There is no one who can make a chicken last longer than my mother. Where others look in their fridge on a Monday morning and see the tired wreckage of a Sunday roast, she sees the potential for a week of soup, sandwiches, risotto and bubble and squeak.
A roast chicken can supply a week of meals.Credit:William Meppem
Nose-to-tail, use-every-last-scrap cooking became terribly trendy for restaurateurs a few years ago (often an opportunity to serve croquettes made from various bits of offal, rather than a truly noble attempt at sustainability) but with the amount of food currently being thrown away in households and food outlets every year, the need for the rest of us to tackle our food waste has never been so important.
It's a particular kind of person who can look at a pile of vegie peelings or old coffee dregs and imagine creating anything appetising. I consider myself virtuous if I manage to turn a few ropy red onions into a quick pickle, or blitz limp herbs into pesto.
But there are plenty of simple, innovative ways to cut down our wasteful habits. The Zero Waste Cookbook, by Amelia Wasiliev and Giovanna Torrico, contains a whole host of novel ways to use every last scrap in your kitchen. Follow their mantras, and you'll be cutting down on your food waste faster than you can say carrot tops.
Wasiliev and Torrico recommend buying a bunch of ice cube trays and using them to freeze odds and ends that, when stirred through dishes, become little flavour bombs. The last squeeze of a tomato puree tube, the final dribble from a bottle of red, a few minced-up herb stalks, or a couple of grated garlic cloves – pack them into ice cube trays and you'll have flavour enhancers to hand whenever you need them.
There are very few meals that can't be enhanced by the addition of a pickle, in my view. The Zero Waste Cookbook suggests pickling as the perfect way to use up vegetable scraps that usually get thrown in the bin. Cucumber ends, aubergine skins and tough kale stems all become bright and tender when given a bath in hot vinegar with a little sugar and a few herbs or spices.
Stick to a 3:1 mix of vinegar-sugar, give tougher ingredients a simmer in the brine, and stuff softer ones straight into jars and pour over the hot vinegar.
Griddle your lettuce cores, use broad bean pods in a parmigiana, bake potato peelings to a crisp, and turn the pulp from your juicer into a fluffy carrot cake. Even tough pumpkin skins – usually discarded – can be dehydrated in a low oven and then blitzed to make a powder. You can even add water to hydrate the powder for an instant pumpkin puree.
Save your citrus peel to make a cheap, natural, household cleaner. Half-fill a Kilner jar with citrus peel, making sure it doesn't have any flesh on it, then top up the jar with white vinegar and leave to stand in a dark, cool place for about two weeks. Add more peel as you have leftovers, and strain into a liquid spray bottle after two weeks.
And when you're unpacking, remove plastic packaging, which can make fruits and vegetables turn faster, and remove any produce that has already spoilt.
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