10 delicious ways to recycle your leftovers and reduce food waste .
If Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has taught us anything, it’s that we waste rather a lot of food:
“We live in a country where one third of the food we produce never gets eaten and the average household bins £700 worth of food a year.” (river cottage.net)
A rather shocking statistic, but one to which we’re probably all guilty of contributing. Armed with our council-issued compost bins, it’s easy to think that we’re doing our bit for the environment. However, we think that to really make a difference, we’ve got to be a bit more proactive.
We’ve got to look at the bigger picture of where our food comes from in the first place. Hence Hugh’s relentless campaigning to challenge the big guns that govern this – from lobbying supermarkets to sell ‘ugly’ vegetables to petitioning for leading café chains to make genuinely recyclable coffee cups.
Hugh’s success is down to understanding the relationship between supply and demand. By refining our shopping habits and growing savvier about the food we eat, we can have a big influence over decision-making at the top.
It’s this empowered spirit that has inspired this blog post. With a little imagination, it’s easy to reduce waste and make our food go further.
We’re guessing your granny has already drilled into you the virtues of saving veg scraps for stocks and stews. You’ve probably also endured a rather stodgy and bland bread pudding or two. Luckily, our guide to wasting less and eating more is a lot more exciting.
Want to know how to whip up a beautiful dessert from a dusty tin of chickpeas? Or how you can become an expert mixologist overnight with just a sad bunch of flowers to your name? Then read on to learn how to work some waste-free magic…
The internet is going wild for aquafaba. Believe it or not, this cloudy, unassuming liquid in which chickpeas are cooked and stored is a miracle replacement for egg whites in vegan cooking. So next time you crack open a tin of chickpeas, don’t just pour their brine down the sink. Instead, make meringues, mayonnaise, chocolate mousse, ice cream or fudge!
2. Pickle juice
Speaking of which, you might be making exactly the same mistake with all your pickled goods. The brine from pickles or olives can be recycled to no end. You can re-pickle other vegetables with it, use it to replace vinegar in salad dressings or make Jewish deli bread. Give a Bloody Mary or martini that extra kick, and even weed your garden with it. One of our top tips is simply to get yourself a hunk of bread and dip it in some olive juice – an excellent alternative to olive oil and balsamic.
3. Watermelon rinds
OK, it sounds a little strange, but bear with us on this one because it may just be our new favourite condiment. Often bypassed for the sweet, pink flesh inside, a lot of people don’t give watermelon rind enough credit. With a crisp, refreshing texture rather like cucumber, watermelon rind has been said to reduce blood pressure and boost male libidos, among other things! Pickle it with a few spices (we like this recipe) and serve alongside curries or tossed through salads.
4. Banana skins
Likewise, you’re a fool to throw away your banana skins. By relegating them to the confines of slapstick comedy, we Westerners have been missing out on lots of health benefits that other cultures have been enjoying for years. These include impressive doses of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium. We recommend looking to Indian cuisine, where banana peel chutney is a popular accompaniment to curries and delicious spread on paratha.
Furthermore, a lot of us don’t give a second thought to discarding the leaves of root vegetables, which are perfectly edible and often nutritional powerhouses. Here are 3 to add to your culinary repertoire:
5. Carrot tops
Although the stems can be a bit stringy to eat, carrot leaves contain all the goodness you’ll find in their roots (vitamins A, B6, C and K, plus folate, manganese, niacin, potassium and thiamin) and are fabulous in a pesto.
6. Beet greens
High in vitamins A, C and E, beet greens are becoming increasingly popular. Use them just as you would any other leafy green – raw in salads, lightly steamed or sautéed with a drizzle of olive oil and some garlic.
7. Radish leaves
Radish leaves have six times as much vitamin C as the vegetable itself, so it seems rather a shame to throw them in the bin! As they have a slightly tougher texture and a more pungent taste, we recommend braising them first or using in a nutritious soup.
8. Cauliflower leaves
If you’ve bought a cauliflower with a disappointing leaf to floret ratio, we’ve got some good news for you: those deceptive wrappings are, in fact, edible, and contain a whole load of goodness. Delicious roasted until the stalks are tender and the leaves are golden and crispy. Could this be the new kale?!
Got some (vegan) wine hanging about that’s a bit past its prime? Admittedly, leftover wine is not a regular occurrence in our household, but there’s no shortage of uses for it if we do find ourselves with some dregs here and there. The obvious port of call is cooking with it (sauces, risottos, ragùs. etc.) or leaving it to turn into vinegar, but how about a red wine chocolate cake? It’s also a fantastic disinfectant that will remove impurities far better than water – add some to a spray bottle and get those veggies squeaky clean.
10. Rose petals
Throwing away flowers is always a sad occasion, so free yourself of this unhappy task by drying your rose petals and making a beautiful, floral gin. Thinly spread out your rose petals in a shallow dish and leave until completely dried out (this stage doubles up as a pretty way to decorate the house), loosely pack into a sterilised jar and cover to the brim with a gin of your choice. Leave for a day or two to infuse, then strain and enjoy in cocktails.
If you’ve got any more innovative ways to use up leftovers, we’d love to hear from you!