The Food Saver’s A-Z is an essential kitchen companion in the truest sense. It helps reduce food waste by giving ideas and recipes for those odds and ends we all have lying in our pantries and fridges but don’t know what to do with. From half wilted celery to apple peels, left over dried fruit, egg whites and that lone spoon of honey, you’ll find ingenious ways of using up every last morsel. 

It is written by Alex Elliot-Howery and Jaimee Edwards, two teachers at the Cornersmith Cooking School, who want to help people change their habits in the kitchen. In their words “we want you to be a more confident and instinctive cook, to take creative liberties with what you have and what you like”. 

It is to be used as a guide, which is exactly how I’ve been using it. They layout is an A-Z list of ingredients, helping you quickly find ways to use up that one ingredient you can’t seem to get rid of. In addition, you’ll find what pairs with what, waste hacks, preserving tips and ingredient swaps. Perusing it, it reminded me of The Flavor Bible but a more practical and affordable version. Whereas the Flavor Bible will teach you about flavors and pairings and introduce you to fancy ingredients, the Food Saver’s A-Z will give you practical tips to use up the ingredients familiar to you that you already have on hand. It’s practicality and ease of use has made it an instant favorite of mine, not only because it’s helped me use up ingredients that would go to waste, but because reading it leaves me inspired to create new dishes. 

One of the ingredients they cover is Bay Leaves – the elusive herb we’re told adds flavor to anything but most often lies unused unless you’re making a broth or soup. Personally, I only use them for soups, broths, pickling and the occasional bolognaise sauce. When I came across this section, I instantly knew I had to share it, so here is an abridged version of Bay leaves from A-Z Food Saver’s Guide. 

The Food Saver’s A-Z: The Essential Cornersmith Kitchen Companion

What are Bay Leaves?

Considered a woody herb they are most often added during the cooking process especially for lengthy dishes where the heat and slow cooking release their oils and deepen the flavor of the dish. They taste like the woods – eucalyptus, nutmeg and earth and while they’re a great addition to cooking they cannot be eaten, you must remove them before eating. 

How to Use Up Bay Leaves

  1. Add 1-2 bay leaves in meaty stews and tomato-based sauces to add flavor while cooking. 
  2. Put a few bay leaves in your rice or flour jars to deter insects.
  3. Make your own dried bouquet garni, the classic herb mix used to flavor stocks, soups, and casseroles. In a jar add 8 bay leaves, 4 tablespoons each of dried parsley and dried thyme, 2 tablespoons dried marjoram or rosemary. Store in the pantry for 3-6 months and add 2 of the bay leaves and 2-3 teaspoons of the rest of the mix to your next stock, stew, or casserole. 
  4. Add a few bay leaves to water when boiling potatoes or lentils. 
  5. When making a bechamel or pouring custard,ß add a few leaves to the milk.
  6. Add a few bay leaves and a thyme sprig to store bought tomato puree or sauce to make it taste more homemade. 
  7. Add 3-4 bay leaves and ½ teaspoon black peppercorns to your next batch of marmalade for a savory edge. 
  8. Add bay leaves to anything you pickle like onions or cucumber.
  9. Make a calming and healing tea with 6-8 bay leaves, strips of peel from 1 orange and 2 cinnamon sticks. 

The above is an excerpt from The Food Savers A-Z : The Essential Corner smith Kitchen Companion published by Murdoch Books and distributed by Jonathan Ball Publishers. It is available here

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