easy peasy tomato soup with croutons

There are quite a few cookbooks out there dedicating themselves to the topic of zero waste or specifically eleminating food waste in your home. When I pick up one of those books I am often hopeful to learn something new, get a new inspiration on how to tackle food waste in my home more creatively. However I am mostly disappointed when I flick through some of those books and see long lists of ingredients. I close the book with an enervated sigh and put it back on the shelf. I simply don't see what makes it different from any other cookbook. When trying to save something from perishing I don't want a long list of things I have to go out and buy.

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More and more often my go-to sources are cookbooks that intrigue me with their simplicity. Nothing can be more captivating than using only a handful of ingredients and combining them in an unexpected way. Sometimes it can be one ingredient that is used in a slightly different manner, using a different technique or pairing it with another ingredient I have not considered before. Nigel Slater is a good source, a lesser-known (at least internationally) is the book by Risa Nagahama and her partner renowned food photographer Jörg Lehmann. Their book Easy Peasy came out two years ago and they really master the art of creating stunning dishes using as little as 2 and up to 8 ingredients. I love the elegant and minimalist style of Risa's dishes. Some of the ingredients might be a little bit difficult to source if you don't happen to live in a metropolitan area, however I find the book subtly encourages you to find substitutes and inspires to experiment. So far the book has only been published in German, yet I don't see a reason why it might not inspire you to learn another language. I have forgotten most of my French, but sometimes a beautiful picture of a dish has inspired me so much that I sat down and translated it.

Bread is probably the ultimate contender for food being thrown. What I do far too seldomly is turn dry bread into croutons, maybe because it is so obvious? Easy Peasy focuses mainly on fresh fruit and vegetables, but there is one recipe that is simple to prepare and is perfect for using up old bread. A soup made from tinned tomatoes, jazzed up with a condiment and the croutons! What are you using croutons for apart from soups and salads?

Most of the dishes in Easy Peasy are given rather endearing names rather than calling it what it is. The Queen in Japan (for a porridge with matcha tea) or August the Great (for a salad of melons and tomatoes dressed with an oil made off puréed black olives and olive oil). The soup is actually called Five Minutes in Bangkok, because in Easy Peasy they use a condiment with Thai flavours. The book names Harissa as an alternative, which I used instead. I have also made a little adaption by using chopped parsley instead of the thyme, because that’s what I had on hand. So I decided to call it Five Minutes in Tunis, because that’s where they apparently have the spiciest type of Harissa.

Five minutes in Tunis

  • 800 g of tinned tomatoes

  • 1 dry bread roll

  • olive oil

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • 1-2 tablespoons Harissa paste (or another spicy condiment of your choice)

  • chopped parsley for garnish

Halve the dry bread roll horizontally and rub both halves with the garlic. Slice into small cubes. Put some olive oil into a pan and roast the bread until nicely toasted. Purée the tomatoes in a food processor or with a handheld blender and heat in a saucepan. Mix in the Harissa and season to taste. Serve sprinkled with the parsley and croutons.

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roasted puntarelle - when simple really is more than good enough

Over the last few months, since running this blog again more regularly I have also noticed a positive side-effect. I seem to be spending less on food. I don’t think I am eating less and neither do I buy cheaper or food stuffs of inferior quality. It’s probably due to the fact that I throw away less. Actually hardly anything. It’s the middle of the month now and I look at my bank balance and wonder what’s going on. There is still so much money in my bank! I once heard the phrase: polish here and it shines there. My original intention of throwing away less food has rewarded me unexpectedly with saving money.

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However since it seems to become more natural for me to avoid food waste I occasionally find it a bit challenging to come up with blog posts where I can share my experience of having saved anything from being thrown. Eleminating food waste in my kitchen starts to become second nature and I often dismiss an idea writing about something here, because I think it’s not relevant and probably won’t inspire people that much. Which I guess is a bit ignorant. You never really know what impact something you say or do has on other people.

My friend Karla recently sent me a note on Whatsapp before she was going on holiday. She took a photo of some vegetables roasting in the oven with seeds and nuts and shared that with me with the caption that she copied me. This really made my day.

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So when I was struggling this week to come up with a post because I thought there was really nothing in my fridge that needed to be used up I thought I might just copy Karla coying me and make up a post about roasting vegetables in the oven. Choosing some limp and wilted items on the bottom of the crate that probably nobody will buy anymore. How could I be so ignorant? In fact I DID have something sitting in my crisper for several weeks that I promised myself I will use soon. It was part of a head of puntarelle (in Germany we also call it volcanic asparagus) that left me with decision fatigue for quite some time. Should I ferment it? Use it for a filling of a tart? Eat it raw in a salad? Days passed, weeks passed and it is only because I have moved into an apartment with a super fridge that kept it alive and green for so long. In the end I decided I have had enough of this food procrastination and decided I won’t go out and buy some more food when I have clearly enough in the bottom of the fridge to last me for a couple of meals.

I guess what blocked me and kept me procrastinating for so long was the fact that I wanted to make something amazing with it. Something that earned me at least three imaginary Michelin stars. How silly is that?! The Italians love to eat puntarelle very simple. When I bought the head in mid-March the stall keeper in Munich’s Leopoldstraße gave me some unsolicited advice on how to prepare it: “Just some olive oil, fennel and anchovy. That’s how we love it in Italy!”

It felt like a relief to let go of all these super complicated projects I was going to do with it. Just setting the oven on high, ripping the shoots apart, splashing it with some gluggs of olive oil and letting it do its thing in the oven for 20 minutes while preparing a simple dressing of fennel seeds, lemon zest (hello! there was half a lemon rescued here, shrivelling in my fridge!) and smashed anchovies. Life can be wonderful when I am keeping it simple and let go of my perfectionism! Have you had any experiences of letting go in the kitchen? Feel free to share it with me below!

Roasted puntarelle

  • puntarelle (or endive or radicchio)

  • olive oil

  • lemon zest finely grated and lemon juice (optional)

  • anchovies

  • fennel seeds

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven on 180 degrees C fan. Rip the puntarelle into individual shoots (if using endive or radicchio cut into wedges) and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Splash with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. While the puntarelle is in the oven prepare the dressing. Smash 2-3 anchovies in the pestle and mortar (or smash with a fork on a plate) and mix with the lemon zest, lemon juice and fennel seeds. Dress the puntarelle with the dressing and serve.

The individual shoots resemble asparagus a little bit, however they have a bitter flavour not unlike endives or dandelion. Here the shoots are dressed with olive oil and some salt and pepper before they are roasted in the oven for 20 minutes.

The individual shoots resemble asparagus a little bit, however they have a bitter flavour not unlike endives or dandelion. Here the shoots are dressed with olive oil and some salt and pepper before they are roasted in the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes the shoots are slightly charred and nice and tender.

After 20 minutes the shoots are slightly charred and nice and tender.

chervil omelet - savoury pancake to use leftover herbs

Over the years I have thrown away many leftover herbs. It seems you can never buy herbs in the quantity you actually need. You either end up with too much or too little. The latter often puts you into the dilemma of having to buy a second bunch or package which mostly ends up being too much. Time and again it happens that I discovered the half-rotten leftovers of a bunch that was pushed to the back of my fridge and kick myself for not having acted before it started to wilt. It doesn’t seem like a huge amount of waste, however herbs are mostly rather expensive. If I add up all the leftover herbs I have thrown away over the years I suppose it amounts to quite a lot. It’s 50 cents here, 75 cents there…sometimes more, sometimes less.

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I have written a post about different ways to use up a leftover bunch of lemon thyme and covered quite a few options: making herb butter, flavoured oil or vinegar, freezing it, drying it. Something I have not listed there was a herb omelet. Yet I have to say that harder, sturdier herbs like rosemary or thyme don’t work so well in an omelet, at least not in huge amounts. More delicate herbs, such as chives, dill, tarragon or coriander (cilantro) work a lot better here and may be used in larger quantities.

The other day I bought a bunch of chervil which I mainly used for garnishing a dish. I had a lot left over and running this blog not only helps to sharpen my focus, but also increases my self-awareness. When I put the rest of the bunch of chervil in the fridge (which was a lot since I only used a tiny amount for garnish) I vowed to myself to not make the same mistake again. It was not only because of the price tag, which was a rather costly 3.50 Euros.

I procrastinated for a few days, but eventually got my act together and decided to make a simple omelet with it. I even remembered that I might make use of a kitchen gadget I haven’t used for a while: a blini pan (blinis are pancakes popular in Eastern Europe often served with sour cream and roe). Again I kept it rather simple using what I had on hand: eggs, garlic, a little bit of single cream I also had left, salt, pepper, the chervil and dollops of greek yogurt on top. I was chuffed not only to have beaten my leftover procrastination, but also having created a delicious meal with something that too often has ended up in the bin. It’s up to you how finely you want to chop the herbs. You may also add some cream, finely grated lemon zest or cheese if you like. Here is what I made:

Chervil omelet

  • bunch of chervil, roughly chopped

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • 50 ml single cream

  • salt and pepper

  • butter for the pan

  • greek yogurt to serve

Mix the eggs with the herbs, garlic, cream and salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a pan. Swirl the pan a little so that also the edges are evenly greased. You can make one large omelet with a larger pan or several smaller omelets if you have smaller pans. Add the egg mixture to the pan, either all at once if you have a large pan or make individual smaller omelets if you are using a smaller pan. Mine is 10 cm in diametre and I made three omelets each about one centimetre thick. Cook the pancakes at medium-high heat until they firm up. You don’t want the bottom to get too dark, so test for doneness by shaking the pan a little and seeing if they are firm enough to be flipped over. I use a plate to quickly turn them and then let the omelet slide back into the pan to cook the other side. It might run a little, leaving a little bit of the mix on the plate, but that’s ok. If making individual omelets keep them warm in a preheated oven (about 100 degrees) until you are ready to serve. Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream or simply with some melted butter on top.

I used my cast-iron blini pan to make smaller, individual omelets

I used my cast-iron blini pan to make smaller, individual omelets

pretzel crisps from leftover pretzels

When trying to eliminate food waste, I don’t stop at my kitchen. Since trying to commit myself to avoid throwing away leftovers and being aware of the life span of some easily perishable food stuffs, I also often aim to buy things at the supermarket that have been reduced. Sometimes they are close to or have reached the sell-by date, others are simply not stocked anymore and have to make space for new products. Occasionally I also take things that were given away for free.

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The other day the cashier at an organic supermarket pointed out they have a crate with leftover bread behind the checkout, if I want to take some. It was only half an hour until they closed so I took a baguette and a couple of pretzels. The pretzels reminded me of a snack I discovered recently: pretzel pieces the size of an inch, made out of regular pretzels that have been doused in olive oil and different kinds of flavourings. I found that was a fantastic way to use up leftover pretzels.

Pretzels don’t keep for very long and they are very sensitive to some climates. If it’s too dry they quickly get very hard and chewy, when the humidity is too high they also adapt a rather chewy and slightly soggy texture. If you have some that have gotten too chewy, you can moisten them slightly with your wet hands and baking them in the oven on 160 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

I have decided to recreate the pretzel snack. I searched the internet and found some methods. Here is what I tried. Someone also told me to make pretzel dumplings, which apparently you can make out of hard pretzels that you have had in your larder for weeks. This is a project I am intending to try real soon and share with you. Since it’s the weekend I have decided to make the pretzels for snacking on when watching a film on Saturday night. I have made them with smoked paprika powder. Someone suggested to create a salt and vinegar version, dousing the pretzels in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. DIfferent herbs are also an option. What are your favourite flavours when it comes to cisps and other kind of snacks?

Pretzel snack

  • stale pretzels (a day old or max. 2 days old)

  • olive oil

  • mild paprika

Preheat the oven to 80 degrees Celsius. Remove the rock salt from the pretzels, simply by rubbing it off with your fingers. Slice the pretzels with a sharp knife into 1 cm rounds. Put the pretzel pieces in a bowl and add the olive oil. You need about 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil for each pretzel. Toss the pieces so they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Add the paprika or other spices of your choice and toss. I find it works best to dust the pieces using a metal sieve and spoon. Then toss again until they are evenly coated with the paprika. Spread the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and dry in the oven for 2 hours, turning the pieces in between. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Rub off the rock salt from the pretzels. Some have way to much salt. Slice them into 1 centimetre rounds and put in a bowl.

Rub off the rock salt from the pretzels. Some have way to much salt. Slice them into 1 centimetre rounds and put in a bowl.

Add olive oil and mix. Add more olive oil until they are evenly coated.

Add olive oil and mix. Add more olive oil until they are evenly coated.

Sprinkle over paprika (or another spice of your choice) and mix until evenly coated with the spice. I use a metal sieve to distribute the spice evenly over the pieces.

Sprinkle over paprika (or another spice of your choice) and mix until evenly coated with the spice. I use a metal sieve to distribute the spice evenly over the pieces.

I will never throw away pretzels. This is simply addictive. I let them cool and had them for a late evening snack.

I will never throw away pretzels. This is simply addictive. I let them cool and had them for a late evening snack.

sauerkraut from half a cabbage

Fermentation has been all the rage for several years now. I don’t really care about fashion or trends that much. I like what I like and I do what I do. My initation to fermentation has been an accidental one. About 5 years ago I came across Isa Palstek, who runs a fermentation group by the name of Wilde Fermente (German) on Facebook. She was also making and selling ceramic pickle weights that I got interested in. I wasn’t contemplating on trying my hands on fermentation, but wanted to have the weights to keep things submerged. For example bitter oranges I steeped in alcohol for several months to make an aperitif called vin d’orange or brining my own olives.

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It turned out that Isa lived around the corner, so I asked if I could come and collect the weights at her place. We had a chat and she told me more about fermentation, her Facebook group, her blog (German) and the health benefits of sauerkraut. It made me laugh. Sauerkraut! Of all things! I was like: “You’re alright?!” Nevertheless I joined her group, was intrigued by all the fermentation posts of her members and a complete convert after I participated in a workshop of hers a few months later. We made curtido, a Salvadorian kind of sauerkraut, that is traditionally served in El Salvador with pupusas (a flat bread with a filling). Ever since then I am hooked on the special kind of umami flavour of many ferments and continue to learn, be intrigued and willing to learn and explore more. I am planning to write a longer post on fermentation since it is such a wonderful way to handle your leftovers. One thing I can tell you: it’s not rocket science and most of the things you have probably read before are wrong.

One of the things that people are scared off when it comes to fermentation is that they believe it is laborious and you can only make it in big batches. Sauerkraut conjures up images of farmers in wellington boots stomping on tons of shredded cabbage in huge tanks. Believe me: it doesn’t have to be that much effort and you won’t need to buy wellies. I had half a cabbage left the other day. Enough for a half litre jar of sauerkraut I thought and another topic for my blog. At this time of year most of the cabbages have been stored for some months and have lost a lot of their liquid. Mine has been sitting in the fridge for another week since I bough it and used only half of it and I expected it to be a bit dry. You need to massage salt into the shredded cabbage and work it for quite a bit in order to get enough brine. The brine is essential because the cabbage needs to be submerged so no bad mould fungi can grow. The half head of cabbage I had was around 500 g. As a rule of thumb, you need 2 % of salt for sauerkraut. Which means a 500 g cabbage needs 10 g of salt. In summer you need a little bit less because of the higher temperatures, in winter a little bit more. More salt slows down the fermentation process. However it also depends on the room temperature. Most lactic acid bacteria works best at temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. So the environment you start your ferments in should neither be too cold nor too hot.

The jars that work best for fermentation are those with a metal clip. In the UK they are called Kilner jars, in France they are called Le Parfait, in Italy Fido. A Swedish furniture store has them, too. I will explain more about jars in my longer post about fermentation coming soon, just trust me for now to use those types of jars.

The jars shouldn’t be packed up to the rim. Fill them up to the neck and use a weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged. Fermentation weights are available on the internet, but if you care about food safety I recommend the ceramic pickle weights of Isa. She also ships abroad (a little tip when emailing her: write politely and in full sentences. I know, it’s hard and a lot to ask for in times of text messaging and social media, but it’s good for your karma).

Sauerkraut

  • white or red cabbage (savoy won’t work, because it is to dry)

  • rock salt or sea salt (2% of the cabbage weight: i.e. 500 g needs 10 g of salt, 1000 g of cabbage needs 20 g of salt)

  • spices (crushed juniper berries, caraway seeds, bay leaf, macis…feel free to experiment)

Wash the cabbage and remove the tough core and some of the outer leaves. Slice the cabbage very finely or use a mandolin to get very even and thin slices. The thinner the cabbage slices the easier it will ferment. Add the shredded cabbage to a bowl with the salt and start massaging the cabbage until it releases a lot of liquid and a little pool forms at the bottom of the bowl. You need a lot of that liquid to cover the sauerkraut sufficiently. If your cabbage seems a bit dry and doesn’t yield a lot of brine, don’t worry. You can top it up with a 2 % brine. Simply dissolve 10 g of salt in 500 ml of water and use that to cover the sauerkraut.

Add crushed juniper berries or caraway seeds to the kraut and mix. Fill the kraut into a jar with a metal clip (Kilner, Fido or Le Parfait). Make sure you push it down enough so there are no air pockets. Fill it up to neck and top up with the brine. The kraut needs to be well submerged. Top with a ceramic pickle weight, make sure you clean the edges on the inside and outside with a paper towel, so no mould fungus can grow. Also look out for any bits that are floating on top and remove those or push underneath. Put a rubber seal on the lid and close. Keep in a dark place to ferment at a temperature between 18 and 22 degrees celsius. After a few days you can store it in a cooler temperature of around 18 degrees. After 4-6 weeks you can try your sauerkraut. Once opened store in the fridge where it will keep for several months.

You need to massage the salt into the cabbage for a bit to yield enough brine. If it is too dry (which often occurs at the end of the winter months, you can top it up with more brine (see details in the recipe).

You need to massage the salt into the cabbage for a bit to yield enough brine. If it is too dry (which often occurs at the end of the winter months, you can top it up with more brine (see details in the recipe).

You need to push the cabbage down so there is no air trapped. Don’t fill the jars up to the rim. You need to leave some space for the ceramic pickle weight and the brine.

You need to push the cabbage down so there is no air trapped. Don’t fill the jars up to the rim. You need to leave some space for the ceramic pickle weight and the brine.

Top with a ceramic pickle weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged in the brine. If you haven’t got enough brine from kneading the cabbage, make a 2% brine to top it up. This weight with the bubble decor is lovingly made by  Isa of Wilde Fermente .

Top with a ceramic pickle weight to keep the sauerkraut submerged in the brine. If you haven’t got enough brine from kneading the cabbage, make a 2% brine to top it up. This weight with the bubble decor is lovingly made by Isa of Wilde Fermente.

After a few days the brine will look cloudy. This is normal and a sign that the fermentation process has started. The bubbles you see here aren’t air pockets but the gases that is produced by the lactic acid bacteria.

After a few days the brine will look cloudy. This is normal and a sign that the fermentation process has started. The bubbles you see here aren’t air pockets but the gases that is produced by the lactic acid bacteria.

I recommend you put a plat underneath your jar, because some of the brine will leak out of the jar. The rubber seals allow for pressure to escape. The gasses produced by the lactic acid bacteria pushes out oxygen and creates an anaerobic climate at the top of the jar which makes it impossible for mould fungus to grow.

I recommend you put a plat underneath your jar, because some of the brine will leak out of the jar. The rubber seals allow for pressure to escape. The gasses produced by the lactic acid bacteria pushes out oxygen and creates an anaerobic climate at the top of the jar which makes it impossible for mould fungus to grow.

celery, parmesan and lemon salad

Over the years I have accumulated quite a few kitchen gadgets. Some of them are useful, some things just lie in my kitchen drawer and have only been used once or twice. Egg slicer, anyone? Having said that, I must add that I do have some pieces of equipment that make me unbelievably happy every time I use them. One of those items is a mandoline which I received over 15 years ago as a xmas present from my friend Katja. The model I have is adjustable which allows you to slice even the hardest vegetable into paper-thin slices. It effortlessly transforms cucumbers into transparent discs, fennel shavings appear as a whisper on top of salads and potatoes can be sliced evenly for a gratin. I think there are very few people in this world who have the knife skills to compete with a good-quality mandoline.

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Coming to speak of leftovers. Since a mandoline can turn even the most mundane produce into a stunning ingredient in any dish, I find it an extremely helpful tool to make use of your leftovers. If you get one that is adjustable in height (which allows you to choose the thickness of your slices) and has a sharp blade, it is a pleasure to use.

Celery is an ingredient I often have leftover. You buy a whole bunch and usually need only a stalk or two. A few years ago I read of a salad with thinly sliced celery, parmesan and lemon. There were no quantities given, but I find to make this simple summery salad you don’t need exact quantities. I usually make it by guess and by gosh. Often I use finely grated lemon zest and the juice to scatter over the salad. This time I wanted to make use of preserved lemons, because I have quite a few jars of them in my fridge. Note to self: preserved lemons will be another good blog post for the future. There are more ways to be creative here. If I have some parsley that has to be used, I add that. A poached egg is a lovely topping and makes it more substantial. You can use other hard cheeses such as manchego or pecorino if that’s what you have. Do you have any salads you like to make with leftover celery?

Celery parmesan and lemon salad

  • one leftover bunch of celery

  • parmesan

  • finely grated zest lemon zest and lemon juice (or the skin of 1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped)

  • extra-virgin olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  • addtional toppings (I used celery seeds, chopped parsley or toasted pine nuts would also be good)

Remove the leaves and from the celery and roughly chop. Set aside. Slice the celery into approximately 2 mm slices using a mandoline or very sharp knife and put into a bowl. Shave the parmesan into thin slices with a vegetable peeler or also on the mandoline. Add this to the celery, scatter over the celery leaves, grated lemon zest (or chopped preserved lemon) and any addtional toppings. Mix gently with your hands and drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste and mix again gently with your hands. Serve with crusty white bread and a glass of white wine (to make life even better). Sicily here I come again!

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chicken broth - the transformation of a roasted bird

The other day I made a roast chicken and I think this was the most expensive whole chicken I have ever bought. With chicken I have made a dramatic transition in my food shopping. For most of my life I have been completly oblivious to what kind of life the animal has had. Eventually I started buying cornfed birds, which was a change from only buying the cheapest chicken breast. Now I start to consider other things: free range, raised on a farm with no cull of male chicks, regional if possible. It is a completely different price level, but that makes me realise how meat is just not something to have everyday, but for a special occasion.

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I was intrigued when I roasted the bird. The scent was unlike other chicken I have roasted in the past and the flavour…this was something else. Which inspired me to get even more out of it and make a broth from the leftover bones. I think I have made it once before, but wasn’t too convinced. The flavour just wasn’t as strong as the stock you get from a stock cube. This bird seemed a lot more promising and I thought it is only fair to get the most out of the whole animal. So I searched the internet for instructions how to make chicken stock from leftover bones from a roast chicken. I decided to improvise with what I had and bought a couple of things that were missing. Many recipes ask to discard the vegetables after cooking the chicken stock. They definitely don’t look very appealing after having been cooked in the broth for several hours, but I found they are good enough to be turned into a cream of vegetable soup.

Colourwise the soup left a lot to be desired, it was a greenish-grayish hue that didn’t shout: Eat me! Turmeric was my saviour. It’s not only the vibrant yellow colour that I like, but also the earthy and slightly bitter flavour profile. The chicken stock was not as salty as I expected even though I added salt to the soup and celery imparts a natural saltiness. Feel free to adjust. It’s definitely worth making your own stock. It’s hardly any work and I didn’t even bother skimming off the foam. In my soup there wasn’t a lot. It was mainly put everything in the pot, simmer and leave for a few hours. What have your experiences with making your own chicken broth or other bone broth? Feel free to share below or send me a message.

Chicken broth

  • carcass and bones of one roasted chicken

  • 2 onions or shallots, peeled and cut in half

  • 3 stalks of celery

  • 1 large carrot, peeled

  • 1 parsnip, peeled (or stalks from a bunch of parsley)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • clove of garlic, peeled and left whole

  • a teaspoon of pepper corns

  • a teaspoon of fennel seeds

  • 1 star anise

  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the carrot, celery and parsnip into large chunks. Add all the ingredients with the bones and carcass of the chicken to a large casserole and fill with water until just covered. Put on a lid and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, so it is barely simmering. A bubble rising to the surface here and there is enough. Simmer on this low heat for 2-3 hours. When ready strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the cooked vegetables (I also kept the garlic and onions) for later and discard the rest. Taste the stock and season to taste. If you don’t use the stock immediately, let it cool, then store in the fridge until ready to use. This keeps well for a up to a week in the fridge.

Cream of vegetable soup

  • cooked vegetables from the chicken stock

  • 1 cup of chicken stock

  • 100 ml cream

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Put the vegetables in a food processor with a dash of the chicken stock and pulse to a puree (or use a handheld blender and a bowl). Add the rest of the stock and pulse. Mix in the cream and turmeric. Reheat on the stove and serve.

spring onion gratin - when a supporting actor takes centre stage

Spring onions regularly appear in my cooking. I don't think I have ever thrown any away. Not only because I use them frequently, but I find they are very sturdy and survive a lot longer in the vegetable box of my fridge. Occasionally I have to strip off an outer layer or discard a limp green stem. After having promised myself not only to fight foodwaste in my home, but also blogging here regularly, I feel I am developing a razor-sharp focus and awareness of what I have in my fridge. It also helped that I gave my fridge a thorough cleaning recently and just love to look at how structered, clean and orderly it looks. So I have seen this leftover bunch of spring onions sitting in the crisper of my fridge for well over a week and a half. They still look surprisingly fresh, but that is also due to the brandnew fridge that came with the flat when I moved in last year. But I catch myself procrastinating: "Oh, they still look good. There is still enough time. Today I am in the mood for something else." I wonder why mankind has this uncontrollable tendency to wait until things get really bad. Why always act with your back against the wall?! Am I waiting for these spring onions to come to life, corner me and force me to cook them?

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One thing I am learning with fighting foodwaste is keeping it simple. I am very much into dedicating myself to long and involved recipes, but this approach doesn't really help with using up leftovers. At least I haven't gotten to the point where I can do both. Nothing wrong with simplicity, but I sometimes find that I am being lazy if it's not long and involved or that it is not real cooking when I am doing something simple. However I am always intrigued when I see someone come up with a beautiful and stunning dish that does not comprise of a long list of ingredients and complicated method.

Coming back to the spring onions...I saw a very simple but beautiful dish in the book Dandelion & Quince by Michelle MacKenzie. It's mainly about using unsual fruit and vegetables. I find spring onions (or shallots as she calls them) not really an unsual ingredient, but it's unusal for them to take centre stage in a recipe. She dedicated a whole chapter to them and one of the recipes for a simple gratin was accompanied by a beautiful photo of the spring onions imbedded in melted butter and Comté cheese. If they zoomed in on the photo one could easily mistake it for a watercolour painting of a reed landscape.

I decided to change the recipe a little bit to my needs and what I had at hand. Michelle’s recipe asks for the spring onions to be blanched for about 5 minutes. I just used them as they were, set the oven to fan and 200 degrees and let it roast for about 10 minutes until the cheese was melted and bubbly and some brown spots started to appear around the edges. Some of the onions were already missing some of the green stalks, which I used for the roasted red onion and goats cheese salad I had last week. Some of the spring onions were looking limp and weren’t so vibrant in colour anymore. I thought it was good enough for me. I just cut the roots and some parts that were brownish. When they are cooked or roasted it doesn’t matter if they don’t look at their freshest to start with. Michelle used Comté in her recipe, which is not so easy to find. I had Parmesan in my flat, so decided to use that. Feel free to experiment with other cheeses. However I wouldn’t recommend anything that is too neutral (Mozzarella) or too strong (piquant Gorgonzola) in taste. Be careful with the salt. I would sample the cheese first to see if you need to add salt when seasoning.

  • bunch of spring onions

  • 125 g of finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • 100 ml single cream

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan (220 regular oven). Wash the onions and pat dry. Cut off the roots and parts of the stalks that don’t look fresh anymore. Put half of the cheese in a bowl with the cream and mix. Take a shallow gratin dish and grease with a glug of olive oil. Layer the spring onions in the dish, spread over the cheese/cream mixture and season. Scatter the rest of the cheese on top and season to taste. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling. Keep a close eye on it towards the end to prevent it from burning. Serve immediately with fresh bread.

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roasted red onions and goats cheese salad

One of the main challenges I have with leftovers is procrastination. I might have the best intentions to use up something in my fridge or larder, but I am always tempted by something new. So I get all Scarlet O’Hara by putting it off for another day. Oftentimes I end up discarding something that I have cooked many times in my head in numerous variations.

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The other day when I was about to leave the house and thought what to have for dinner, I saw this packet of four red onions sitting on my kitchen counter. It had been there for weeks and I knew I had to do something about it. One was growing a green stem and another looked kind of saggy and sad. The latter I had to throw because the inside has turned all slimy and had traces of mould. The other ones were still good to use. I decided to make a simple salad of roast onions, goats cheese and balsamic vinegar. I have several bottles of good quality balsamic which were given to me over the years as gifts, so I am on a mission now to use them all up and eat more salad.

I was thinking of using walnuts and lambs lettuce for the salad and maybe parsley to scatter on top, but I wanted to keep the shopping list minimal. Pecans don’t have the bitter flavour of walnuts that I would have liked to have added here, but they were good enough for this salad. I also had hazelnuts, so that would have worked, too. Parsley wasn’t at hand, but I had some spring onions at home and thought that the green parts will be good for a garnish. After all the sharp taste of the red onions mellow in the roasting process. So the only thing I had to buy was goats cheese. I decided to get some soft goats cheese rounds, but the harder variety would have also been good. If you have Parmesan, that would also be a possibility.

I have to say, that I was thrilled that I was able to reduce my shopping and improvise with only a few things that I had at home. It was so much more fun to keep it simple, improvise and be creative with what I have rather than going on a shopping odyssey that clearly would have left me with another whole lot of leftover ingredients.

Here is what I used. Of course you can adjust the quantities depending on how much you have left at home. Red onions look more beautiful than white or brown onions, but if that’s all you have at home, don’t hesitate to try making this dish. It will be just fine.

  • 3 red onions, peeled and halved

  • 100 g soft goats cheese rounds

  • handful of pecans, roughly chopped (or use walnuts, hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds)

  • balsamic vinegar

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  • spring onions, the green parts, thinly sliced at a diagonal (or substitute with parsley, thyme or chives)

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C /fan: 230 degrees C (445 F/fan: 465 F). Layer the onion halves cutside up in a greased oven-proof dish and drizzle over some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until caramelized and the edges are a slightly charred. When ready arrange the onion halves with the goats cheese on two plates, drizzle with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar per plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and scatter over the chopped pecans and garnish with the spring onion greens. Season with a little bit more salt and pepper and serve.

red plums stewed in leftover wine

What do you do with leftover wine? Occasionally I open a bottle for myself when I am not entertaining, but often I only drink a glass and a half. I own a wine saver pump, which keeps the oxygen out and let’s me enjoy the rest the following day. But what about those days when you have half-full (you see, I’m an optimist) bottles of wine left over after a party?! You might not be in the mood to have more wine and it’s not exactly very tempting to have the leftovers if the bottles have been standing around uncorked.

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I actually have a few people close to me who enjoy good food, but frequently surprise me (or maybe I should say: shock me!) when they cheerfully offer me a wine that we opened together 2-3 months ago: “Hey, I still have the wine we had last time you came ‘round we could continue drinking that for dinner.” Unbelievable! Time and again I gently explain that this is wine and not a liquor.

I vowed to myself that I won’t leave someone with leftover wine, but turn it into a delicious dish before I go. The identity of the people won’t be disclosed here because I don’t want to shame or ridicule anybody. So last time I was about to leave one of those dearly loved wine philistines I convinced them that the red wine from last night better be turned into a compote. I saw some red plums and organic orange in a fruit bowl in their kitchen and thought: bingo! I halved and pitted the plums, shaved a long strip off the orange, cooked them with the red wine, sugar, some water and a bayleaf until tender but not mushy. The person I made this compote for was sceptical, but three hours later when I was on the train home I was happy to receive a text saying: Oh god, that plum and red wine compote is DELICIOUS! I enjoyed it with yogurt. You have to make this AGAIN!

If you have white wine or rosé leftover, feel free to pair that with fruit and other herbs or spices of your choice. I cannot give exact quantities here, since it will depend on the amount of wine you have leftover, this is a rough estimate based on a half a bottle of wine. Enjoy on its own, as a topping for pancakes, rice pudding or ice cream.

  • ca. 375 ml of red wine

  • 4-5 red plums, halved and pitted

  • skin of one organic orange, thinly shaved off with a vegetable peeler

  • half a cup of caster sugar

  • 1 bay leaf

Put the plums into a small saucepan, add the sugar, bay leaf and orange peel and pour over the wine. If the plums are not fully covered, add a bit of water. Bring to simmer and cook gently for 5-8 minutes until soft. They shouldn’t turn mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool. Remove the orange peel and bayleaf before serving.

quince porridge and walnuts

What do you do with the leftover syrup from a compote or tinned fruit? Do you discard it? I usually drink it. Either diluting it with some water, but since I am known for having a sweet tooth I mostly drink it straight out of the jar or tin (I am sure I’m not the only one with that guilty pleasure). I haven’t considered using it in my cooking so far.

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That made me wonder why it is not more often used in the place of water…stock is used for risotto, why not use syrup for a rice pudding?! I am always searching for ways to jazz up my breakfast. Too often i go for müsli and granola in the morning and (don’t cringe!) most of the time it’s store bought. Weekday mornings before going to work is just not the right time for me to be creative in the kitchen. A couple of years ago I have rediscovered porridge. Being German I have grown up with the German word for it called Haferschleim (literally transalted oat slime). That’s enough to put you off for a lifetime, right? For some people the plain porridge (often only consisting of water and oats) is some kind of comfort food. I took me a while to warm to it. First I tried some shop bought varieties, but eventually I started to try recipes I found in cookbooks or adapted from somewhere (a favourite is golden turmeric porridge with cardamom, dates and pistachios).

One morning I had no milk in the fridge, so I decided to improvise and use the syrup of some poached quinces. The syrup had a wonderful floral note thanks to the quince being poached for over 40 minutes in it with the seeds and pod of a whole vanilla bean. So I decided to use that as a starting point for my porridge. Quince love walnuts (and walnuts love quince), so I decided to finally crack the beautiful walnuts I brought home from a trip to Sicily last autumn and sprinkle them over the quince syrup porridge. Feel free to experiment with other syrups you have left over…why not use the syrup of some tinned apricots and pair them with almonds or pistachios in the porridge?! What are your favourite ways to use leftover syrup?

quince syrup porridge with walnuts

  • 50 g porridge oats

  • 175 ml fruit syrup (add a little water if you have less)

  • handful of coarsely chopped walnuts

  • pinch of salt

Heat the syrup until it almost reaches boiling point. Add the oats and the pinch of salt and stir to combine. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Keep cooking and stir frequently for five minutes until the porridge is nice and creamy. Immediately serve in a bowl, scatter over the walnuts. Imagine yourself somewhere sunny and warm and enjoy!

radish leaf pesto - peppery deliciousness too good to be wasted

Thanks to the leaf-to-root movement, people have become more aware of ways to use parts of the plant that many would consider inedible. I often wondered how some produce seems to come with a big part of the plant being thrown away. I even regarded many of the leaves, skins or stems of some produce as detrimental for one’s health. As I learned most of it was due to false assumptions. Radish leaves is one example. I grew radishes when I was a kid on a small vegetable patch in my parents garden. It was only as an adult that I learned that radish leaves are just as good as rocket (aragula). They have a peppery flavour that is very similar.

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I wonder why they don’t get featured more prominently in recipe magazines and cookbooks. Perhaps people consider using parts of a plant that is not so often used in cooking as a sign of constraint and deprivation. Who is so hard up to eat something that most people throw away in an instant?!

Oftentimes you find the leaves to be rather unappealing when you buy radishes, they can be limp and wilted and many shops even rip them off, because it is unfavourable for the overall look of the fruit and vegetable section. Wilted leaves don’t look great in salads, but they are still good enough for a soup or pesto.

The other day I found some wonderful looking radishes with beautiful, vibrant green leaves. The radishes were used for a salad and the leaves looked too good to end up in the compost bin. I also had some roasted hazelnuts in my cupboard and a piece of pecorino or parmesan is a staple in my home. I went online and found a recipe for hazelnut and radish leaf pesto (https://food52.com/recipes/6659-radish-leaf-hazelnut-pesto). I adapted it a little bit to keep it simple and because I didn’t have grapeseed oil and lemon at home. I was very pleased with the result and happy that I prepared a dinner for weekday.

  • leaves of one bunch of radishes, washed and picked (about a handful)

  • 20g skinned hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • 30g freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil

  • 1 - 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or mild olive oil

  • sea salt and pepper

Roughly chop the radish leaves. Put the leaves into a food processor with the grated cheese, garlic and the oils. Alternatively put everything in a bowl and use a handheld blender. Pulse to make a fine purée. Add a little bit more oil if the mixture is too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Store in the fridge until ready to use. This will keep for at least a week. I love to use this as a pesto for pasta or as a spread or dip.

cheese and seed crispbread - when stale bread turns to gold

Bread is another one of those usual suspect when it comes to foodwaste in my home. Which is a shame, when I think of it, because stale or even dry it is a wonderful way to be creative with it: panzanella (or other bread salads), bread soup, croutons, poor people’s parmesan are just a few things that come to mind when I take time to contemplate what to do with a piece of leftover bread. Sometimes I have a mental block because I initially bought the bread to make sandwiches or accompany a soup or salad. Once it goes stale or dry it has turned into something else and all I have to do is consider that transition and see it through a different lense.

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Many people believe the only thing you can do with old bread is grinding it in a food processor to get bread crumbs. My brother seems to frequently let half loaves of baguette or other white bread go dry. My mum rescues those dry loaves of bread when she goes to see him and turns them into bread crumbs. However it has taken on extreme extents with my mum producing heaps of breadcrumbs that can only ever be used up if everyone in the family was breading and deep-frying their food every day. Maybe I should teach them something new…

One of my favourite ways to use stale bread is turn it into bread crackers or crispbread with cheese and seeds. Stale bread lends itself perfectly to this. A stale loaf of bread is easier to slice thinly. With a sharp knife I can easily make 2-3 mm slices, which is impossible to achieve with a fresh loaf. I’m not too worried if the slices are a bit uneven. It adds to it. I would challenge you to try it. It’s a quick and healthy snack for a night at home, watching a movie. You can create a dip to go with it (think guacamole or a herby cream cheese spread), but they are good to be enjoyed on their own. Here is a version I like to make with grated pecorino and different seeds, but just olive oil, salt and maybe a bit of smoked paprika turns them into a real competitor to regular crisps you get at the supermarket. I am not giving exact quantities here, because it all depends on how much bread you have left. I just like to make sure that I am not skimping on the cheese.

cheese and seed crispbread

  • leftover loaf of ciabatta, baguette or sourdough bread

  • olive oil

  • pecorino or parmesan cheese, freshly grated

  • sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (I like a mix of black and white)

  • sea salt

  • pepper, freshly ground

Make sure the loaf is stale enough to slice thinly with a sharp knife. If it is still too crumbly it’s better to leave it for another day or two to get stale enough to slice into 2-3 mm slices. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F. Spread the bread slices on baking tray lined with baking parchment. You might need to do this in two or three batches, depending on how much bread you have leftover. Drizzle with oil, liberally scatter with the grated cheese, sprinkle with the seeds and finally the salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt if the cheese is quite salty. Toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden and the cheese has melted. Let cool a little and enjoy. Why not with a glass of wine?

three-potato salad...because three IS a party!

“But I always say, one's company, two's a crowd, and three's a party”
― Andy Warhol

Alright, maybe you have found this post and expected a salad made out of three types of potatoes (for instance red potato, sweet potato, blue potato). If that’s what you were looking for, I am sorry to disappoint you. I would be happy if you continue reading, though. I might have a common cure for how to deal with a small amount of leftover potato.

leftovers can be turned into something lavish and extravagant

leftovers can be turned into something lavish and extravagant

The other night I had a catch up with my friend Katja. We had the usual topic round-trip in our conversation from the incomprehension of other people’s netflix addictions, the soothing words of Pema Chödrön, decluttering (à la Marie Kondo), recent art exhibitions, foodie discoveries and eventually discussing what to do with three leftover potatoes from the day before.

I mentioned to Katja that I restarted my blog and that I am collecting topics on how to eliminate food waste in your home. She told me about a fondue party she had the night before and asked me what to do with three leftover potatoes. I was going to say “fritatta!”, but before it even came out of my mouth, she added hastily that she already had one for breakfast. It didn’t take me long to come up with a small size potato salad.

When we think potato salad, we always think potluck, buffet, family gatherings…cooking a large pot of potatoes to feed a crowd. Even when I make potato salad for myself I tend to cook more than a couple of pounds (mind you, to take to work for lunch over a few days). I have never heard of anyone turning three, two or even one potato into a salad. Why is that? Most potato salads aren’t that laborious. And when you buy your lunch at a sandwich shop or supermarket you can get portions that probably don’t contain more than 2-3 potatoes. Katja got excited about the idea and thought what she could add to the salad: cornichons, sausages she had in the freezer…there were no boundaries to the imagination.

Katja lives in NYC (I live in Munich), so I couldn’t just go around to cook and share the salad with her. I didn’t have potatoes at home, but half a tub of sour cream that has been sitting in my fridge. Sour cream is a usual suspect in my house when it comes to food waste. I often use a bit and forget the rest or procrastinate on using it until it’s gone off. I think I have thrown a lot of half-used tubs of sour cream and other dairy products over the course of my adult life. So while for Katja the potatos were the starting point, it was the sour cream for me. I also found a small jar with about a teaspoon of capers left in my fridge and went out to buy potatoes and chives. I love adding something unusual or decadent to jazz up a leftover so I chose some purple potatoes (regional, organic and labelled Purple Rain potatoes…I couldn’t resist). It shows me again, that using leftovers is no burden or chore. You can turn it into a fun challenge and colourful midweek dinner.

Below is my version of ingredients, feel free to improvise and leave a comment. I would love to hear if you have made small portions of potato salads out of three, two or even one leftover potato.

  • 3 medium waxy potatoes (use purple or red if you like it more colourful) - about 300 g/10.5 oz

  • 100 g/3.5 oz sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard (I used coarse mustard)

  • 1 small shallot or spring onion, finely chopped

  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon of capers, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 bunch of chives, sliced finely at a diagonal

If starting with leftover potatoes you might want to reheat them (for example in a microwave or a couple of minutes in hot water). They take the dressing a lot easier when warm. If you start with raw potatoes, cook them in boiling water until done (medium potatoes take about 20 minutes on a rolling boil).

While the potatoes are cooking make the dressing by whisking together the sour cream with the mustard, garlic, shallot, olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add one or two tablespoons of water if the dressing is too thick.

Drain and peel the potatoes with a sharp knife. You can stick it on a skewer so you won’t scald your fingers. Slice them while they are still hot. Mix the warm potatoes with the dressing, sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately or at room temperature.

the inventory: marie kondo in my larder (well...not quite)

I am not a great maker of new years resolutions. Not because I easily give up on them. I simply believe that you can create a new habit anytime throughout the year and consider myself relatively immune to peer pressure. However I mostly start the new year with some kind of ritual: making an inventory of my larder and deciding to use it all up in the first few months of a new year.

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It’s something that started out of sheer necessity: many years ago I was working freelance. The job situation for the coming months looked bleak, I had to pay off a loan and still wanted to go on holiday that summer. I took a deep breath and focused on ways how to save money. I realised how much food I had in my larder and was relieved to be able to save quite a bit of money that way. January is the now the month where I go through my cupboards and clear them out. After the gluttony of the holiday season it’s a great opportunity to step back and shift gears.

It works well for me, because I love the power of decluttering, creating space and becoming aware of the abundance in my life. I clear the cupboards, look if there is anything that has really gone off, get excited about forgotten delicacies (often shoved to the back of my larder), start planning meals and simply enjoy…the focus! Like all kinds of clutter, a disorganised larder can take up a lot of energy. I occasionally end up buying some ingredient I believe I don’t have, only to realise later that I have plenty of it left.

And I tend to buy delicacies which I want to save for that special occasion…only to find them years later and kicking myself for not having used them for some of those „special occasions“ that have passed. There is that packet of celery seed and chestnut biscuits that I bought to recreate the recipe, but never gotten around to make. The sun-dried cherry tomatoes I brought home from Sicily, that were intended for that gorgeous summer evening on the rooftop…however now they don’t look so appealing anymore once they have spent three years in the back of my cupboard. Oh, I could go on!

You hear a lot about food waste these days and I love that people are becoming more aware of ways how to avoid throwing away so much food that is still good enough to eat or could have been saved had it been used in time. But it’s often about produce, dairy and meat. You hear less concern about less perishable foodstuff such as preserves, flour, legumes, nuts…things that have a longer shelf life, but can also taste off or rancid. Why not make the most of it, while it is at it’s best?

So I open all the cupboards, pen and several sheets of paper ready, take every item out, one by one, and start creating a list. I roughly note the quantities and sometimes make notes of things that should be used fairly soon.

I have to say it produces a little bit of anxiety, because it is a commitment. It’s not the inventory process that creates anxiety, but making the decision to cook primarily out of my larder for a while. I am so easily inspired by what’s in shops that I forget what I have at home. And let’s face it: an opened packet of even the most exquisite pasta in an unsual shape isn’t that appealing anymore once the package looks dishevelled and there is only about 100 grams left.

Even though I am a fan of Marie Kondo and have had great success with her method (albeit, I think I only put half of it in practice), I would never hold up that leftover pasta and ask myself: "does this spark joy?“ and then throw it. Speaking to your foodstuffs might actually not be such a bad idea…Instead of saying goodbye and “thank you” to that package of leftover pasta (which Marie Kondo might encourage you to do), I thought to literally ask the 100 grams of pasta what it would like to have done with it…or to it? Whatever! I think I should start speaking to the leftovers in my pantry. So now I have created that list some things have already spoken clearly to me, while others I need to listen to more intently. I AM EXCITED! Do you want to join me on that journey and hear some of the stories my leftovers have to tell?

burnt spring onion dip - limp or burnt is not for the bin!

Another usual suspect when it comes to food waste in my home is spring onion (or scallions as they call them across the pond). The other day I bought a couple of bunches and I forgot to put them in the fridge. They looked a bit limp the following day. And that’s where the downward spiral starts. They don’t look as crunchy, fresh and inviting as when I bought them and I start to procrastinate. „Shame“, I think and promise myself to use them tomorrow. And the longer I play this game, the worse it gets. They look more wilted and uninspiring over the days. It makes me feel guilty...not only do I think of myself as inconsistent, but cold-hearted, too. Dont laugh! Those spring onions have been growing for weeks and what do I do: procrastinate and later compost them!

Recently I read a good article about some fruit and veg being at their best when they are limp. Not sure if you can generally apply this rule to all fruit and veg. But I remembered this dip I tasted last year at NOPI in London. I was happy to discover it later in the cookbook of the same name by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. For this dip they encourage you to burn the spring onions until charred... Brilliant! If the spring onions are a bit limp, it’s not a problem at all. Nobody will be able to tell what they originally looked like once they are black and burnt. And if you accidentally burn some spring onions you don’t need to discard them: just use them for this fabulous dip!

The original recipe asks you to cut off the top quarter off the garlic and discard it, which in my opinion is just unnecessary food waste. So here I kept the bulb intact and roasted the whole head.

Burnt spring onion dip

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 150 g (5.29 oz) spring onions (scallions), ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthways if thick
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 150 g (5.291 oz) cream cheese
  • 110 g (3.880 oz) sour cream
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Brush the garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and wrap in foil. Place in a small baking dish or on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves, discard the skin and mash the garlic cloves with a fork. Set aside.

Brush the spring onions with the sunflower oil. Sprinkle over ¼ teaspoons salt and a generous grind of pepper. Heat a griddle pan to high. When the pan is hot and smoking, add the spring onions, grill for 5-6 minutes, turning them in between. They should be black all over. It’s recommended to ventilate your kitchen well, because the whole process creates quite a bit of smoke. Be courageous when griddling the spring onions, it’s ok when they get quite black. Leave the spring onions to cool, then chop finely. Add the spring onions to a bowl with the cream cheese, sour cream, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, roast garlic puree and another ¼ teaspoon of salt.

Poor man’s parmesan - breadcrumbs get an upgrade

There should really not ever be the need to go out and buy breadcrumbs in the supermarket. You can easily make them at home. If the end of a loaf of bread gets stale and you feel like discarding it, think twice. Leave it out to get a bit harder for a couple of days or so. Blitz in a blender or grate coarsely using a box grater. It’s as simple as that.

Breadcrumbs have a rather dull image, most people probably believe they are only good as a coating for deep-frying. A few years ago I learned that you can turn it into a wonderful condiment: poor man’s parmesan. Simply fry the breadcrumbs in a few tablespoons of olive oil and add some herbs, garlic, finely chopped anchovy, chili or lemon zest to jazz it up. Poor man’s parmesan loves to be sprinkled on top of pasta to add some crunch. Or add it to roasted or fried vegetables or a salad.

Obviously the better the crumbs and the better the butter, the more interesting the poor man’s parmesan is going to be. Then again: who would let a good-quality sourdough baguette go stale?! But treat yourself to good butter. After all we all deserve a little reward every now and then to combat foodwaste in our home.

Poor man’s parmesan

  • 200 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • thyme leaves, chopped parsley, chili, grated lemon zest, garlic (optional)
  • flaky sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil with the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, sea salt and pepper and let the breadcrumbs absorb the oil and butter. Add the herbs, chili, garlic or lemon zest if using and continue frying the crumbs until they have a lovely golden brown colour.

quick-pickled red onion

Pickling doesn’t need to be elaborate. Many late summers I have experienced my grandparents and parents spending long evenings in the kitchen after harvesting tons of vegetables in their garden. That period of the year has always been equally satisfying and stressful. Bringing in the harvest after a long summer is very rewarding, but it can also create sheer overwhelm when you are confronted with many types of produce reaching maturity at the same time. As a kid I sometimes wondered why my family is causing themselves so much stress.

Luckily I realised as an adult that preserving, pickling etc. doesn’t need to be a masochist experience. In smaller quantities it can be rather simple, enjoyable and still worthwhile. Even the tiniest amount of produce may be pickled. In fact, I frequently find recipes that include a recipe for mini-batches of chutney, jams or pickles, just a handful to serve with a steak or fish fillet. Small amounts that can be enjoyed immediately rather than having a large batch to be stored in your larder or cellar.

Ever find yourself wondering what to do with half a red onion? Here is a wonderful recipe I have found in Mindy Smith’s „The perfectly tossed salad“. She uses it as a salad topping, but I also like to enjoy  as a condiment for a sandwich filling, on top of a steak or pork chop. Pickling has never been that easy!

Quick pickled red onion

  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 100 ml (3.5 fl. oz) vinegar
  • 30 g (1 oz) sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 juniper berries
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • pinch of cumin seeds

Place the vinegar with all the other ingredients bar the onion in a small pan and bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has been dissolved. Add the onion and simmer for a minute, then remove from the heat and leave to cool in the pickling liquid for 30 minutes.