Get the most out of your produce by using them from root to tip with these handy tricks.
1. Learn how to make stock
Otherwise known as a mirepoix in French or a soffritto in Italian, stock will be your waste saving best friend. A stock is considered a secret essential ingredient in all of chef’s cooking and is a fantastic way to utilise the odds and ends of your vegetables. The best stocks include onion, garlic, carrot and celery, even if it is just the tops and skins. Top tip: Keep a container or zip lock bag in your freezer, and add your discarded vegetable ends, skins, and leftovers to your stash.
Stock was something that home kitchens would have always had ticking away on the stovetop, being replenished with the day’s veggie scraps and continuously topped up with water. Outside of recipes that call for stock, your stock can be used in any savoury dish that asks for water. Expect a burst in flavour when working this into your dishes!
- 2 brown onions, roughly chopped or just the skins
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 3 celery stems, roughly chopped
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 3 cups of veggie scraps, roughly chopped if necessary
- Bunch of thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Pinch of black peppercorn
- Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, garlic, carrot, and celery (if using) until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering gently for an hour, this will result in a beautiful tasting stock that can be stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Stock can be cooked over a longer period, up to four hours for an intense flavoured liquid. You can also use a slow cooker on low heat, but add an additional cup of water for every hour it will be on past four hours.
Food scraps to use
All the bits of the following veggies can be used and added to a stock: onion, garlic, skin and oil, root to stem of spring onion, leek, celery, chard, lettuce, potatoes, zucchini, capsicum, eggplant, tomato, mushroom, asparagus, pumpkin, and herbs. Beetroot can be added but will change the colour of your stock. Avoid any vegetables from the brassica family like cabbage and broccoli; if you need to scrap these, check back for fermenting recipes, as these are strong flavours that will add a bitter taste.
2. Save your stalks and stems
Coriander roots are essential to adding a flavour punch to an Asian sauce, chilli sambal, or Mexican salsa. The roots need a thorough washing through. A soak in warm water will help clean them and then they can be blitzed into any sauce or sambal dish.
The stem of tomato vines, if you buy the heirloom variety, can be saved and used as you would bay leaves in your cooking. Use them whole and remember to remove them before serving. If storing your vines in a jar, add a spoonful of salt or uncooked rice to the bottom of the jar as this will help draw out any moisture and prevent mould from occurring.
3. Cook once, eat twice
Why do we waste food that we’ve spent time and money cooking? Plan your meals ahead and ask yourself what other meals could this dish complement? Can portions be frozen for quick future mealtimes?
For instance, cooked vegetables and meats can be stored in the fridge to use the next day in a lunchbox, or for dinner on pizzas, stews, and curries. Risottos can make lovely, if slightly indulgent fritters. Pressure cooker meals can make sumptuous pie fillings, and almost all leftovers can be quickly revitalised and made into a delicious stir-fry or baked frittata.
4. Pop the kettle on
Citrus peels, leftover herbs (even just the stems), bay leaves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and turmeric are fantastic additions to an afternoon herbal teapot.
5. Stop peeling and discarding your skins
This was some advice I received recently from a farmer friend. Most of our vegetable skins are edible or at least should be cooked with, if not eaten. The outside of our vegetables do need to be washed, and it could be as simple as some vinegar in a sink full of water left to soak or using a bristled brush to scrub the outside.
Thicker-skinned vegetables, like Japanese pumpkins, can be cooked whole with the skin on and considered as you would bones in a dish. Organic and Australian-grown garlic skins can be put into olive oil for a FODMAP friendly garlic oil infusion. Lastly, see the above stock recipe to check if you can use your veggie scraps in a stock.
If you want to learn more handy kitchen and cooking tips, join Jessie’s The Thrifty Kitchen: Root-To-Stem Cooking workshop.