Putting waste to use- The New Indian Express

Putting waste to use- The New Indian Express

  21 Dec 2023

Express News Service

Did you know that pea pods, which we so often discard, make for excellent soups and crispy fritters? Or, that the roots and stalks of coriander also work wonders in a herb-y pesto, with roasted leftover bread fashioned as chips? This is also the perfect season to use fruit peels to jazz up a cocktail or a robust cup of tea. Welcome to an epoch-making era, where mixologists, bakers and chefs across the country are championing a dual cause of zero waste and sustainability.

Zero Warriors

One such flag-bearer is Vanshika Bhatia, chef-partner at OMO Cafe, an all-vegetarian community restaurant in Gurugram. “From using peels and offcuts for vegetable stock, chutneys and dehydrated powders, scraps play a big role in many dishes at OMO,” says Bhatia. One of the most successful examples of this philosophy is a dish made with millets and pineapple ceviche. While the other chefs work with the pulp, the peel is used to make house ferments by Athan Zimik, the restaurant’s culture chief.

A classic case of how sustainability has slowly been making inroads across the Indian F&B scene and even entering into bars is KhiKhi in Vasant Vihar, Delhi. At this bar and kitchen, before the juice of a lemon is squeezed out, the skin is peeled to make their own homemade lemon chiller. The same skin, once its job is done, is made into a paste, which is used as a marinade for fish. “Sustainability doesn’t only mean using the maximum out of a given ingredient, but also about the understanding of what produce to use,” says chef-partner Tarun Sibal. “Take, for instance, our Paloma cocktail uses local citrus. Be it the malta, kinnow, or the humble mosambi, we use seasonal produce to give a tang to the drink,” he adds.

Pumpkin chutney

Past Perfect

What’s interesting to note is that zero waste has always existed in India. Bengaluru’s New Krishna Bhavan has been a pioneer since 1954. This vegetarian restaurant located on Sampige Road has made the 3Rs its credo: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means that all plastic is replaced by stainless steel, wet waste (mostly comprising fruit and vegetable peels) is given to a local piggery, and the high volume of coconut husk is sent back to the vendor, who in turn gives it to rope and choir manufacturers.

Goa’s Edible Archives is another restaurant in the town of Anjuna that does everything, from using local sticky rice in lieu of imported sushi variety to liaising with farmers for fresh vegetables and other produce, and composting the wet waste on site. “As chefs, we are accountable for safeguarding the environment and adopting practices that reduce the impact of waste. For example, if you take one kilogram of onions, the yield is 80-85 percent, and the rest is skin, roots and stalks. That waste impact is enormous,” says Avin Thaliath, chef, and also director of Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts in Bengaluru. He makes it a point to source local produce that is available within 50-100 km vicinity. “We minimise food waste by converting leftovers into a creative menu,” says Thaliath, speaking of a yet-to-be-named sandwich that he created combining ingredients like coriander root and watermelon skin and flesh as part of the mock meat. The bread is made from raw banana flour and millet, with crushed watermelon seeds used as a coating.

Booked In

Segueing perfectly into this zero waste zeitgeist is the recently published book, The No-Waste Kitchen Cookbook. Written by Arina Suchde, a chef and mixologist based in Mumbai, it serves as a guide to cooking with scraps, reviving wilted greens and creatively utilising leftovers. “We live in times where there is so much disparity.

On one hand, there are people who have the luxury of buying whatever they want with just the click of a button, and on the other hand, there are people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.The responsibility of making sure precious food doesn’t end up in landfills falls on the former,” believes Suchde.

To that end, the IBNII resort in Coorg has a policy that places the burden of mindful consumption on the consumer. After every meal, the food waste generated by each table at all of their restaurants is weighed. The cost of the waste is then charged to the diner (around Rs 100 per 100 grams) and this amount goes into a kitty that is later donated in aid of hunger.A truly weighty attempt at a solution to a major problem.

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