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Steps to a Zero-Waste Kitchen

May, 2020

with Forest Lodge Head Chef, Jesse Wells

“Food wastage is often high, I think it’s fair to say. But it’s also fair to say that wastage is a human thing. I think we have almost applied unspoken rules through the generations of what goes in the bin or what we can’t eat, like certain parts of vegetables we automatically throw away or into the compost. The rind of cheeses, leftover rice, bread, chicken carcasses/meat bones, fruit, yoghurt, vegetables, herbs, the list goes on! How many things have you bought and just not used?

We try not to waste anything at all. Fish trim makes sauces, soups, stocks and delicious mousses. Vegetable trim makes soups, stocks and snacks. We utilise a lot in ‘zero-waste snacks’; croquettes, smoked fish soups, bhajis – all sorts of tasty light bites.

Here’s my top tips:

Don’t box yourself in – By this I mean forget all set ways of how something has to be cooked. You can grill, sauté, deep fry, BBQ or braise anything – get creative and think outside the box. An example is that onion bhaji isn’t just restricted to onion – it could be the tops of leeks, normally thrown away or even mushroom trimmings.  The less boxed in you become, the less you will waste.

Let’s talk vegetables! Leaves and stalks from cauliflower or broccoli can be roasted up for Sunday lunch, blanched, BBQ’d or sautéed for frittatas and omelettes or whizzed down into soups. We often throw the leaves away too but they taste amazing pan-fried. You can also make a brilliant pesto from raw broccoli. Trim and peelings from vegetables can make wonderful vegetable stocks – these can be used for soups or gravy. Simply cover all trims with cold water, bring up to a boil, turn off the heat and season. Excess veg can also be made into piccalilli, especially useful when you grow your own vegetables, which brings me onto my next tip…

Pickling – You can pickle fruit, vegetables and nuts (walnuts are especially good). Play around – some things are better with the pickling liquor warmer and some with it colder e.g. cucumber is nice in cold liquor to keep the crunch. Very simply, cut the vegetable/fruit however you like, and cover in the liquor which extends the life by months or more. Pickling also includes piccalilli and chutneys.

All you need is, easy pickling Liquor, 500ml white wine vinegar and 500g sugar and bring it to the boil. It’s as simple as that!

Rice the next day – So many possibilities here. Arancini – a breadcrumbed ball of risotto which I personally prefer over the risotto. Egg fried rice is another option which makes for a very easy lunch. You could even add those vegetable trimmings for a complete dish out of almost nothing. You could also add rice to soups/broths for a carbohydrate or something a bit lighter is a rice salad; red onion, tomato, cucumber, fresh herbs, lemon, olive oil and rice – delicious!

Bread – It’s worth noting that if you do make your own bread, it tends to last longer than shop-bought. Bread and butter pudding – a very easy way to use things like fruit up, maybe some jam, peanut butter, all sorts – you can really make it your own. Croutons – great for salads and soups. Pangritata – breadcrumbs toasted in a pan with oil, lots of herbs, garlic and seasoning. This is a big flavour hit and I like to use it to sprinkle over pastas.

Cheese/yoghurt – Leftover cheese or slightly dried cheese can make a great sauce for lasagne or cauliflower cheese. You could also grate it into salads, pastas or toasties. Use-up yoghurt in dressings for salads, dips or mint yoghurt to dollop on curry. Simply grate cucumber into the yoghurt, add mint, a pinch of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.

Drying – Drying has been a preservation method for centuries and is so easy to do in your own oven. If you’re growing tomatoes and get a surplus, half them, season with salt and sugar, then oil them slightly, add some hard herbs like thyme and rosemary then place on a tray and into the oven on the lowest heat, until almost halved in size. The flavour is incredible! Simply store in oil in the fridge and they will last a long time and provide you with an amazing punch of flavour for pastas, soups, salads and pizzas.

Chicken – A roast chicken is a favourite in most households, but we often get 3 meals out of one chicken in our house. Ask your butcher to break it down into the crown, remove the wings, and cut the legs into the thighs and drumsticks. The crown can do a roast in itself. The legs and thighs you can get one or two meals out of, dependant on how many you’re feeding. To make them go further, cook the legs and thighs, then strip the meat off the bone. The wings can make a small snack. After all this the carcass and any bones, can make a chicken broth. Add tinned cannellini beans, vegetables and a pesto for a great broth.

Pesto/salsa – If you have a food processor or stick blender, you’re in luck! Leftover herbs and vegetables can be made into pestos. Use any herbs, any hard cheese, and any nuts or seeds. It doesn’t have to be basil or pine nuts (pine nuts tend to be quite expensive). I recently made a tasty little pesto with pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts. Remember, there are no rules! Salsa – blitz some herbs or vegetables, but instead of cheese and nuts, add oil, vinegar, capers if you have some, lemon zest and season to your taste. Both will last well in the fridge and are an instant burst of flavour for snack dipping, pasta sauces or salad ingredients.

Sourdough – Many of you on lockdown are making sourdough, but you end up with a lot of discard from them. There are many possibilities – crackers for cheese, crumpets, pancakes. Do your research and it won’t just be going in the bin!

Braising – If you have some leftover braised meat, don’t make the same meal it was originally for, mix it up and pan fry the meat then shred and put into tacos – A totally new delicious dinner out of the same meat you had yesterday.

Potato – Mash can be made into gnocchi or potato cakes. Gnocchi tossed through pesto is so simple, easy and quick. Left over roasties can make bubble and squeak with vegetable trim and new potatoes can be crushed the next day for a coarse mash or made into a potato salad for a BBQ.

Hopefully this gets the ball rolling for you. Just really remember there is no set way/rule to cook anything. If it tastes good, you’re winning and you haven’t wasted anything.”

Tips by Forest Lodge Head Chef, Jesse Wells


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