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I know people like recipes, and that recipes define the public realm of cooking, including information and instruction to combat food waste in our kitchens.  I’m always struck by how irrational this is, because it’s rare that you’d have, as leftover (i.e.,waste you want to avoid happening), the specific amount of an ingredient that a recipe would call for.  Is there something I’m missing?

Much better to empower the confidence, I reckon, to chuck odd bits of banana or apple into a cake or pancake, or half vegetables into soups, frittata or ferments…  and I am going to write, increasingly, about the idea of approaches to cooking categories of foods rather than recipes.  Since I’ve committed myself to theorising around this, the dishes I cook are all the better actually, and I really do throw out very very little.  Of course I do cook all the time, which is also key to not throwing food away.  And eating at home, where a leftover something from one meal can just be served up at the next (which apparently needs to be stated outright).

I would say cooking by concept -and lessening dependence on recipes – is even more important when you are on a strict budget, growing your own, or receiving what-you-see-is-what-you-get from a subscription veg box or CSA. It means you can eat what you are in the mood to eat with what you’ve got available.

One more thing: you all know I’m a fervent fermenter and evangelist. This means I always have on hand lots of fun and healthy ingredients to play with in my cooking. I really believe fermenting has to be a part of the no-waste discussion. Am trying hard to get it in there!

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Throw-It-In Minestrone

Now of course I recognise that this soup doesn’t come out 0f nowhere, and everything was on hand, but it might be interesting to actually show soup-making in action (as has been requested).  Note all the room for your own ingredients/ eating habits/ tastes/ desire for experiments.  Minestrones never need to be specific but are so open to play.  There’s nothing you need (even stock can be water) but maybe an onion?

  • The STOCK/bone broth from the Chicken Soup (vegetarians, 0bviously leave this 0ut)
  • BEAN BROTH (ie cooking water with celery) from pinto beans from yesterday’s refried beans
  • a handful of COOKED BEANS from above (lentils, peas pulses…)
  • chopped ONION and CARROT
  • GREENS: some chard leaves, stem and greens separate, windowsill shoots of pea and fava beans at the end (spinach, nettles, etc)
  • a third of a winter squash (or marrow, courgette)
  • a bit of rind from PARMESAN, the jewel in your kitchen waste crown
  • about a third of sliced RED PEPPER that hadn’t been eaten yesterday
  • handful remnants of little PASTA (rice, barley, millet, quinoa, whatever…)
  • fennel seeds
  • tomato puree (paste)  (of course fresh or tinned tomatoes or sauce would be fine…)

and then the fridge and counter clearance:

  • about a spoonful of leftover refried beans, flavours of oregano, cumin, onion
  • some salsa, with fermented chilli sauce and puree of fermented cauliflower and carrots (themselves having needing to be used but because fermented, preserved!)

And to finish:

  •  a spoon of sauerkraut brine for sour (and vinegar is always classic)
  • a swig of the brine that fermented the chilli peppers for the hot sauces for spice!

This soup is so good, so wholesome, so easy really and a template for a zillion variations.  Why would anyone advocate recipes for Minestrones???  Much better I believe to make “a” Minestrone than “the” minestrone… though I see this could be a recipe, but I’d rather it be a guide…

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