Taking a fresh look at ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away can result in great culinary experiences – and reduced food waste.
Resourcefulness in the kitchen is admittedly not usually triggered by impulse. We’ve been conditioned to waste more than we consume, opting to bin ingredients that may not aesthetically appeal or immediately provide hunger solutions.
Seeing beyond the ingredients’ originally intended purpose is an everyday practice that requires a little thought.
The few minutes of thought to see beyond an ingredient’s original purpose not only pays back to the planet, but also your pocket, as it could provide further meal inspiration, flavour boosters and handy snack hacks that you had not originally planned for, or realised were possible.
For me, it makes the binbag lighter to carry outside for the binman and as a naturally lazy person, this makes me happy.
In the UK, we waste millions of tonnes of edible food every year. Photo © JohnnyGreig via Getty Images
Food waste in the UK
The Love Food Hate Waste campaign reports that 6.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in UK households – 4.5 million of which is edible.
As a greedy person, I cannot help but think of the many meals we could have had from this.
This amount of waste at a domestic level is concerning, considering there are so many whole ingredients we cook and small modifications we can make to our everyday ingredient leftovers, which can produce surprising solutions.
I’ve collated some of my most turned-to whole ingredient practices in the kitchen in the hope that you will be able to look at ingredients and produce from top to bottom, finding opportunity for value and limit your waste by making your meals waste-full, not wasteful.
1. Make use of brassica stalks
Broccoli stalks are delicious and nutritious. Photo © liubomirt via Getty Images
Too quick are we to snap the heads of broccolis, cauliflowers and kale and discard the stalks.
You can finely slice the stalks and add into your favourite stir fry recipe to bulk out the veg content. Or, roast with harissa and cashews for a great simple dish to eat with some rice.
Even the outer leaves of a cauliflower can be lightly coated with oil and gently roasted with the cauliflower heads and some chickpeas until tender.
2. Revitalise old bread
Old dry bread can be turned into croutons or breadcrumbs - even the crust! Photo © keleny via Adobe Stock
If you find the odd piece of forgotten bread in the cupboard that is now so stale you could make cave drawings with it, why not cube it and gently fry in some oil, salt, and rosemary to create toasty croutons for your vegan soups and salads?
You can even blitz them in a food processor to use as a topping for a tray bake.
3. Save your squash!
You can eat the seeds and skin of pumpkins and squash. Photo © Aleksandr via Adobe Stock
The bad news is that butternut squash and pumpkins are difficult to peel. The good news is that you don’t have to!
If you roast a whole sliced squash or a pumpkin, the skin will soften in the oven, and you can eat the skins just easily as the soft flesh.
The seeds you scoop out can be cleaned, gently roasted in a low oven, and then blitzed in a processor for a wonderfully textured pesto.
They can also be dry-roasted in a frying pan and sprinkled over soups and salads.
4. Keep your carrot tops and parsnip peels
There are lots of ways to make use of vegetable peelings and tops. Photo © Mark via Adobe Stock
The worst-kept secret is that carrot and parsnip tops make fantastic pesto. Blitz with a handful of hazelnuts, basil leaves and their stalks, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and some nutritional yeast for a rich and robust textured pesto.
Any skins that you peel from carrots or parsnips make wonderful crisps when roasted in a low oven with salt, a little paprika and some oil.
This is also a great technique to use up old pitta breads when you feel they are past their prime!
5. Enjoy every bit of your citrus fruits
Lemons can be eaten whole once they've been pickled. Photo © Peredniankina via Adobe Stock
You can eat a whole lemon – skin and all – if you just pickle it!
Chop a whole lemon into small thumbnail-size chunks and pop into a bowl with a tablespoon of salt then allow it to sit for a few days in the fridge until the lemons have softened and released their juices.
Add the lemons and their juice to a sterilised jar and cover with white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Fasten the jar lid and pop in the fridge. They will keep for a week and are perfect added into thick, rich stews.
If you’re a juicer and find yourself with a bounty of citrus husks – it may sound bizarre, but did you know you can add them to a cake? Just boil the husks in water for two hours until tender and blitz to a pulp in a food processor, adding this to a batter for a citrus infused cake.
6. Hold on to herb stems
Once you've used the leaves, herb stalks can be used to infuse oils. Photo © Pixel-shot via Adobe Stock
Coriander, basil and thyme stems make wonderful flavoured oils. After you’ve taken the leaves from the stem to cook with, retain the stalks and add to an empty oil bottle.
Fill the bottle with extra-virgin oil and leave to infuse for a day or so and you’ll have instant flavour at your fingertips whenever you need to add a fragrant hit to any meal.
Parsley stalks can be chopped very finely and added to soups to enhance the earthy pepperiness of the broth and coriander stalks are wonderful added to curries.
7. Don’t pour out that pickle brine
There are loads of ways to use the brine from your pickle jars. Photo © Caret via Adobe Stock
The brine from an empty jar of pickled onions is wonderful drizzled over chips and any brine leftover from pickled beetroot makes a wonderful marinade for vibrantly hued roasted cauliflower.
Even the brine leftover from a jar of kimchi is most welcome in a Bloody Mary for when you really need the boost!
8. Make more of your potatoes
Turn your potato peelings into a tasty snack. Photo © Alexandr Milodan via Adobe Stock
We’re often keen to throw away potato peelings as we’re usually in a rush to get them peeled to begin with (it’s nobody’s favourite pastime, let’s be honest).
But pat the peelings dry and either deep fry, air fry, or roast with some salt to make wonderful crisps.
And, if you’re boiling potatoes, do not throw away the cloudy, starchy water – this makes a fabulous alternative to water when making bread or added to soups to thicken the broth.
Resourceful cooking fulfils more than just planetary virtues. It also tastes great – and what once could have been in the bin could provide a further meal for the week that you never knew existed.
To cut down on your food waste even further, learn how to regrow food from scraps
Featured photo © Евгения Рубцова via Adobe Stock