Food: Eight tips for zero-waste cooking from Jack Monroe

·4-min read
Jack Monroe

Picture : PA Photo/Jack Monroe
Jack Monroe Picture : PA Photo/Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe is on a mission to help those living in poverty eat well - and waste less.

As climate fears and the cost of living crisis dominate headlines, leaving many families scared about what the future holds, activist, cook and writer Jack Monroe is trying to change the way we eat - with waste in mind.

They have partnered with Twitter to create a thread accessible to anyone on the platform to highlight recipes that use up common household waste. It comes after Monroe shared a blog post last week critical of the current online discourse around money-saving cooking.

Monroe posted: "In the leadup to #WorldEarthDay I'm working with Twitter UK to share my zero-waste recipes and create a kind of #NoWasteCookbook - a collection of recipes and ideas here on Twitter. Starting with five of my fave recipes that use some of the most commonly wasted foods in the UK..."

Here are some of the best tips shared:

1. Make pre-bagged salad pesto

"One of the most thrown away items in the UK is pre-prepared salad," says Monroe. "You can knock it into a pesto with just a handful of simple ingredients. Use it on pasta, potato salads, soups or sandwiches or cheese on toast."

If you bought salad for a BBQ or dinner party and realised it wasn't that popular, blending it and using it as a delicious topping is a great idea. Pre-prepared salad is expensive for what it is, so there's no point in wasting good veg and hard-earned cash.

2. Turn stale bread into a nutritious soup

We've probably all been guilty of buying a loaf of bread and forgetting it or even sinfully binning the crusty tops and bottoms of your bloomer.

Monroe shares: "Another commonly wasted item is bread. Whether it's the ends of the loaf, stale pieces, or the cut-off crusts of sandwiches, or even leftover garlic bread, turn it into [a] delicious soup with just three store cupboard ingredients."

Her pappa al pomodoro recipe needs only garlic, oil, herbs and a carton of tomatoes (alongside your stale bread bits). Fry the garlic, add the tomatoes, water and herbs and simmer. Throw in the bread at the end and leave to stand (covered) for at least half an hour so the bread soaks up all the flavour.

3. Use bruised apples instead of eggs to make bread

"And what about those apples past their best?" asks Monroe. "You can use apple sauce in place of eggs in baking, as the pectin acts as a binding agent, like in this (incidentally vegan) Apple Bread."

Who knew apple sauce could be so useful?

4. From sour milk to soda bread

"Milk gone a bit sour or slightly curdled? Don't throw it away!" says Monroe. "Mix it with flour, bicarb and a drop of vinegar for a no-knead no-equipment-required soda bread. If you've never made bread before, this is a great place to start!".

Irish soda bread is tasty and filing, particularly with some butter or cheese and Monroe's sour milk version is a cheap and easy way to waste less and try something new.

5. Use banana peel in banana bread

That's right, when you use up brown bananas for a lockdown-era banana bread, you need not bin the peels.

Monroe says: "Wash them in cold slightly salted water to remove any pesticides, and they're perfectly edible! Slightly banana-y, slightly bitter, excellent blended into a banana bread!"

6. Biscuits going soft? You've got yourself a buttery base

One follower raised concerns about wasting biscuits that were past their best. "None of us eat them once they go soft," posted smiley_pockets.

Monroe's advice? "Blitz them up and mix with a little butter (or marge), press into the bottom of a small glass, top with soft cream cheese mixed with a little fine sugar, dollop of jam, and you have an instant messy cheesecake."

7. Wrap cucumbers in tea towels

And when it comes to cucumber and other salad, there's a simple trick to keep them fresh for longer.

"I tend to wrap mine tightly in kitchen towel or a very clean tea towel before putting it in the fridge - it seems to absorb some of the excess moisture which helps keep it fresher for longer. You can do the same with salad and herbs," says Monroe.

8. Embrace broccoli stalks

Many people throw broccoli stalks away but we're missing out on valuable fibre.

"Either finely slice it and use in a stir fry in place of water chestnuts, or dice and fry it, then toss through pasta with lemon, chilli and garlic and plenty of pepper(or blitz it to a smooth sauce and do the same)," says Monroe. "I love broccoli stalks - I buy extra stalky ones on purpose "

Access more of Jack Monroe's zero-waste recipes on her website cookingonabootstrap.com.

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