the caraway seeds to toast for 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and then wipe out the pan. Return the pan to the heat, reduce the heat to low-medium and add enough of the sugar to just cover the base of the pan. 

    When it starts to turn to liquid, add some more sugar and continue this process until all the sugar is in the pan and has turned to liquid caramel. You can shake the pan occasionally, but do not stir with a utensil!

    Once the sugar has melted to a liquid caramel, add the salt, hazelnuts and caraway seeds, very briefly fold (a heat-resistant silicone spatula is best), then quickly pour onto the second lined baking sheet. Let the mix cool completely and harden to a brittle, then break up into shards and store in an airtight container until needed.

    Add the double cream, vanilla extract and icing sugar to a bowl, then zest the oranges over the bowl too. Whip up the cream mix with an electric or hand whisk, until stiff peaks form and then store in the fridge until needed.

    Segment the zested oranges by slicing the top and bottom of each orange so it sits on a flat base, then using a small serrated knife, carve down the edge and around the curve of the orange, cutting away the skin and pith. You’re essentially peeling the orange. 

    Once ‘peeled’, hold the orange in your cupped hand and very carefully cut out each segment by slicing either side of each pith strip, to release a triangle/segment of orange flesh. Place the segments in a bowl and then squeeze the remaining orange membranes, over the segments to catch the juice.

    Once the meringue is cool, transfer to a serving plate. Don’t worry if the meringue has cracked, you’re about to cover it in cream! Top with the whipped cream then decorate generously with the brittle shards, fresh orange segments, chopped hazelnuts and a little jug/pitcher of fresh orange juice on the side, to serve.

    Swap ins

    This recipe is best made as is, but you could swap in the fresh oranges for blood oranges, pink/red grapefruit, nectarines or peaches, and use most nuts in place of the hazelnuts. Caraway seeds could be swapped for fennel seeds, if necessary.

    Leftovers

    The brittle will last for up to a week in an airtight container, stored at room temperature, however, the finished dessert will last only 1 day (stored in the fridge, and it won’t look as pretty) so either finish it up as it is, or break it up and serve in individual bowls with some fresh fruit, like a golden Eton Mess! 

  • Pot luck tarte tatin recipe

    Low-waste dessert recipes: Megan Davies' pot luck tarte tatin

    Megan says: “The pot luck part of the title refers to whatever (pretty much) is lurking in your fruit bowl. It’s a basic tarte tatin recipe, using up whatever fruit you have, lovingly drenched in caramel and pastry – marvellous.”

    Serves 4

    Cooking time: 55 minutes 

    Ingredients

    • 50g salted butter
    • 100g caster sugar
    • enough fruit to cover the base of the frying pan (I use 1 banana, half an apple, a nectarine and a tangerine [or half an orange])
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla paste
    • 1 roll of pre-rolled puff pastry
    • ice cream or double/heavy cream, to serve

    Equipment

    • 20-cm/8-inch diameter ovenproof frying pan/skillet

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 160 ̊C fan/180 ̊C/350 ̊F/Gas 4.

    Chop up the butter into chunks and place in the fridge.

    Put the oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat and sprinkle a quarter of the sugar over the base. Let the sugar dissolve and, once liquid, add another quarter of the sugar and let it dissolve. Gently shake the pan if you need to but do not stir with any sort of utensil! Continue adding the sugar as it dissolves and turns a deep, golden amber colour, about 10 minutes.

    Keep an eye on the sugar, and meanwhile, prep the fruit. Halve and stone any stone fruit. Peel and slice a banana into thick chunks. Cut and core an apple into wedges. Peel and thickly chop up a tangerine (or orange).

    Once the sugar has dissolved, let it come to a gentle bubble and then remove from the heat immediately. immediately Add the chilled butter and vanilla paste, then shake the pan well to melt the butter and combine. Add the fruit, cut-side-down, on top of the caramel mix, nestling it all in so it is snug and tightly fitted, in a single layer. Press it down gently to settle in the caramel too.

    Next, unroll the pre-rolled pastry on top of the frying pan and, working quickly, loosely cut around the edge. Using the end of a spoon or fingers (watching you don’t touch the hot caramel), fold under the pastry edge, tucking it in down the side of the frying pan. Then, using a small knife, prick a few holes over the pastry so steam can escape easily.

    Bake on the top shelf of the preheated oven for 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the caramel is bubbling around the edge.

    Remove from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a serving plate and serving with ice cream or double cream.

    Swap ins

    You can use plum, pear, orange (no skin), tangerine (no skin), nectarine, peach, grapes, cherries (stoned/pitted), mango (no skin), banana (no skin), pineapple (no skin) – whatever you have.

    Leftovers

    Store in the fridge for up to 1 day. 

    Home Bird: Simple, Low-Waste Recipes for Family and Friends by Megan Davies (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small) is out now

Photography: Clare Winfield

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.