Cooking with food scraps. (And 4 other Masterchef lessons).

Michael plates up his remarkable, er food

Masterchef is just about over, and while I may very well be the only one still watching, I would like to think that we have all learned something from this season of amateur cooks in the kitchen. And I think we have.

1) You cannot keep remaking the same reality TV show in the hope that it sticks.
2) There is such a thing as too many puns. Seriously, if you missed watching Masterchef you missed hearing some of the worst puns in history.
3) There is no subtle way to plate up a piglet’s head.
4) Maggie Beer is the most wonderful woman on earth.
5) We waste too much food.

Seriously, we do waste food, which is why my favourite episode of Masterchef this season was when the red and blue teams were taken to eco restaurant Greenhouse at Circular Quay. According to the ethos of Greenhouse, contestants were told that they needed to minimise waste. In fact, the team with the least accumulated leftovers would be rewarded with an extra 10 votes.

I am rather hoping that this movement takes off. And it seems that it may with a growing trend towards going back in time, back to a time when cooks used all of a product in the food that they prepared (this may be consistent with Michael plating pigs head but I prefer not to think about that at this point).

According to a recent article in The New York Times:

If home cooks reconsidered what should go into the pot, and what into the trash, what would they find? What new flavours might emerge, what old techniques? Pre-industrial cooks, for whom thrift was a necessity as well as a virtue, once knew many ways to put the entire garden to work. Fried green tomatoes and pickled watermelon rind are examples of dishes that preserved a bumper crop before rot set in.


Some people these days are so unfamiliar with vegetables in their natural state, they don’t even know that a broccoli stalk is just as edible as the florets.

For those of you playing at home, the florets are the “fluffy trees” of the broccoli plant.

There have to be some tips and tricks, recipes even that we could learn to prevent us wasting food and using more of the produce that we do have  – the only ones I could come up with myself were cooking chips with the skin on or throwing full vegetables into my soups rather than peeling them (although I have never been game enough to do this with a pumpkin or onion).  So I went back to  The New York Times and came up with some amazing ideas from them:

  • Carrot, celery and fennel leaves – Mix small amounts, finely chopped, with parsley as a garnish or in salsa verde: all are in the Umbelliferae family of plants. Taste for bitterness when deciding how much to use.
  • Citrus peel – Organic thin-skinned peels of tangerines can be oven-dried at 200 degrees, then stored to season stews or tomato sauces.
  • Corn cobs –  Once the kernels are cut off, simmer the stripped cobs with onions and carrots for a simple stock.
  • Melon rinds –  Cut off the hard outer peels and use crunchy rinds in place of cucumber in salads and cold soups. I don’t think I will try this. Just saying
  • Young onion tops – Wash well, coarsely chop and cook briefly in creamy soups or stews, or mix into hot mashed potatoes.
  • Tomato leaves and stems – Steep for 10 minutes in hot soup or tomato sauces to add a pungent garden-scented depth of tomato flavor. Discard leaves after steeping.
  • Tomato scraps –  Place in a sieve set over a bowl, salt well and collect the pale red juices for use in gazpacho, Bloody Marys or risotto.
  • Watermelon seeds – Roast and salt like pumpkin seeds.

Do you have any sustainable recipes, tips or tricks to share?


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