Maybe you hadn’t thought about what you could do with off cut and peels from cooking other great meals at home. But, there are lots of delicious recipes to make scrumptious food from bits and pieces we often consider food waste. So, here are my top 4 favourite dishes to make with so-called food waste.
Roasted pumpkin/squash seeds.
This snack is actually my inspiration for this article. I was roasting some acorn squash and other vegetables and as I was removing the seeds I remembered one of my favourite snacks – roasted squash seeds. The best thing about this recipe is that it’s so versatile – you can season them with whatever you like – and it’s so easy!
There’s a good chance you already have the oven on for cooking, so just remove the seeds and any of the stringy parts (if you prefer, I often just leave them if it’s not too much), pop them on a tray and toss them in a little oil. Season with salt and/or pepper, then pop them in the oven. Mine took around 6 minutes on 380 degrees fahrenheit. I just took them out when they started to go golden brown.
Try this with almost any type of squash or pumpkin seed. I’ve used loads of different seasoning variations, including truffle salt, smoked paprika, and cumin, but Moroccan or greek spices, and dried herbs would also work. I have also cooked them with salt and then seasoned afterwards with nutritional yeast, which was probably the best, IMO.
Carrot top pesto.
Maybe you’ve been out to the garden and harvested some fresh carrots, or you popped by the store or market and bought a bunch of carrots with tops on. But what do you do with the tops? They’re healthy and tasty with their own distinct flavour and go great in salads, but I also love making carrot top pesto out of them. This here is my go-to recipe. It used pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts, which I think you could easily substitute for almost any other kind of nut or seed, like cheaper sunflower seeds or perhaps you’re feeling fancy and want to use pine nuts, I suspect they’ll all be tasty. I have also made the recipe both with and without feta and it’s been great, so you can easily make it dairy free if needed. It only takes a few minutes to put it together and blitz it in the food processor and voila, fresh homemade pesto.
- 2 cups chopped carrot tops
- ½ cup fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 2 tablespoon hemp hearts
- red pepper flakes
- sea salt to taste
Pop the carrot tops, basil, garlic, and pumpkin seeds into the processor and pulse it until it’s a nice fine pesto texture, not mushy but well chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse the processor again to combine. Add in the hemp hearts (if you used a larger nut/seed in place of hemp hearts they should probably go in at the start) and feta, salt and chilli flakes to taste and pulse briefly to combine. Done! Just like that. You can use it immediately or store it in an airtight container for a couple of days, but it’s best served at room temperature. I have also used the same method (but without feta) to freeze in ice cube blocks to bring out for future use in pastas, pizzas, risotto, etc.
Don’t bin the skin – veggie skin snack recipe.
These little delights are super easy and bound to be a hit with the kids. They’re basically homemade crisps as a by-product of peeling your potatoes, parsnips, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes… you get the picture. I try not to peel my veggies very often as the peels are often loaded with vitamins and minerals, I even love the texture of peels in mashed potatoes, but sometimes you need to or the kids just don’t find it very appealing. Pun intended.
Preheat your oven to about 390 degree fahrenheit. Wash and thoroughly dry your vegetable of choice, then peel it, cutting out any bad bits. Keep the peels and lay them out onto a baking tray and drizzle with oil, making sure they’re coated.
Pop the tray into the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the peels and cook for another 5-10 minutes depending how crisp or brown you would like them.
Take them out of the oven and season them with some salt or other seasoning – any of the seasonings mentioned in the squash seed recipe above would also be great here.
Maybe you can even use these crisps to dip into your pesto!
If a long, slow boil to make a stock sounds arduous to you I recommend making a stock in a slow cooker. Use the low function and you can have it do it’s thing for 12-24 hours with very little extra work for you.
I store vegetable odds and ends and meat in a bag in the freezer to use to make the stock as I often do not have quite enough after one meal. If you pop things like carrot ends, chicken bones/carcass, onion, celery, herbs, etc, into a freezer bag you can store them for a few months before using. This is a great way to put food waste to another use and make stock that’s likely to be much better than anything from the store. I also highly recommend roasting the food first to brown them a little as this adds richness to the stock, it’s not required just beneficial.
Once you’ve collected enough scraps (say a handful of herbs, at least few handfuls of vegetable ends and a chicken carcass or similar) break some of the bones apart and throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker with around 6-ish cups of water (depending on the size of your slow cooker, covering the ingredients and an inch or two from the rim), a bay leaf or two, and some peppercorns. Best not to salt it as it may become too salty as it reduces, leave that until you put the stock into an actual dish. Turn the slow cooker to low and set a timer for anywhere between 12 – 24 hours, your choice. Don’t put it on high or leave it for longer than 24 hours as this can really change the flavour.
Once it’s cooked, simply strain the liquid to remove all the pieces and keep the stock in a container in your fridge for up to around 5 days or freeze it.
Like the pesto, it can be helpful to freeze the stock in an ice cube so you can just get small amounts as needed, or pop it into a container but don’t do as I once did – make sure you leave space for the liquid to expand!