Cook on a budget: Dont throw it away: waste nothing, practise root-to-fruit eating and save money. Heres how to turn 10 offcuts into essential ingredients
practise a style of cooking that I call root-to-fruit eating: its about cook consciously, making the most of our ingredients and wasting nothing. Its a step on from the nose-to-tail doctrine, which means to eat the whole animal. By cooking from root to fruit, we can save money by using the offcuts we would have thrown away. This makes a budget for buying higher-welfare, better-quality ingredients that, in turn, offer better nutrition and support local communities. Heres a listing of 10 ingredients we definitely shouldnt be throwing away. I 1 Root greens
Supermarkets and many greengrocers cut off root tops from carrots, beetroots, radishes and onions. If you can find a greengrocer or marketplace that sells locally grown veggies with the root greens still intact, then its worth paying a little bit extra for them. There are several reasons set out above root greens should be left on. Firstly, they indicate the freshness of the root since they are perish more quickly, and second, they are delicious ingredients. Use beetroot tops as a replacement for spinach or chard: wilted or stir-fried. Carrot tops are bitter, but nice added to a salsa verde or pesto. Radish leaves make a delicious soup or can be eaten as a salad leaf.
Salad leaves: restore droopy lettuce by refreshing in cold water.
2 Salad leaves
Salad is the most common food to be bought then thrown away uneaten: 45% of all salad made will end up in the bin. Highly perishable ingredients such as salad and herbs required to stored properly in the refrigerator and eaten in good time. If your salad leaves or herbs do wilts, however, dont throw them away. You can restore a droopy leaf to its original perky country simply by freshening it in cold water. If your leaves actually are past their best, then you can build them into a lettuce soup, mix them into a vegetable soup, or chop and add at the last minute with some mint leaves.
3 Meat past its sell-by or bestbefore date
A sell-by, best-before and even a use-by dates purpose is responsible for a product reaches you in safe condition. The producer cannot take any risks with this, and the dates are thus very conservative estimations. Maintain this in intellect and stimulate your own judgment. Steer on the side of caution, especially with poultry. Check the food for mould and sniff it; if its not smelly, its likely fine. Either keep it in the freezer or cook it so that it will last another three to four days in the refrigerator. I often make a stew at the end of the week to use up any leftover meat.
4 Animal fat
Fat is where most of the flavour comes from in a piece of meat. The more even and evident the marbling of fat is, the more savoury the meat will be. Since the Industrial Revolution, intensive farming techniques have decreased the quality and health benefits of meat. When animals exert more, the marbling is more even, which is why wild, organic and free-range meat is not only better for the animal, but better for your health and to cook with, too. I always eat the fat attached to my sirloin or rib-eye steak and my favourite cut to roast is a brisket of beef. A good brisket has a high fat content that, cooked slowly, builds the most tender joint.
Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient food. This stimulates it very good value, pound for pound, and a delicious source of energy to eat in moderation. I would recommend always buying meat with the fat on; buy fewer and get more out of it by never throwing the fat away. Maintain the fat that renders off your meat for employ when cooking other dishes to add more flavour. Bacon fat adds a delicious depth of flavour to a soffritto of onions and tomatoes, for instance.
Sour milk: good for scones our soda bread.
5 Sour milk
Milk is often good past its use-by date. Even when it first divides and turns sour, it isnt actually harmful to eat when cooked. In fact, it is the perfect ingredient to construct scones and soda bread, or to add to scrambled eggs. These dishes benefit from the thickness of the milk, and the sourness adds depth of flavour. My favourite soda bread recipe is written by my old colleague Daniel Stevens with whom I used to work at River Cottage HQ several years ago. Mix 500 g of plain or wholemeal flour with 2 tsp salt, 4 tsp baking powder, then stir in 300 ml of sour milk. Knead together until thoroughly mixed, split in two and shape into rounds. Cut a cross on top and place in a preheated oven at 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6 for 20 -2 5 minutes until nicely browned.
6 Pastry and pasta offcuts
While stimulating pastry one day I had a bit of an a-ha moment. I had remembered that there is a type of pasta made from offcuts called malfatti, which approximately translates to misshapes. Whether you are constructing your own tart or buying readymade, you will have offcuts as you trim it to fit its case or tin. These leftovers can easily be made into delicious biscuits. Roll out the excess tart about 5mm thick, cut into rough shapes, sprinkle with flaky ocean salt and a mix of whole spices, press them in and bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 C/ 350 F/ gas mark 4 until golden brown.
Although we might not always have period, Id highly recommend having a go at constructing your own pasta. Its super simple to stimulate. For each person, add one egg to 100g of 00 plain or spelt flour, mix together and knead, roll out and cut to size. When utilizing a pasta machine, you will be left with funnysized offcuts that can be cut into odd shapes and dried to eat another time.
Egg yolk: add to pasta for a richer sauce.
7 Egg whites or yolks
Often recipes call for merely one or another part of an egg and its all too easy to let the other component go to waste. Eggs are a great, healthy source of protein and energy. There are many delightful things you can do with the remaining albumen( egg white) or vitellus( egg yolk) depending on what you have left.
With egg whites, Id recommend adding them fresh and raw to your smoothie for a protein booster, or using them into a cocktail sour: in a glass jar, shake up one egg white with 100 ml of whisky, bourbon, amaretto or pisco, plus 100 ml of lemon juice, a tablespoon of sugar and some ice, then strain the mix into a glass. If you prefer your egg whites cooked, add them to a larger batch of scrambled eggs or fry with some leftover rice with a drop-off of soy sauce.
Egg yolks are marvellously rich and can make a simple dish decadent. Serve a yolk on top of your tagliatelle or spaghetti with a generous grating of parmesan, then stir in at the last minute for an instant velvety sauce, or use it to make a fresh mayonnaise.
8 Stale bread
Our appetite for daily bread makes a great deal of waste that the baker cant sell the next day. Its also one of the biggest food waste items in our homes, too. According to Wrap, the governmental forces waste prevention scheme, we waste 328,000 tonnes of bread a year. A big loaf of sourdough can take several days to use up, and offers different things as it ages. In the UK we might attain toast, breadcrumbs or croutons with an old loaf, but across Europe there are many interesting ways to use it over its lifespan. Repurpose old sourdough to construct dishes such as pappa al pomodoro, an Italian bread and tomato soup; or panzanella, a salad of tomatoes and shards of fried bread that soak up the dres; or migas, a Spanish dish stimulated with rehydrated bread fried with olive oil and different flavor combinings, such as mushrooms, paprika and onions. This makes a brilliant breakfast served with a fried egg.
9 Mouldy cheese
While soft cheese and curds shouldnt be feed if they run mouldy, hard cheeses are penalty. I once asked a administrator at Neils Yard Dairy whether I should be cautious of mould on a hard cheese, to which he responded: So long as its not black, its fine! If I find some unsuspected mould growing on my cheese, I cut it off and eat the remainder. Cheese left unpackaged in the refrigerator so that it dries and crackings is best employed melted in a cheese toastie, or grated on top of hot pasta or soup.
10 Vegetable skins
The nutritional value of vegetable scalps have been researched and demonstrated many times over the years; potatoes, for example, have their vitamin C concentrated under the peel and we can lose as much as 35% of it when they are peeled. I always roast potatoes with the skin on: first boiled, then crushed so they divide, they end up with a wonderful crispy flesh and skin. If you must peel food ingredients, then save your peelings to use in a stock or to employ as a trivet underneath a roasting joint of meat. I now teach my team of chefs never to peel food ingredients unless absolutely necessary. This saves us fund and also constructs food more wholesome: food is best ingested with its fibre, so that our bodies can digest it slowly, and thus assimilate as many of the nutrients as possible. Regrettably, the skin of conventionally farmed vegetables is not always good for us because of the chemical residues that can result from the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Its best to spend a little more on organic produce, and then get more out of it, from root to fruit.
Tom Hunt is an eco-chef, director of
Poco eatery and writer of The Natural Cook