In 2020, Nigella Lawson created a stir when she whipped up a curry made from banana peels on her television show, much to the shock of some viewers who lamented en masse that the dish was in bad taste.
The British celebrity chef took to social media and said she didn’t mean to leave her fans “traumatised” with the recipe and promised it tasted “divine”. Lawson also credited her mother for following a zero-waste policy in the kitchen.
“Perhaps because I was brought up by a mother who was a child during the war, who grew up with rationing and had a quaking horror of throwing anything away, I cannot throw food away myself,” she writes in her book Cook, Eat, Repeat.
It’s undeniable that every time we cook up a storm in the kitchen, there are mounds of peels, seeds and meat by-products leftover on the kitchen counter. While most of us do a quick sweep and dump it all in the bin, the truth is these can be turned into an array of delectable dishes.
Not only does this reduce food waste, but some of these by-products are also are loaded with vitamins, fibre and antioxidants. Plus, they can up the flavour of a dish by several notches.
Here are some tried-and-tested recipes from three international chefs who show us how to convert carrot peels, banana peels and stale bread into gourmet fare.
The whole carrot by chef Kelvin Cheung
Celebrity chef Kelvin Cheung, who recently opened Jun’s in Downtown Dubai, says: “I absolutely love carrots. Be they raw or cooked, they are the perfect snack to munch on and contain so many nutrients.”
The greens of a carrot are packed with vitamin A, calcium and iron, while the skin contains 50 per cent of the entire vegetable’s vitamin C and niacin. The inner part of a carrot contains xylem and, on the whole, this veggie is loaded with calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
“Carrots are naturally very sweet, so they go well with a lot of things, while that beautiful crunchy texture is very satiating,” says Cheung, who came up with the recipe shared here during a winter cooking stint in India.
“I was working on a tomato and burrata dish during the opening of a restaurant. Although this is a classic pair, tomatoes were not in season, and the ones available had no flavour. But the winter ‘halwa’ carrots were stunning and packed with flavour, so I replaced the tomatoes with them and made a carrot peel marinara with carrot top pesto, brown-butter-roasted carrots and gluten-free croutons. The carrot skin has a light nuttiness, so its puree pairs well with the creamy burrata.”
As such, this dish showcases the different textures, flavours and uses of each part of the carrot.
Serves 2 portions
Ingredients and method for the marinara
100ml olive oil
50g onion, julienned
50g garlic, sliced
250g carrot peel, chopped
1 bunch basil
10ml red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add scrubbed and washed carrot peels.
Cook over low heat and blend until smooth, then add the basil and stir for 2-3 minutes to infuse the flavour.
Remove the basil, then season with vinegar, salt and pepper. Keep aside.
Ingredients and method for the carrot pesto
100g carrot top greens, blanched and squeezed
50g spinach, blanched and squeezed
30g garlic cloves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
25g Parmesan, grated
Kosher salt, to taste
Put the carrot tops, spinach, garlic and Parmesan into a blender.
Turn on a slow setting, drizzle in the oil. Blend until completely smooth.
On low speed, add lemon juice and season with salt.
Ingredients and method for the brown butter carrots
3 carrots (use the ones you’ve peeled and lopped for the above two steps)
Butter, kosher salt and lemon juice, to taste
Cut the carrots (quantity, to taste) in even oblong shapes
On low heat, stir them in a generous amount of butter until they are fully cooked and the butter is light brown.
Season with kosher salt and a few drops of lemon juice.
Cut a piece of burrata (120g) and drizzle generous amounts of olive oil. Season with Maldon salt.
Place the marinara around the plate with the burrata on top and garnish with the brown butter carrots, the pesto and croutons.
Bananana by chef Rahul Sharma
Rahul Sharma, head chef at Araku Coffee India, believes in sustainable cooking and using every vegetable to its fullest — be it peas shells, onion peels or watermelon rinds. His popular banana cake, meanwhile, is moist and sweet thanks to the banana peels he uses in the cream.
“While the banana flesh goes into the cake, the peel is cooked in cream to extract its aroma and nectar. The nectar, once infused in the cream, makes it naturally sweet, so we don’t need to use too much sugar.”
Ingredients and method for the banana cake
56g buckwheat flour
4g baking soda
3g baking powder
188g Yelakki banana, mashed
140g Greek yoghurt
30g neutral oil
3g vanilla essence
Mix the buckwheat flour, ragi, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and jaggery in a bowl.
In another bowl, mix the Yelakki banana, Greek yoghurt, milk, neutral oil, vanilla essence and honey. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually until they combine.
Pour the batter into a lined mould and bake at 170°C until a toothpick comes out clean (about 50 minutes).
Ingredients and method for the banana cream
150g full-fat cream
20g brown sugar
Peels of 3 Yelakki bananas
Double-boil the brown sugar and banana skins together in a food grade bag for one hour at 70°C.
Once cooked, chill in an ice bath and strain the syrup mixture into the full fat cream, and whip.
Plate a slice of cake, then pipe the banana cream on top.
Garnish with a slice of peanut chikki and/or a slice of caramelised banana.
Sicilian-American lamb meatballs by chef Anthony Falco
Anthony Falco, also known as Global Pizza Man, whips up the most fascinating lamb meatballs with, believe it or not, stale bread.
“My grandmother Mary passed down this recipe to me. It was a staple at the large Sunday gatherings in the Sicilian-American farming community in Texas where my father’s family hails from," says the international pizza consultant who lives in New York. "My grandmother used to make them with beef as Texas is a cattle country. I find lamb to be a good fit, which appeals to a larger range of palates.”
Makes 12 meatballs
2 slices stale bread, cubed
110g whole milk
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried Calabrian chilli flakes
2 tsp fennel seeds
Pinch of fresh thyme
1 tbsp sea salt
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped with stems removed
800g ground lamb
35g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
65g Pecorino Romano, finely grated
35g sourdough breadcrumbs, toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil, to apply on hand when rolling the meatballs
1 litre tomato or marinara sauce
Combine the stale bread cubes and milk in a bowl. Soak and set aside.
Grind the black pepper, Calabrian chilli, fennel seeds, and salt together into a fine powder.
In a food processor, add the milk-soaked bread and parsley, then blend to a smooth consistency.
Transfer the panade (milk and bread mixture) to a large bowl. Add the ground lamb, spice mixture, grated cheeses and breadcrumbs.
Using gloves, gently mix by hand until incorporated, but be sure not to over mix. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 145°C. Roll out a ball, about the size of a marble, and cook in a frying pan. Taste for seasoning, add extra salt or spices if needed.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour some extra-virgin olive oil into a small bowl. Set aside.
Lightly oil your hands and roll the meatballs according to your size preference. Place them on the parchment-lined sheet pan with 1.5cm of space between each, then bake for 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 75°C.
Add the meatballs (and any rendered fat in the baking sheet) to a pot of simple tomato sauce and simmer in the sauce for 20 to 35 minutes until cooked through.
When the meatballs and sauce are ready, boil the spaghetti per portion in generously salted water until cooked al dente.
Drain and reserve about 500ml of the pasta water.
In a separate saucepan, add the sauce, 100ml of pasta water, the meatballs and the drained spaghetti. Keep the setting on medium-high heat until the pasta is cooked perfectly al dente. If you need to use more of the pasta water to keep the sauce loose, add it in small amounts.
When the pasta is fully cooked, turn off the heat, then add two big cubes of butter, a handful of grated Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss together until the cheese and butter mount into the sauce (mantecare) and serve in a pasta bowl.
Garnish with more Pecorino, toasted breadcrumbs, basil and more extra virgin olive oil.