Waiter, There’s a Stem in My Soup! Chef Turns Food Waste Into Delicious 150 Meals

Chef Davinder Kumar

Chef Davinder Kumar's book ‘Second Meals’ comprises 150 food delicious recipes made from vegetable scraps, fruit peels, seeds, roots, stems and more.

The decade of 1970 witnessed an interesting culinary scene in India – and it had nothing to do with food waste. For the first time, international cuisines were made available in desi restaurants or even the new international hotels springing in the metros. 

As foreign-origin chefs were heading the kitchens in premium restaurants, a 20-something boy from Delhi entered into the scene to be a part of the food evolution that the country was transitioning into. 

A fresh diploma holder in Kitchen Management from Oberoi Hotels, he made an overseas trip to Paris to work with selected chefs at the Lychee Technique de Hotelier. He learnt how to write, speak and read in French to make the most of the opportunity. 

In the process, he broke two norms — he dared to dream and be the pioneering Indian chef to lead the kitchen and defied the notion that cooking is not a sustainable career choice for men. 

Five decades later, the boy who took risks is now a celebrated chef Davinder Kumar, who is presently the vice president of F&B Production at Le Meridien, New Delhi.

Food Waste Recipes: Chef Davinder Kumar with actor Babil
Chef Davinder Kumar with actor Babil

Keeping up with his spirit of breaking conventional norms, he recently released a book titled ‘Second Meals’ comprising 150 food recipes made from food waste – vegetable scraps, fruit peels, seeds, roots, stems and more. 

“If there’s one thing that unites all the countries in the world it is the hunger issue and food wastage. They are two sides of the same coin. I have travelled extensively and I strongly believe that we need to upcycle food wastage. It is important to eat every single part of fruit and vegetable to maximise nutrients and minimise wastage. This is another way of being healthy and sustainable,” award-winning chef Davinder tells The Better India

Tried and Tasted Food Waste 

If the hunger problem gave him the idea for the book, it was his family’s traditional cooking ways that kept him going while experimenting. 

“My mother would make lip-smacking Sarson Ka Saag in an earthen pot on a slow flame. I continued that tradition. My mother and grandmother upcycling leftover dal and methi to make parathas or uttapam from leftover rice are practised across India and will never die. We just need to promote it more actively,” says Davinder. 

The release of the book comes at a time when more and more people are turning towards indigenous food habits and dishes for a healthy living in the aftermath of the pandemic. The trends of pumpkin seeds, coconut water, and millets are proof.  

The chef says that he ‘tried and tasted’ every single recipe mentioned in the book. Not every experiment was successful and at times even he was surprised at the versatility of items usually dismissed as food waste. Nothing was more surprising than making chutney from the exterior of watermelon, he recalls. 

Chef Davinder Kumar

“Another shocking discovery was the use of seeds. Once dried and roasted, they can be used in curries, dips, chutneys, pickles, desserts and more. Fruit peels are another wonder which can be used to make detox water. I have made a walnut cake from banana peels and smoothies from the orange pulp. These discarded items carry a lot of nutrients,” adds Davinder. 

Some of the interesting recipes in the book include Jackfruit Seed Almond Halwa, Parsley Stem Quinoa Tabbouleh, Mushroom Galouti, Celery and Spinach Salad and Apple Pulp Pie. Then there is also soup made from broccoli stems and chutneys made from pudina stems. 

He has also taken inspiration from regional cuisines to reuse food waste items; for example, Gujarat’s famous Undhiyu dish or Upma Idli in South from leftover Idli. 

While the names of the recipes may sound complicated, they are very easy to make. He has given a step-by-step guideline for each dish. 

Davinder shares three recipes – Hummus, Banana Peel Cake and Quiche: 

1) Artichoke Hummus

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 250gm Artichokes leaves and stem (cleaned and washed)
  • 75 gm Chickpea (boiled and strained)
  • 3tbsp Olive oil
  • A few mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • As required Water
  • To taste salt
  • Few drops of lemon juice
  • To garnish paprika

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven at 180-190°c, arrange the artichokes, leaves and stems on a baking tray, drizzle ½ tsp of olive oil, salt and roast it for 10-15 minutes or until tender, remove from the oven and keep aside to cool.
  • In a food processor, put chickpea, olive oil, mint leaves, tahini, garlic, artichokes and process until smooth. If the mixture is thick, add a few tablespoons of water and blend to fine paste transfer in a bowl.
  • Adjust seasoning by adding lemon juice, salt, garnish with paprika.

Can be served with pita or garlic crostini. 

Food Waste Recipe: Hummus (left) and Banana Walnut Cake (right)
Hummus (left) and Banana Walnut Cake (right)

2) Banana Walnut Cake

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 150 gm banana peels (washed and roughly sliced)
  • 300 gm refined flour
  • 6 gm baking powder
  • 6 gm baking soda 250 ml Caster sugar 250 ml Milk
  • 250 ml oil
  • 5 ml vanilla essence
  • 100 gm walnut (chopped)

Instructions 

  • Boil water in a medium pan and add banana peels, cook until soft and tender, and strain.
  • Let it cool. In a food processor, blend the peel until smooth and keep aside.
  • In a sieve, add flour, baking powder, soda, sugar and sieve it in a mixing bowl.
  • Add banana peel puree, milk, oil, vanilla essence and whisk well, to form a thick batter.
  • Finally, add walnuts and pipe the mix into desired pre-lined mould rings.
  • Put it in a preheated oven and bake at 190° C for 40 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, demould and cool it over a wire rack.
  • Slice and enjoy with tea/coffee.

3) Mushroom Stem, Corn and Spinach Quiche

Food Waste Recipe: Mushroom Stem, Corn and Spinach Quiche
Mushroom Stem, Corn and Spinach Quiche

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 1 no. 6 inch pie crust dough
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp garlic chop
  • 1 tbsp onion chop
  • 1 cup mushroom stems (cleaned, washed and sliced)
  • 2 tbsp corn niblets
  • ¼ cup spinach (blanched, chopped and squeezed)
  • A pinch thyme
  • To taste salt and pepper
  • 04 nos egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese

Instructions 

  • Roll the dough over a lightly floured surface to form a disc of 9-inch diameter.
  • Place the rolled pie sheet into a 6-inch pie dish, trim the edges and freeze it for half an hour.
  • Preheat oven at 200°C. Blind bake pie crust and fill it with dried beans or rice.
  • Place in the oven and bake until the edges of the crust start browning.
  • Remove from the oven, take out beans, using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust.
  • Place it back in the oven and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cool completely.
  • Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180*c. Melt butter in a pan, put garlic, onion, sauté until it turns translucent, to this add mushroom stems, corn, spinach, salt and pepper, cook further until the moisture evaporates from the mixture. Remove from heat, transfer it to a mixing bowl and let it cool.
  • Whisk in eggs, cream, cheese, pour the mixture in the pie crust, place it in the oven and bake until the centre is set. Remove from the oven, let it rest for a few minutes and serve warm.

Note: If the edges begin to turn too brown, cover it with silver foil during baking. Quiche can be refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Food waste got you thinking? You can check out ‘Second Meals’ by Davinder Kumar here

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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