Celebrity chef Tony Singh: don’t be a Christmas turkey this party season – reduce your festive food waste by planning ahead

People in Scotland are set to throw away over 50,000 tonnes* of food and drink throughout the month of December, including 280,000 turkeys**, 240,000 Christmas puddings and 3.5 million mince pies***.

17 Dec 15

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead – who recently announced his intention to introduce a formal food waste reduction target for Scotland – has teamed up with Scottish celebrity chef Tony Singh to urge people to plan ahead, resist the temptation to over-buy and help to cut the amount of food they throw away over the festive period.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“In October, I announced the very encouraging news that since 2009, avoidable food waste in Scotland had dropped by almost eight per cent, representing an annual saving of around £92 million for households throughout the country. There’s so much more to be done, however, particularly during the festive period – when we’ve previously seen a spike in food waste figures as people admit to throwing away more food at this time of year than any other.

“Planning ahead for the party season is easy to do. It’s crucial that we all play our part to reduce food waste and appreciate the very significant environmental and economic impact it has. Tony Singh is widely recognised as one of the country’s top chefs, and I know he shares my passion in terms of helping Scotland to work towards becoming a zero waste society. He is a fantastic ambassador for Scotland and I’m delighted that we’re able to make the most of his expertise as a seasoned chef and restaurateur during European Week for Waste Reduction.”

Tony Singh – perhaps best known for his many appearances on the BBC’s Great British Menu, as well as one half of the duo The Two Incredible Spice Men with fellow chef Cyrus Todiwala - has partnered with Scottish Government-funded organisation, Zero Waste Scotland, to provide his top five tips for planning ahead effectively, during the party season:


Tony’s tip 1.

You can keep waste to an absolute minimum when cooking Christmas dinner – as well as avoid putting people off their dessert – by calculating and controlling portion size. Do a few simple calculations based on your Christmas Day guest numbers. In the restaurant trade, we create recipes around a basic adult or child size portion. You can do this by applying a simple formula of 140g turkey (100g for a child), two tablespoons of carrots (one for a child), two florets of cauliflower (one for a child), four brussels sprouts and one parsnip (1/2 for a child), to each portion. Multiply that quantity by the number of guests you’re entertaining and you will be able to accurately work out your requirements and therefore cut down on your food waste very easily. The key thing to remember is don’t be tempted to overload your guests’ plates. Being presented with much food can be off-putting and can end up wasted – it’s far better to allow people to ask for more if they want it.”

Tony’s tip # 2.

Don’t worry if you overestimate slightly and make a bit too much on Christmas Day itself. You can continue to plan ahead for the days following Christmas by keeping your festive leftovers aside to make some very quick, easy and healthy recipes that I’ve created exclusively for this campaign. Let’s face it - no one can really be bothered cooking on Boxing Day and, in any case, people are usually looking for something a bit lighter. My noodle & turkey broth, healthy veggie & tomato curry or turkey and slaw baguette are the perfect day-after antidote to a heavy Christmas dinner!

Tony’s tip # 3.

Only attempt a Christmas shop if you’re first of all armed with a very specific shopping list, based on your pre-calculations. That way, if you’re tempted by one or two additional special offers, they’re less likely to go to waste since you’re not buying an excess of the other essentials. Remember to check your cupboards first too, as you may already have a lot of the ingredients you need. It goes without saying that you should check the use-by dates on fresh items, and buy the freshest you can find on the shelves, usually stocked towards the back. Make a conscious decision not to get sucked in by the glossy advertising, marketing and special offers around Christmas time. Stay focused and only buy what you need on your list.”

Tony’s tip # 4.

“Think ahead about your guests’ preferences. If you know you don’t have any Christmas pudding fans, don’t buy any! Instead, base your dessert choices around the things you know your guests will enjoy, and if you don’t know, ask! Be creative – perhaps a chocolate yule log or a simple trifle would be better-received, and again, calculate the quantity needed by multiplying the number of portions by the number of guests. Leftover cheese needn’t be wasted either – it freezes very well and can be kept frozen until you need it later, perhaps at New Year.”

Tony’s tip # 5.

“Think like a professional chef, save time and reduce the hassle on Christmas Day by preparing as much in advance as possible. By washing, chopping, bagging and freezing your veg in advance – such as sprouts and carrots – you can save a lot of time and they will retain the same nutritional value as if you prepared them from fresh.”

Tony’s tip # 6.

Buy local produce wherever possible – it’s a good idea to place an advance order with your local grocer or butcher for exactly what you need by a specific time, so that you’re not tempted by last-minute bargains during a panic-stricken trip to the shops, which may otherwise end up wasted. And don’t throw out your leftover mince pies – check the use-by date, and if you know you’re not going to eat them, save them and take them into work for your sweet-toothed colleagues post-New Year!”


Tony Singh commented:

“It’s great to be working with the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland on this fun and festive food waste reduction campaign – and I’m delighted to have provided some festive leftover recipes to keep the cooks inspired after the big day.

“I hope that by sharing some of the experience I’ve gained in over 25 years of working in the restaurant trade, I can really help people to reduce their food waste at Christmas, as well as to save a considerable chunk off their festive food bill.”


Sarah Holmes, 29, mum to 10-month old Emma, from Edinburgh, said:

“I always look forward to this time of year – especially with a young and extended family to enjoy it with – but I have to admit always feel a little bit of trepidation, perhaps dread, when I contemplate the preparation of the family feast!

“It can be so difficult to judge the food shop and resist the temptation to over-buy when you’re surrounded by so much hype from retailers and their Christmas food offers. I do worry about the pressure – whether that’s real or just a burden I put on myself – to provide an impressive spread on Christmas Day, and with so many more people to cater for than usual, the last thing I want is to appear is stingy!

“Tony’s advice, especially around planning ahead and calculating portion size by the number of guests, will help me to cut down on the enormous amount of money I always end up spending at Christmas, not to mention the stress it causes me when I see so much of it go to waste. I’m also really looking forward to trying his Vietnamese-inspired turkey and slaw baguette this Boxing Day.”


Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“By shopping smarter and planning meals better, everyone in Scotland can save money and help the environment – not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. The invaluable advice that Tony has provided is something we should all consider whenever we go shopping for food.

“Zero Waste Scotland delivers the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in Scotland, which offers a range of recipes, advice and tips to help families save an average of around £470 per year.

“We’ve been very encouraged in recent months by the evidence which demonstrates the significant drop in avoidable food waste in Scotland since 2009, but we still have a long way to go to achieve our aim of becoming a zero waste society. We very much look forward to the introduction of Mr Lochhead’s formal food waste reduction target for Scotland in the coming year.”

For the post-Christmas feast leftovers, Tony has created a set of exclusive lighter, healthy and delicious recipes to re-energise revellers, which make the most of ingredients like roast turkey and vegetables.



  1. Egg Noodle and Turkey Broth

    This is such a simple but delicious recipe, and can be done with any type of leftover meat you have. You can either make the stock yourself, or just use a stock cube on its own. Either way it’s an absolute winner with the kids, who unwittingly wolf down the leftover sprouts in this great winter warmer.

    For the stock:


    Leftover roast turkey bones – pick off as much meat as you can and chop or break up the carcass as small as you can

    Vegetables – just use whatever raw veggies you have, such as one large onion, one large carrot and a stick of celery

    1 stock cube – veggie, chicken or beef


    Select a pan large enough to accommodate both the bones and the vegetables and add the stock cube.

    Fill the pan with just enough cold water to cover the bones and veg. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for an hour, but if you can do two, that’s better.

    Strain and use in the broth below, or freeze and use from frozen whenever needed.


    For the soup:


    Leftover roast turkey stock (as above)

    2 tsp garlic puree

    1 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated

    1 onion, thinly sliced

    1 pepper, quartered and thinly sliced

    140g medium egg noodles

    Leftover turkey meat, shredded

    Leftover Christmas veggies – especially the sprouts

    1 bunch spring onions, sliced

    1 small bunch of coriander, chopped

    Soy sauce to taste

    Chilli oil to taste, recipe below. (You can also buy it in supermarkets – it’s a great store cupboard ally and helps make any leftovers taste great)


    Bring the stock to the boil and throw in the aromatics – the onion, garlic and ginger.

    Simmer together for four minutes, then add the noodles and simmer for a further three minutes. Stir in the leftover turkey and veg, then simmer for another two minutes.

    Season with chilli oil and soy sauce to taste.

    To serve, ladle into bowls, scatter the spring onion and coriander on top and drizzle with a little chilli oil as desired.



  2. Chilli Oil


    100g chilli flakes

    20g Szechuan peppercorns, crushed

    200ml rapeseed oil

    Sea salt


    Place oil in a deep, medium pan.

    Place the pan on a high heat for about four mins. Check if it’s hot enough by dropping in a couple of flakes – if the oil is ready, the chilli should sizzle.

    Take the pan off the heat and add the other ingredients. Stir well, pop a lid on and leave to one side for about an hour.

    Use when cool – the flavour will develop and deepen over time.


  3. Leftover Turkey-filled Bánh mì

    A super tasty Vietnamese street food-inspired baguette with homemade slaw, stuffed full of delicious roast turkey. You can use any type of bread you have handy – a well fired morning roll also works well!


    2 small baguettes

    Leftover pâté from your Christmas feast (don’t worry if you don’t have any)

    3 inch piece of peeled & de-seeded cucumber, thinly sliced

    2 big handfuls leftover turkey – a mix brown and white meat, shredded

    Butter (for spreading)

    Mayonnaise - enough to mix to your taste

    1 chilli, chopped

    Fresh mint (small bunch), chopped

    Fresh coriander (small bunch), chopped – including the stalks

    Salt & freshly ground pepper

    For the slaw

    1 chilli (with seeds), chopped

    2 small carrots, coarsely grated

    150g white cabbage, thinly sliced

    150g red, white or spring onion, finely sliced

    2 inch piece of ginger, grated 

    1 tbsp vinegar (any type)

    1 tsp sugar (adjust to taste)

    Juice of 2 limes

    ½ tsp fish sauce (adjust to taste)


    To make the slaw, mix the carrots, cabbage and onion into a bowl.

    In another bowl, mix the ginger, vinegar, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce together with the chilli and taste it - you’re looking for a balance of hot, sweet, sour and salty. Pour the sauce on to the vegetables and toss together. Set aside.

    Meanwhile mix the leftover turkey in a bowl with mayonnaise, chopped chilli, salt and pepper. Halve the baguettes lengthways, then spread the butter followed by a generous layer of pâté over the bottom half. Top with the slaw, cucumber and turkey mixture, then sprinkle over the mint and coriander leaves. Serve.


  4. Mixed Leftover Veg and Tomato Curry


    2 large onions, sliced

    1 tin chopped tomatoes

    2 tbsp tomato puree 

    3 tbsp rapeseed oil

    ½ tsp cumin seeds

    2 tsps garlic puree

    2 inch piece of ginger, peeled & finely chopped – or you can use pureed ginger

    ¼ tsp turmeric

    1 tsp chilli powder

    1 ½ tsps ground coriander

    1 tsp garam masala

    Salt to taste

    1 pint water


    Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add cumin seeds – as soon as they begin to change colour, add onions and sauté until well-browned.

    Add garlic paste and ginger paste and continue sautéing. Add turmeric and mix. Add tomatoes and stir. Add tomato puree and salt.

    Mix and add chilli, coriander, garam masala. Sauté on a medium heat till oil begins to separate.

    Add the water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes to allow the mixture to reduce a little. Keep an eye on the mixture to ensure it doesn’t burn, stirring once in a while. The, add all the leftover veggies, bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Serve with rice.


    Currently, two billion tonnes of food waste is generated globally every year – with Scotland contributing around 1.4 million tonnes to that figure. Just over two fifths of Scotland’s food waste comes directly from households, and sixty per cent of that is avoidable – for example unused leftover food, or food that has gone off and been thrown away.

    The Cabinet Secretary will set out further details of his food waste target in his circular economy strategy which will be published in the coming months.

    For more advice and tips on how to plan ahead for Christmas and cut down on your food waste, visit www.scotland.lovefoodhatewaste.com




For media enquiries, contact:

Sarah Stuart, PR Project Manager, Zero Waste Scotland
m: 07715 066461
e: sarah.stuart@zerowastescotland.org.uk  

Notes For Editors

*The amount of food and drink thrown away in December is based on annual estimates of household food and drink waste for Scotland for 2014 by Zero Waste Scotland (publication pending).

**Statistics gathered by Unilever and WRAP in 2012 show that 10 million turkeys will be purchased in the UK, 34% of which are thrown away. Scaled to Scotland’s population, this equates to 280,000.

***People in the UK will buy some 370 million mince pies and 25 million Christmas puddings this festive period. WRAP data shows that avoidable food waste makes up 11.7% of all such purchases. Scaled to Scotland’s population, the number of mince pies and Christmas puddings which are wasted is 3.5 million and 240,000 respectively.


  • Leith-born Tony Singh has established himself as a leading force on the Scottish restaurant scene and has run three of his own restaurants – Oloroso, Tony's Table and Roti – all of which have gained great critical acclaim. For over 25 years, Tony has pushed the boundaries of culinary innovation, combining his Sikh upbringing with his love of Scottish produce. His distinctive style has made him hot property in restaurant circles and helped him secure membership of the country's leading bodies including the Academy of Culinary Arts, the Craft Guild of Chefs, the Scottish Chefs association and the Master Chefs of Great Britain. VisitScotland recently named Tony as one of the chosen few "Real Scots". He is now an ambassador for Scotland and all things Scottish, promoting Scotland and its many unique delicacies to a global audience.

Love Food Hate Waste

  • The Love Food Hate Waste campaign is delivered in Scotland by Zero Waste Scotland.
  • The Love Food Hate Waste campaign was created by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) and is delivered by WRAP at a UK-level.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan and other low carbon and resource efficiency policy priorities.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is helping Scotland to become more efficient in its use of resources. We are supporting progress towards Scotland’s ambitious zero waste targets and enabling Scottish society to reap the benefits of more efficient use of resources. 
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