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Waste-Free Cooking : How to Reduce your Foodie Footprint with Obby and The Avenue Cookery School

The concept of waste-free cooking is the latest environmental buzzword, but what is it all about?

We throw away in London, £200 worth of food per person a year. That’s a pretty substantial amount when you think about it. That means a family of 5 is throwing away £1000 worth of food a year! We don’t know about you, but that is money we would much rather spend elsewhere. It’s not only the fact that we are wasting money, but food-waste is bad for the environment. Over-buying encourages over-farming leading to a false demand in the market. This means that less-sustainable techniques are then used to keep up with our cravings for the food we eventually just put in the bin.

Therefore, we’ve been challenging ourselves this week at Obby to go waste-free in the kitchen. It’s been going quite well, and it means we have spent way less time going out for lunch, as we all have packed lunches filled with leftovers now. We’ll let you into a little secret as well, vegetable curry tastes way better the day heated in an office microwave! It’s been easy, good fun and we are definitely converted. Although it might take baby steps to wean us off the sushi place across the road from the office.

We caught up with our partners at the Avenue Cookery School, who are not only on the same wavelength as us but are an entirely waste-free cookery school. They pride themselves on not only creating recipes from leftovers but encouraging and teaching their students how to do the same and pass it on to family and friends. There’s a revolution starting and you heard about it here first.

Diana, the Avenue’s head chef spoke to us about their waste-free policy.

Tell us a little more about being waste-free so we know what that means from the expert’s mouth.

Well, it means we ‘repurpose’ every single food scrap from all of our classes and courses. Onion trimmings, carrots ends and leek trimmings all get put into a pot and cooked up into our homemade stock. Leftover puddings are transformed into another pudding; meringues become Eton Mess, Profiteroles make a delicious ice cream, Fruit salad is whizzed up into a healthy smoothie. Savoury dishes are given a new lease of life as well; mashed potato to top a fish pie, chicken pie becomes a fricassee and Arancini balls are made from remaining risotto. Even those sad looking tomatoes in the bottom of your fridge are reinvented to become tasty slow roasted tomatoes on your salad, or limp, fragile herbs a delicious pesto! There’s really no end to the ways you can repurpose things at The Avenue.

How and why did you come to this decision?

I’ve learned to respect food no matter how cheap and easy it is to buy. When you think about the journey your food has taken to reach your plate; the process of seeding, nurturing it, waiting for it to ripen, picking, packaging, transportation, and distribution it really is amazing how some people waste so much food unnecessarily! It’s not only putting a strain on your purse but its bad for the environment! Buying something, taking it home and leaving it in your fridge to then throw away should be seriously frowned upon!

When you put it that way, we agree entirely! It is easy to fall into bad habits though. Would you say it us just as easy to remain waste free?

Very easy! You just have to be a little bit creative and have confidence in cooking, which is what we teach all our students at The Avenue. It’s about training yourself to not throw things straight in the bin. We teach every student to keep a bowl on their counter to put all their onion peelings, carrot ends etc. in. That’s a good way of realizing the volume of food that is actually left over when you’ve finished cooking! Then instead of putting it in the bin, it goes into the stockpot.

How else do you encourage people who take the cooking classes to remain waste free after they finish your class?

Show by example and demonstrate how easy it is to be creative! It’s not always about getting things right either, I thrive off teaching students to correct their disaster recipes because I think that’s how you learn to be a better cook. After a one-week course, they will definitely have the confidence and ability to open the fridge and create dishes with food on the turn without recipes, using the knowledge that we have taught them – it’s very exciting!

Do you have any simple tricks to help us reduce our waste in the Obby Kitchen and for the people at home?

Come and do a week’s course at The Avenue with our waste-free teaching ideas! My pet peeve is people getting pulled into these ‘special deals’ at the supermarket. ‘Three for the price of two’ might seem like a bargain, but more often than not the third if not the second packet dies before you have time to create something to eat (especially if you haven’t done a course at The Avenue!).

Count us in! We are really trying to reduce our footprint on the planet so it seems like a really good way to start. What is your favourite simple ‘waste-free’ recipe for those reading?

I love using all the left-overs, rather tired vegetables that are rolling at the bottom of my vegetable rack to whip up a spicy, roasted ratatouille type of dish that can be used in a lasagne, as the base of a pizza, a pasta sauce, and many other dishes. The possibilities are endless, it’s just about learning the essentials and then being flexible with your ingredients!

Have a look at all the Avenue’s cookery courses on Obby and take the first step to reducing your foodie footprint.