Rescuing Food: 12 Culinary Ideas

What can be done with vegetables or other ingredients that no longer look their best but are still usable? Or fruit that is already damaged when it comes off the tree? Experts provide tips and recipe ideas to combat food waste.

Rescuing Food

Whether fruit, vegetables or meat, out of the 4.678 million tonnes of food produced globally, over 40% is thrown away each year. This is a problem that affects every stage of the food value chain, according to sources including a WWF report. And yet in many cases it is completely unnecessary, as there are plenty of creative ways the food can be used. These tips can transform past-its-prime produce into something that is not just edible, but a culinary treat.

Tip from Austria: What do bananas and cheese have in common?

According to a study, bananas are the fruit most frequently thrown away by shops – because as soon as they start to go brown, most consumers won’t buy them. But for restaurateur Klemens Schraml, that is when they are at their most flavoursome. ‘Brown bananas taste much better than green ones. It’s the same as with cheese – the longer it matures, the better it is.’ In his nature-based restaurant Rau in the Austrian municipality of Großraming, he tries to rescue as much food as possible. ‘As well as treating our food with more respect, we also need to shop more intelligently – such as by not buying fresh fruit just before we go on holiday, or checking in the fridge before we go to the supermarket, to see what food we have left in there and what meals we can create from it.’ His own creation – ‘Do not waste bananas’ – is a dessert made from a ripe brown banana topped with a lime-rum glaze and a coconut and Jerusalem artichoke foam, and served with coconut ice cream, freshly grated turmeric and sunflower powder. His tip: ‘Turmeric and banana go really well together – that’s why they are often placed quite close together in Austrian supermarkets.’

No Waste Banana
Photo: Julia Losbichler, Rau

Recipe from Kazakhstan: Easy banana cake

Brown bananas are better than green ones for this recipe, too, as they are easier to mash and have a more intense flavour:

Melt 100g butter and allow to cool. Peel 3 ripe bananas and puree with a hand-held blender. In a deep bowl, whisk 2 eggs until they form a smooth, white mass. Add the pureed bananas, 75g sugar and the melted butter and mix together. Fold in 200g flour, 8g baking powder and a pinch of salt and stir to form a smooth batter. Optional: stir in a few chocolate chips. Using your fingers, grease the cake tin with a little butter and then sprinkle each side with flour. Shake the tin to make sure it is evenly coated and tip out any excess flour. Now pour the mixture into the tin and bake the banana loaf at 180°C for 45 minutes.

Tip from Germany: Worth the work

Fruit doesn’t need to be thrown away just because it is a bit damaged. ‘It’s important to cut out any badly damaged areas. It just takes a little effort,’ says Ulrich Glemnitz from Bunte Burger. Then almost any type of fruit can be made into jam or, with the addition of other spices such as ginger, into chutney. ‘Fruit and vegetables can also be preserved by pickling,’ Schmitz adds. His tip for wilted herbs: puree with a little salt and oil and, if desired, add more spices and nuts or seeds to make a pesto.

Recipe from Kazakhstan: Summery peach soup

Less-than-perfect peaches? No problem. With this recipe, you can conjure up a quick lunch for a hot summer’s day within 25 minutes (quantities are for 4 people):

Peel and quarter 700g peaches or nectarines. Put 500ml water and 20–30g sugar (20g only if the peaches are very ripe) into a deep pan and bring to the boil. Once the mixture has come to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Then puree until the desired consistency is reached and stir in 10 leaves of whatever fresh herbs you have in the fridge, such as mint, basil or lemon basil. As soon as the soup has cooled to room temperature, place in the fridge. Just before serving, garnish with herbs, a spoonful of yoghurt or sour cream that may otherwise be wasted, a few red berries for acidity and a twist of black pepper.

Tip from Italy: Cordial not compost

Michele Cocchi

‘Fighting against food waste for me and for my staff is a very important challenge,’ says Michele Cocchi from catering company Idea in Cucina in the Italian municipality of Bentivoglio. His tip for surplus fruit and vegetables: dry and powder the peel and pulp, for example of a squeezed orange, and use them to decorate dishes. This not only looks good, but also enhances the flavour. Pips, such as those from apples, can be used to make cordials or to flavour oils. And peels are also extremely useful for syrups or liqueurs – pineapple skin is especially good for this. ‘My advice to all restaurateurs is to get your hands on the latest technology, because systems such as blast chillers and vacuum sealers allow us to keep food in perfect condition for longer and ensure that it is in an optimum state of freshness when needed.’

Recipe from Kazakhstan: Moist courgette loaf

Sounds unusual, but tastes delicious! The addition of courgettes not only produces a deliciously moist loaf, but also makes it healthier. It’s also a good way of using up slightly wizened courgettes:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 21x11 cm loaf tin with a little oil, sprinkle with flour and shake and tap the tin to make sure the flour is distributed evenly. Wrap 350g grated courgettes (from around 11 ounces of courgettes) in kitchen paper and squeeze over the sink to remove excess liquid. In a large bowl, whisk 2 large eggs, 70g brown sugar, 65g granulated sugar and ⅔ of a cup of oil until smooth. Add the courgettes and combine with a rubber spatula. Add ¾ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Stir. Add 75g walnuts, 50 golden raisins, 170g white whole wheat flour and 35g rolled oats. Stir. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle on a few more oats. Bake for around 1 hour, until a thin blade poked into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Recipe from Kazakhstan: Baked feta with roast vegetables

Do you have vegetables shrivelling up in the fridge? This dish is a great way to use up all the leftovers and takes just 40 minutes:

Heat oven to 200°C (place shelf in the centre). Arrange onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes on the base of a baking dish or shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a little fresh thyme. Drizzle over a little virgin olive oil. Place the feta on top of the vegetables. Season the feta block with the remaining dried oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes and the remaining fresh thyme. Drizzle feta generously with virgin olive oil and brush on both sides. Place the baking dish on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Tip from Italy: Less rush, less waste

‘Technology and good organisation of all business processes in a restaurant are the most strategic way of ensuring less food waste,’ says Riccardo Mini, chef at the METRO Academy in Florence. He centrifuges very ripe fruit to make juice of jelly by adding hot agar-agar (a plant-based gelling agent), or delicious sauces by adding sugar. He doesn’t even throw away the skins of watermelon or pumpkins, using them to make mustard instead. ‘I always advise METRO Academy customers to keep a clear and updated book where they can plan their kitchen organisation and all the details on their recipes. If you are well organised, you can contain the risks that arise from rushing – because rushing always causes waste!’

Riccardo Mini METRO Academy Chef

Recipe from Kazakhstan: Labneh from wrinkly tomatoes

Overripe tomatoes are often full of flavour, but can be too soft to use in salads. But in this state, they are perfect for a spicy tomato labneh. This dish for 4 people can be on the table in just 15 minutes:

Finely shred or chop 450g ripe, skinned tomatoes. Put in a pan with 65g cold-pressed olive oil, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 strips of lemon peel, 1 tablespoon of balsamic glaze (or other vinegar), pepper, 1 teaspoon of cumin, paprika and salt and cook on a high heat for 3 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and take out the lemon peel. Spoon 400g labneh (Greek full-fat yoghurt or sour cream) onto a plate and top with the hot tomato sauce. To finish, drizzle fresh herbs to taste (oregano, basil, coriander) with a little olive oil and serve with bread.

Tip from Italy: Foodsharing. Don’t throw it away – give it away

Stefano Bartolucci

‘In my restaurant, fruit and vegetable scraps are reused and used from appetizers to desserts,’ says Stefano Bartolucci, Ristorante RossoDiVino, Valmontone. From jam served as an accompaniment to the cheeseboard, to dried fruit peelings used in desserts. ‘I recently collected a lot of berries, which don’t keep for very long. To avoid having to throw them away, I chill them and then use them to make reductions or jams,’ says Bartolucci. He and his staff are working on ways of cutting food waste. ‘We have developed many partnership with local food supplier to exchange empty containers in order to allow them to reuse them. Donation for us is the key ingredient against food waste. And this why we also created a local parentship with a no profit association that can take our end surpluses as unsold courses of fresh products we are not able to use during the day.’

Recipe from Portugal: Apple compote with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom

Apples that are bruised or have damaged skin often do not store well, so it is better to use them straight away. There are a number of ways of making them keep for longer. Compote is especially easy and always popular:

Heat butter and sugar in a frying pan until it colours slightly, then add 2 cardamom pods and 40g of freshly grated ginger. Pour on water and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Now add 1 kilogram of peeled apples and cook on a low heat until they have the consistency of a compote. If necessary, add 1g agar-agar just before the compote is ready. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. The compote is a perfect accompaniment for cheese, fruit, nuts and biscuits.

More practical tips to help restaurateurs reduce food waste in their kitchens:

1. Raise awareness of the problem of food waste

  • Communicate the restaurant’s commitment to staff and end customers
  • Clear description of the menu and the ingredients

2. Avoid waste at every phase

  • Purchasing of products
  • Conservation of products
  • Menu
  • Cooking and preparation
  • Reuse and recycling

3. Donate or resell surplus food

These 3 principles were developed by METRO, the METRO Academy, the Banco Alimentare (food bank) and the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (university) following a survey on food waste carried out by HoReCa professionals. Italian chefs now implement the tips in their own kitchens and provide feedback on the results.

Further inspiration for hoteliers, restaurants and caterers:

Stepping Up Sustainability – But How? 10 Tips for Restaurateurs

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