How to have a zero waste kitchen: tips from Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge, Skye Gyngell and more

Restaurants have a daily battle against wasting food. We asked top chefs for their home hacks that will save you money and give your cooking a flavour boost

According to the campaigning waste charity Wrap, UK households bin 5m tonnes of edible food every year. That is 1.1m tonnes less than in 2007, a drop that, in CO2 terms, is equivalent to taking 2.2m cars off the road each year. But, clearly, there is still a lot that could be done to inspire us to use the ingredients we buy with greater diligence.

Tom Tanner, a spokesperson for the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), says: “It’s all very well telling people that the average UK household throws out £700 of food each year, but it can be tough playing Ready Steady Cook at home.” The SRA is attempting to help with its new One Planet Plate recipe site, a global inventory of sustainability-focused restaurant dishes complete with recipes.

But faced with a fridge full of turning veg, the wreckage of a Sunday roast or pans of leftover rice, there is no such thing as too much inspiration. In that spirit, we asked a range of chefs who grapple with this issue daily to give us their waste-saving tips. Some are eco-conscious practitioners of nose-to-tail and root-to-fruit cooking (Silo in Brighton is Britain’s first “zero-waste” restaurant), while others are simply trying to keep costs down. Here are their household hacks, aimed at saving you a few quid and giving your cooking a flavour boost. Who said that saving the planet can’t be a win-win?

Skye Gyngell, Spring, London

Fruit and vegetable peelings should not be discarded.

We keep all vegetable peelings. Almost the best flavour is to be found in carrot, beetroot or celeriac skins. We make a simple puree using potato peelings cooked in salted water with herb stalks, then pureed with butter, pepper and buttermilk. To turn that into soup, omit the butter and thin using stock. We also make a peel coleslaw – at this time of year, from asparagus, young carrots, leek tops, beetroot and radish leaves – which you can dress with creme fraiche. Stir in honey, salt and any soft herbs for a nice summer accompaniment to roast chicken.

Jamie Oliver, chef and campaigner

Stale bread can be used to make croutons.

Bread should never be wasted. If you look at great cooking from around the world, bread is often used stale and transformed into all sorts of tasty things, such as the classic Italian tomato and bread soup, pappa al pomodoro, or panzanella (tomato and bread salad). Turn already-stale bread into croutons or, if you know you won’t finish your loaf before it turns, thinly slice it and leave to go stale for perfectly crisp toast – it is a fantastic vehicle for tapenade or bruschetta toppings. And you can always blitz stale bread into breadcrumbs for crispy coatings on fishcakes or to toast and scatter over pasta dishes. Delicious.

Ryan Blackburn, the Old Stamp House, Ambleside

A chicken can provide ingredients for several meals.

Take the breasts off a chicken, use the leg meat in a curry and, for a third meal, roast the wings and carcass to make a lovely bone broth. Add madeira wine and roasted vegetables, top it up with water and cook gently with fresh herbs and salt. Don’t boil it; it will go cloudy. It surprises people that this clear liquid delivers so much flavour.

Hong Sui Li, Moshi Moshi, London

Don’t discard prawn heads after you have eaten the tail meat …

Once we’ve boiled tiger prawns to turn the tails into nigiri sushi, we’re left with a mass of prawn heads. At home [in Hong Kong] we’re used to eating the brains. Prawn heads are quite like brown crab meat, so we took to dusting them in potato starch and deep-frying them. Eat them hot with a dipping sauce. We use chilli mayonnaise.

Mary Ellen-McTague, the Creameries and Real Junk Food, Manchester

Many foods can be pickled to preserve them.

You can pickle pretty much anything with a 3:2:1 mix of vinegar-water-sugar. If it can’t be pickled, it can usually be frozen. In the restaurant, we sweat vegetables in fat, puree and freeze them. That’s a good soup base. You can freeze herbs or salad leaves and mix them with oil to make sauces and pestos. I use the freezer loads at home. Label everything, though. It’s really important. A permanent marker pen is essential kit.

Rachel Stockley, Baratxuri, Ramsbottom

Don’t discard meat fat after cooking. As a child, I’d eat my Filipino mum’s vegetables cooked in pork fat. In a Spanish kitchen, we use traditional recipes that emphasise the need of fat for flavour. We’ve used rendered ibérico fat to cook eggs, to flavour garlic soup and whipped like aioli to accompany fish. You can store most fats in jars in the fridge and they will be more effective than constantly using that posh olive oil that you should only use for dressing, not frying.

Tom Kerridge, the Hand & Flowers and the Coach, Marlow

Shop little and often. When I used to shop for the week, I’d end up with everything in the fridge going off, especially quick perishables such as salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and mushrooms, or going out of date before I got around to cooking it.

Gouranga Bera, Curry Leaf Cafe, Brighton

Why not use the leftover vegetables from your Sunday roast to make pakoras? Any vegetable you have is fine. Thinly slice, add chopped onion, ginger, garlic, whatever spices you like and chickpea flour (about one-fifth of the total), make into balls in your hand, then deep-fry until crispy.

Tim Bouget, ODE & Co and ODE cafes, Devon

The best way to reduce household waste is putting less on your plate. You can always go back for more. As for leftovers, dried fruit skins blitzed into a powder add an intense orange or lemon zest to cakes.

Nicholas Balfe, Salon, London

Try to buy a cauliflower with its leaves and stem intact.

Rather than a supermarket cauliflower that has been stripped of all its leaves and wrapped in cellophane, I’d encourage people to get one that has still got its beautiful green plumage. Don’t be afraid of using everything. It’s a versatile vegetable. We saute the florets, stir-fry the leaves or toss them in turmeric and ras-al-hanout and griddle them, and make a puree from the caramelised stalks.

Paul Collins, Yeo Valley Canteen, near Bristol

When we have a roast on, any ‘leftyeovers’, as we call them, go into the following day’s beef and potato cakes, shallow-fried with a poached egg and hollandaise. That would work a treat at home too.

Richard Corrigan, Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill and Corrigan’s Mayfair, London

It’s better to run out of things than have food left over. Plan what you are going to eat every week, main meal, breakfast, at work. Write it down and buy accordingly. Talk to your butcher: how many grams of meat do you need per head? Instead of a leg [of lamb], get him to bone, roll and stuff a shoulder. It’s half the price. I think we should approach waste differently. Try not to have any.

Josh Overington, Le Cochon Aveugle and Cave du Cochon, York

Make sauerkraut from cabbage leaves that would normally be thrown out.

I don’t geek out over fermentation but where, domestically, most people throw outer cabbage leaves away, I make sauerkraut. It’s great with confit duck or sausages. Roll the leaves into cylinders, cut them into strips and – using a non-reactive container; a glass bowl is perfect – mix the shredded leaves with salt [100g per cabbage]. Weigh down the cabbage to keep it submerged in the liquid it will release. Cover the container with cheesecloth, leave it in a cool place for a week, then refrigerate it for another two and it’s ready. Easy as that. It will keep for six months.

Saiphin Moore, Rosa’s Thai and Lao Cafe, London

Day-old cooked rice is the best for fried rice, so if you’re cooking jasmine rice, store any you don’t finish in an air-tight container and refrigerate it right away [it is recommended you eat cooked rice within 24 hours]. Keep it in the fridge and cook it from cold so it doesn’t go clumpy when stir-frying it. I add eggs, spring greens, cherry tomatoes, dark and light soy sauce. With cooked sticky rice, roll it into balls and deep-fry it so it’s crunchy outside. It’s perfect in the spicy fermented sausage salad, yum nham khao tod.

Scott Smith, Fhior, Edinburgh

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