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Creativity in a no-waste kitchen

Taste Before You Waste’s cooking team prepares a delicious vegetarian meal every Thursday from food that’s picked up and saved from the waste bin. We can never predict what kind of menu we are going to cook on one of those evenings. Sometimes we only get cucumbers and plums, sometimes just big boxes with tomatoes, mangos, and heaps of ginger. Still – and I am surprised every time we start serving dinner – we manage to put something tasty and nutritious on the table, often including soup, snacks, and dessert.

So how do we do it? A TBYW cook needs to be creative. The coming months you will find blogs with tips and recipes that will inspire you to bring some creativity into your own no-waste kitchen.

When you get a random combination of fruits and vegetables, however, cooking by recipe gets difficult. Creative cooks make up something themselves! Tomato mango salsa? Why not. Cucumber curry? Of course. I will try to recreate the recipes of the dishes we prepare in the TBYW kitchen to show what we can do with rejected food. Most importantly though, I want to inspire picky eaters and home cooks to clean out their fridges and start frying, tossing, cooking, and blending together all that good stuff into something delicious. You’ll find that it’s actually not that hard at all. If we can prepare dinner for more than twenty people with “ugly” fruits and vegetables, you can do it too.

First,  some basics:

  1. Trust your senses. Look, smell, feel, and taste your food before you throw something out.  Although a lot of perfectly good food ends up in our kitchen, we also get some sad-looking vegetables and fruits to deal with. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we throw out all of them. And you shouldn’t either! A soggy tomato may not be perfect for your salad, but will still do fine in a soup, dip, or sauce.

  2. Be realistic. You don’t want to get sick.

  3. Wash your vegetables and fruits, cut out the icky parts and continue!

What usually follows in our kitchen is a lot of peeling and cutting. Then, the real cooking can finally begin.

People who have visited our dinners at De Meevaart more than once may have started to recognize a pattern. There are a couple of ways to easily and successfully prepare vegetables and fruits, that we often use.

For example:

  1. Salad – For the fresher and firmer vegetables. Think of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, avocados, carrot (grated), radishes, spring onion, bell peppers etc., Fruits such as apple, pear, and pomegranate seeds can also make a salad nice and interesting. Add a simple dressing or vinaigrette and/or some toasted seeds or nuts.

  2. Soup – Especially for the vegetables that don’t look that pretty anymore. Fry or boil down veggies (with onion and/or garlic), add stock powder and water, let it boil to let the vegetables soften and blend with a stick blender. Season, add spices, and if you like some coconut/soy/dairy cream and toppings like croutons (from old bread) or fresh herbs.

  3. Dips, sauces, and spreads – Think of guacamole, baba ganoush (from grilled aubergines), roasted pepper dip, vegetable humus, chutneys etc.

  4. Stir-fried vegetables – Throw some vegetables in a heated pan with oil and start frying.

  5. Vegetable curry – For example something like this: Experiment with different vegetables and spices and create your own blend. Serve with rice or noodles.

  6. Oven-roasted and grilled vegetables – Slice them, sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper, spices and put in a hot oven till brown and crispy. Think of potatoes (rinse well and leave the skin), pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, aubergine etc.

  7. Smoothies –  Peel. Cut. Mix. Blend. Even some vegetables are popular smoothie ingredients these days.

  8. Fruit crumbles and cakes –  With baking, recipes should often be taken more seriously. Look up a basic crumble dough recipe and create your own combination with fruits like berries, stone fruits, apples, and pears.

Most of the recipes that will follow in the coming blogs will be variations of these types of preparations.

A last remark, and perhaps the most important one for creative cooking:

Spice it up. Invest in a basic collection of spices. At the TBYW kitchen we have: ground cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, garam masala, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, turmeric, salt and black pepper. Other basic products we have in stock are: olive oil,  sunflower oil, flour, vegetable stock/bouillon powder, sugar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, onions, and white rice.

With these basic tips and tricks, you’ll get a long way in the creative no-waste kitchen. I would like to invite you to open your fridge and start cooking.

Not convinced, or curious?  Join one of our dinners, or sign up to become part of the cooking team. We’ll show you!


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