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At The Three Chimneys restaurant in Skye, head chef Scott Davies is using leftover pear skins to make verjus – a vinegar-like condiment. Radish stems and cabbage stalks will go into kimchi pickle to accompany misoglazed quail and roast cauliflower. Once this was good housekeeping; now it’s good PR. Frugality is so fashionable that what claims to be the UK’s first ever zero-waste restaurant, Silo, has opened in Brighton.
WHAT IS TRASH COOKING?
It’s when you turn edible food destined for the bin into a new dish. For example, if apple juice has fermented, you add it to a sourdough bread mixture; when that bread is stale, you make bread and butter pudding.
HAVEN’T CANNY COOKS ALWAYS DONE THAT?
Yes, but that was before we began ploughing thousands of tonnes of edible food into landfill and anaerobic digesters. Bread is the food we bin most, and though we love to blame supermarkets, most waste – almost 50% – occurs at home.
The Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) campaign launched in 2007 by the not-for-profit body Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), publicised the problem. Such documentaries as BBC 2’s Great British Waste Menu (2011) and Hugh’s War on Waste (2015) helped bring it to the fore.
WHO’S HELPING TO USE UP ALL THAT BREAD?
Toast Ale is an award-winning beer brewed from fresh bread donated by sandwich producers and bakers. Proceeds go to the environmental charity, Feedback, which aims to halve food waste by 2025.
WHEN DID WE BECOME SO WASTEFUL?
Use-by dates and lost cookery skills have a lot to answer for. WRAP has lobbied government and food businesses to move safer foods like hard cheese and pasteurised juices from ‘mainly having a use-by date, to almost always having a best-before date’.
ANY TRASH COOKING TRIVIA I SHOULD KNOW?
There’s a recipe website to help bartenders reuse waste. From Trashtikisucks.com, mixologists can learn how to infuse white rum with leftover avocado stones and pistachio shells to create a whole new cocktail ingredient.
MARMITE IS THE ORIGINAL TRASH COOKING PRODUCT, ISN’T IT?
You’re right. The hugely popular, savoury spread is made from a byproduct of the brewing industry.
AND THERE’S A NEW VEGAN PRODUCT MADE FROM A BYPRODUCT, ISN’T THERE?
Right again. Aquafaba is the starchy water left behind after chickpeas and other pulses have been cooked or stored. It’s the liquid you pour away when you open the can. It makes an excellent vegan-friendly egg substitute for meringues, mayonnaise, mousse and marshmallows.
HMM, CHICKPEA WATER. SOUNDS A BIT LIKE AUSTERITY. ARE FOODS LIKE THESE LUXURIOUS ENOUGH FOR FINE FOOD PURVEYORS?
Absolutely. Trend Watch likes Rubies in the Rubble Aquafaba Mayonnaise, £3.69 for 190g. The pleasant acidity reminds us of our favourite non-vegan, French mayo made by Benedicta. If you have many vegan customers, try ready-made aquafaba powder by a brand such as Vor Foods. Another delicious ingredient made from a waste product and sold by Ocado is Hunter & Gather Extra Virgin Avocado Oil. Amy Moring, co-founder says: “We use avocados from small-scale farmers in Kenya that are rejected for export to supermarkets. Previously, fruit that was too small was slightly discoloured or the wrong colour would be left to rot.”
At Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers in London’s Jermyn Street, the Sloe, Fig & Almond Fruit Slice (£4.95/100g) sold to accompany fine cheeses uses sloes leftover from the sloe gin-making process.
Foxhole Gin is the first sustainable, premium gin made using a base distilled from English wine grapes, or more precisely, the pulpy mass of skins, flesh and pips known as ‘marc’. Every year, the industry throws away tonnes of the stuff. Instead of discarding it, the makers of Foxhole send the marc back for a second pressing. Formerly lost juice is collected, fermented and turned into an English wine. This wine is destined for the Foxhole Spirits distillery, and, ultimately, gin.
ANY OTHER GOOD PRODUCTS?
If you enjoy grilled salmon but never eat the skin, did you know it’s where most of the Omega 3 is found? It was only a matter of time before someone invented Sea Chips good-for-you crisps made from salmon skins.
In Rubies in the Rubble’s healthier new Tomato Ketchup, pear skins which would otherwise be discarded replace half the sugar. Snact’s new fruit jerky and banana bars use up wonky fruit and surplus bananas; as a bonus, the packaging is compostable.
HOW CAN WE USE THE TRASH COOKING TREND IN OUR CAFÉ?
Introduce a cheaper, pre-bookable set menu for students, pensioners and the eco-aware. Turn wonky veg, potato peel and veg tops into soup and use pasta trimmings and leftover cheese in bakes. Make sure dishes sound and taste appetising and spell out that the purpose is to cut food waste.
WILL THE MAKE-DO-AND-MEND TREND LAST?
To the extent that food producers have always made surplus and leftovers into new products, yes. Ethical eating and sustainability are also macro-trends. But bins have to be worth raiding so double-check worthy brands for deliciousness. Bon appetit, waste watchers!