Interest around clean living and the reduction of waste is at an all time high. More than ever before, people are looking for ways to do their bit to help save the planet, not surprisingly that pursuit often starts in the kitchen.
According to Sydney’s queen of pickling, Alex Elliott-Howery, being more mindful about the produce we bring into our homes and how we use it, is good for our health, our hip pockets and our beautiful planet.
USE IT ALL
She says with some thought it is entirely possible to buy whole produce and use it all, throwing away very little and creating some delicious food along the way.
Alex, who runs Sydney’s Cornersmith cafe in Annandale, is passionate about empowering home cooks to get the best out of their food purchases.
Her latest book, Use it All, is the ultimate guide to sustainability in the kitchen.
The key, she says, is to have on hand the right storage equipment and a touch of creativity.
She’s a big fan of Kilner preservation jars and uses them not just to pickle and ferment but also to store her fresh produce to make sure it stays super fresh. This approach, she says, allows the use of the entire item.
Take a humble bunch of celery, for example. This can be worked from root to leaves, delivering a range of versatile goodies.
She says she’s not a fan of vegetables wrapped in plastic and always makes an effort to buy whole.
So the entire bunch of celery is brought home. The core is cut off and set aside. Alex recommends putting it in a container, ideally Kilner, and adding other offcuts and leftovers during the week. When there is enough material available, it can be boiled up to make a delicious and healthy stock.
Next, she cuts the stalks down to a manageable size and stashes them in a tall Kilner jar, adding a touch of water at the bottom before sealing and placing in the fridge.
She says this approach gives the stalks a life of about two weeks and during that time the water needs to be refreshed every few days.
IN A PICKLE
Any surplus stalks are perfect for fast pickling and can be cut into smaller bite-sized pieces either sticks or rounds. This is best done finely so that the pickling juice can work its magic quickly.
Put them into a small to medium Kilner jar and add a selection of spices from the pantry, whatever is available is fine, there is no need to go hunting for anything specific.
Alex suggests dried chilli, peppercorn, fennel, bay leaves and she says anything that takes your fancy can work.
She then makes a quick brine using boiled water, vinegar, sugar and salt which she pours over the celery before sealing the jar and placing it in the fridge.
The pickled celery makes an excellent addition to salads and Bloody Marys, she says. It’s ready to use in a few days but if you can’t wait that long, it can be munched on in as little as 20 minutes.
Next, she turns her attention to the leaves of the celery, washing them and adding garlic, nuts, salt and olive oil together in a food processor.
This makes a fresh and super-handy pesto which she then stores in yet another glass jar.
The celery example can be applied to many other vegetables and it shows how just one item can be used to create a multitude of handy elements that can elevate the week’s menu.
FERMENT FOR FUN
Alex also uses Kilner to create incredible sauerkraut which is the perfect way to use up leftovers and nurture a healthy gut at the same time.
For this, she uses a cabbage, spices and the Kilner fermentation kit which is made especially for the fermenting process.
Alex says experimenting with different ingredients in the sauerkraut is lots of fun and easy and best of all it encourages the use of whole vegetables.