Gino D’Acampo: Food waste is a ‘crime to humans’

The TV chef is on a mission to stop home cooks from wasting so much food.

After over 30 years in the UK, there’s something Gino D’Acampo can’t get used to: the food waste.

“We are used to going to the supermarket and going to places to buy our food – to touch it, to smell it,” the TV chef says of his hometown in Naples, Italy. “In the last 30 years that I’ve been here, I’ve always been thinking: why do these people buy everything in a plastic bag? Why do they buy so much stuff they don’t need?”

For D’Acampo – who is a regular face on This Morning and fronts Gordon, Gino And Fred: Road Trip alongside Gordon Ramsay and Fred Sirieix – it’s “crazy” to buy your fruit and vegetables wrapped up in plastic.

“It’s crazy to think that anyone would go and buy a bag of peppers, without touching them, without smelling them – and without even thinking what they’re going to do with these backup peppers.

“The majority of people need one or two peppers, but they go into the supermarket, they go into the corner shop and they pick up a bag where there are seven, eight peppers. They use three and then they throw away six.

“I’m thinking: do you really know what you’re doing here? Do you know how much money you’re wasting?”

D’Acampo, 47, isn’t one to hide his feelings, and his outrage about food waste is clear – which is why he’s teamed up with Love Food Hate Waste for this year’s Food Waste Action Week, encouraging people to buy loose fruit and veg.

According to Love Food Hate Waste, 60% of food waste comes from UK homes, which results in 18 million tonnes of CO2. It suggests that the average household of four is wasting the equivalent of £1,000 per year on food that ends up in the bin.

“And yet, we have people in the world who are dying of starvation… How wrong are we? Sometimes you just need someone like me to slap you in the face and go: wakey, wakey! Don’t you see what you’re doing?” D’Acampo says.

“It’s insane to throw all this food away – I think it’s a crime to humans, to humanity, to do what we do.”

And according to D’Acampo, the problem is getting “100% worse”. “In the shops, every single thing that you buy is wrapped in plastic,” he says. “Where is the excitement, the spirit of smelling an apple or an orange?”

For D’Acampo, the issue isn’t just food waste – but home cooks could benefit from paying a bit more attention to the fruit and veg they buy.

“That’s another thing people don’t understand – I always tell them 50% of the job when you cook is about buying, it’s not about cooking. If you buy the right ingredients, you’re 50% there, and the food is going to taste much, much better.”

D’Acampo’s strong opinions around food waste stem from his upbringing. “I didn’t have a family with money, I was brought up on a farm,” he says.

“For me, it’s normal… In my house growing up, there was no throwing stuff in the bin. There was no buying things unless you really needed them. So in my mind, it’s always like: OK, what do I need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen? I want my family, my children, everybody to understand the amount of food the we are wasting.”

So what can you do to minimise waste in the kitchen? Buying loose fruit and veg is a start, so you only have what you need.

D’Acampo’s adds: “The best thing that anyone who is in the kitchen [can do] is to learn recipes that you can use leftovers [in].

“Let me give you an example from yesterday: we had lunch, a lot of roasted vegetables, roasted chicken… Usually, what do you do with the leftovers? You’re going to throw them in the bin, or you’re going to give it to your dogs if you have animals.

“Or, you’re going to come up with something that you can use that with. There are so many recipes, like risotto or a frittata – like a big omelette.

“That’s what I did yesterday, I got old roast potato, vegetables, everything else, [and I thought] I’m going to make a lovely frittata. Because the flavours are already in the vegetables, the flavours are already in the potato – it’s only the technique of putting the eggs together and there’ll be Parmesan cheese on top, then the
job was done.”

If you think you’re too busy to go to the supermarket or greengrocer to pick out individual veg, D’Acampo has an answer for that too.

“Yes, yes, yes – but you do have the time to go on social media. You do have the time to mess around watching a series on Netflix, movies and stuff like that. You do have the time for drinking in the pub, you do have the time to do millions of other things – but yet you don’t have the time to feed yourself properly.”

PICTURED ABOVE:(Left) Gino’s Italy: Like Mamma Used To Make by Gino D’Acampo (Bloomsbury Publishing, £25) | Bloomsbury Publishing/PA; (right) Gino’s Italian Family Adventure by Gino D’Acampo (Bloomsbury Publishing, £22) | Bloomsbury Publishing/PA

For D’Acampo, it speaks to a wider issue about the food ethos in this country.

“It’s like driving a Ferrari and putting the worst petrol you can think of in your car. What’s the point? You have your beautiful car, but when it comes to putting petrol in it, you’re going to choose the cheapest petrol you can get. That doesn’t work, does it?”

Embrace buying loose fruit and veg to help tackle food waste. Find out more on how to Choose What You’ll Use this Food Waste Action Week via the Love Food Hate Waste website: lovefoodhatewaste.com/fwaw


Haarala Hamilton/PA

Pasta salad

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 400g dried fusilli pasta
  • 150g broccoli florets
  • 100g green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 5tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
  • 3tbsp good-quality shop-bought red pesto
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 large red apple, cored, cut into 1cm chunks
  • 8 basil leaves, torn in half
  • 150g cold chicken breast, cut into 1cm chunks
  • 150g thick slice of ham, cut into 1cm chunks
  • 5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with water, add one tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil over a high heat. Add the pasta and cook for two minutes less than instructed on the packet, giving you a very al dente bite, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, drain in a large colander and rinse under cold water to stop it cooking. Leave to drain in the sink while you prepare the vegetables.
  2. Fill the same saucepan with water and one tablespoon of salt and again bring to the boil over a high heat. Add the broccoli and boil for one minute. Add the beans and boil for a further two minutes. Meanwhile, pour the drained pasta into a large bowl.
  3. Remove the broccoli and beans from the heat and drain in the same colander you used to drain the pasta. Rinse under cold water and leave to drain in the sink.
  4. Place the mayonnaise, pesto, red onion, apple, basil, chicken, ham and half a teaspoon of pepper into the bowl with the pasta. Sprinkle in one teaspoon of salt and mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the cooled broccoli and beans.
  5. Place the pasta salad on a large serving platter. Sprinkle over the spring onions and drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately, or place in the fridge until needed. Please remember always to serve this at room temperature, to appreciate the flavours of each ingredient.

Recipe from Gino’s Italy: Like Mamma Used To Make by Gino D’Acampo.


Haarala Hamilton/PA

Creamy risotto

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 8tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1tsp roughly chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 1 large courgette, chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 500g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 1.5L hot vegetable stock, made with stock cubes
  • 200g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 60g salted butter
  • 60g finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Pour the oil into a large heavy-based saucepan, place over a medium heat and fry the onion, thyme, pepper and courgette for 10 minutes until soft, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the rice and fry for three minutes, stirring to allow the hot oil and vegetables to coat the grains. Stir in the wine and cook for a further minute, allowing the alcohol to evaporate.
  3. Pour in a couple of ladles of hot stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and continue to cook and stir until all the stock is absorbed. At this point, please stay with the saucepan, because you need to keep stirring the risotto.
  4. Stir in the peas. Pour in the rest of the stock, a little at a time, cooking until each addition is absorbed before you add the next. It will take 18–20 minutes and you may not need to add all the stock.  Once the rice is cooked, take the pan off the heat and add the butter, Parmesan, two teaspoons of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper.
  5. Stir all together for 20 seconds, allowing the risotto to become creamy and all the ingredients to combine properly. Serve on warmed plates and enjoy.

Recipe from Gino’s Italian Family Adventure by Gino D’Acampo.


Haarala Hamilton/PA

Minestrone

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 200g canned cannellini beans, drained
  • 250g King Edward potatoes, chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 200g dark green cabbage (cavolo nero), any coarse stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 200g French beans, finely chopped
  • 2L vegetable stock, made with stock cubes
  • 120g dried conchigliette pasta (baby shells)
  • 4tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 60g finely grated pecorino cheese, to serve

METHOD

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onions, carrots
    and celery for 10 minutes, or until they are just golden.
  2. Add the cannellini beans, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, French beans and stock, and bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat, half-cover the saucepan with the lid and cook for 30 minutes,
    stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the lid, add the pasta with the parsley and continue to cook over a medium heat for a further 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste (I like to add half a teaspoon of pepper).
  5. Check that all the vegetables are tender and the pasta is cooked and serve immediately in warmed bowls, with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese on top.

Gino’s Italian Family Adventure by Gino D’Acampo is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £22. Photography by Haarala Hamilton. Available now.

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