The Column with Simone B. Michielen: Zero food waste


When you live most of the time alone like me and you love cooking, it is quite a challenge to keep your fridge empty without piles of leftovers. Luxury problem, of course, but with so many people not able to eat a proper meal at least once a day, I should not throw food away. But as supermarkets and food markets are (at least for me) more like Temptation Island than the place I just get what I need, it happens more than once that unpacking the groceries brings some panic and a stuffed fridge.

Do you know people who plan their meals for the whole week and go shopping with a list? Not me, I want to buy what is available, looks good and brings tasty ideas. Totally insufficient if you are alone and cooking for one, I can tell you.

What is my solution, besides inviting everybody I know, sharing or freezing food? I re-use food. This sounds worse than it is. A lot of cooked food is perfect to use again, in a totally new, far away from warmed leftover kind of form. In a lot of kitchens around the world it is normal to cook for example meat, twice. So when I have set my green friend the Kamado grill on fire, I am not only thinking about today, but also tomorrow and sometimes even the rest of the week. As said, I start with today. Lot of heat, grilling and baking, meat, vegetables and potatoes. Then I start to create my “leftovers”… Slowing down the heat, sometimes just smoking. I can promise you that you will wish you had more. The best? Smoked celery, so good, you will probably always buy more than you need! For soup, vegan dishes or tasty croquettes.

But what if you have real leftovers, I can almost hear you ask? Well, my grilled meat is also very good when baked again and mixed with fresh vegetables (paprika, leek, onion, whatever you’ve got) with some personal Asian sauce. I often use a mixture of 1 tbsp hoisin, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 3 tbsp of sweet soya sauce, 1 tbsp rice vinegar and ½ tbsp Gustin. Mix it and add to the crispy meat till the sauce thickens a bit, if it is too thick add some water.

Or make a paella! One of the more traditional “let’s clean the fridge” dishes from Spain. What about a pie? Or soufflé, with leftover cooked potatoes?

Are you in for a challenge? Than think about Masterchef and the mystery boxes we had to deal with. I am sure your stock room and fridge are offering a bigger variety, but to spice it up a bit you might do what we did at home. My late husband had a lot of fun picking 5 ingredients and giving me half an hour to cook something nice out of them. Most of the time that worked just fine, but sometimes his pick was so awful that my revenge was the only thing sweet (for me).