Has it ever crossed your mind that the amount of garbage we dispose of in the name of food waste can actually be turned into delectable culinary creations? Well, here is author and chef Arina Suchde turning up the zero waste game with her new book titled The No-Waste Kitchen Cookbook, where she is revolutionising this concept while cooking. This Mumbai-based author has curated a set of 75 dishes, starting from giving leftover food a makeover to brewing tea with the most unexpected ingredients.
How did this concept come along? What inspired you to undertake this project?
I had been doing research, collecting, and developing recipes for a few years to conduct workshops for consumers and to work with F&B establishments to make them sustainable and reduce the amount of waste they generate. All that came to a halt during the pandemic. Sometime around the second lockdown in 2021, I was approached by my editor, Ridhima Kumar, from HarperCollins. Using all the information I collected over the years and channelling it into a book just made complete sense. I have been cooking since I was a child, and as I grew older, I became more curious and aware of how our food systems and supply chains worked, something that stood out was the amount of waste that gets produced at every step before the food even reaches our plates. There are people in this world who do not have access to food, and here we are sending so much to landfills and harming the environment. That is what inspired me to go on this journey of sustainability.
How has your background as a chef influenced your approach to writing this book?
I have written a few articles for websites in the past, but I never really thought of writing a book. This book happened organically and I have Ridhima Kumar to thank for that. I think I just needed that push in the right direction. My background as a chef is the only reason I was able to write this book. The recipe part came to me easily; it was the other chapters that was a challenge.
What is the central focus of The No-Waste Kitchen Cookbook?
This book is a starting point for anyone who wants to reduce waste in their kitchen and make the most of the ingredients they buy, which also saves money in the process. The idea is to make this practice a part of our daily lives in the long run and not just a passing fad. The recipes and ideas are simple, familiar and easy to implement.
Could you highlight some of the most surprising or unexpected recipes from your book that can be creatively used to repurpose kitchen scraps and minimise food waste?
The recipes using banana peels surprised most people, as they did not think they were edible. The same was true of the fresh pea pods. Those are things that get left behind in large quantities and can easily be incorporated back into our meals.
Can you elaborate on your ‘Trash Cooking’ workshops and how they contribute to spreading awareness about sustainable cooking practices?
The workshops are informal and interactive, and I have conversations with the participants while I demonstrate a few zero-waste recipes. They make reducing waste a less intimidating task and spark memories among people about how someone in their family used lesser-known parts of fruits and vegetables, and everyone shares stories and ideas.
People go back home inspired and excited to try cooking with these new ingredients they learned about, and tasting the dishes taught in the workshop gives them reassurance that peels, skins, stalks, seeds, etc. are not actually waste; they are in fact bonus ingredients that can be used to create some amazing dishes or drinks.
How do you think that sustainability can be introduced into everyday kitchen practices? What role does your book play in fostering this approach?
Sustainability practices need to be introduced and incorporated into our lives as a whole and not just in the kitchens. The idea is to do it one step at a time and not just on an individual level but as families, societies and communities at large. Think of this book as teaching someone the alphabet and giving them tools to form words, then sentences, and go on to become fluent in that language over time.
Elaborate on the process behind developing recipes using ingredients that are typically considered food waste or leftovers.
The process is no different from developing recipes with any other ingredient. The waste or leftover ingredients need to be thought of as new ingredients to work with like we would with any exotic ingredient. The point is to change our perspective, and one can easily come up with recipes. Start with simpler recipes, familiar dishes that can either use whole fruit or vegetable or ingredients that can be replaced by a “waste” ingredient. Like the som tam recipe in the book, which traditionally uses raw papaya, I used watermelon rind as it is similar in colour and texture. Use an assortment of greens and their stems in pesto instead of just basil.
In your opinion, what are some of the difficulties that individuals might encounter when transitioning to a no-waste approach to cooking?
I do not think there are any difficulties as such; it is just about taking the time to plan well and come up with ideas and systems for your home and kitchen. Be mindful of how you purchase and consume, and just be conscious of what you need as opposed to what you want. The book aims to show people that it is not an inconvenience to become sustainable; it might just take up some extra time in the beginning, but once it becomes your routine, it all falls into place.
What advice would you give to individuals who are new to the idea of a no-waste kitchen and may be unsure of where to begin their journey?
Start small; do the tasks that feel easy for you. Even if you are unable to start cooking with scraps immediately, take the first step by planning your grocery shopping in a way that you are sure you will use everything and not end up with spoilt or expired ingredients. Practice cooking in such a way that you have little to no leftovers.
Do you have any forthcoming projects or initiatives planned to further promote the message of reducing kitchen waste and encouraging sustainable cooking practices beyond the scope of this book?
I will continue with the workshops for adults and children in different cities. I want to work with restaurants, cafes, and bars around the country to make sustainability a part of our daily lives.