As previously blogged about here, I hosted a waste-free dinner party two weekends ago. This is all part of the Give a Fork campaign, raising money for Sustainable Table to help create awareness and education of more sustainable and ethical food practices.
Firstly, let’s talk about how ever since signing up I’ve been way more conscious. At the very least, I’m still producing waste in smaller amounts but I’m conscious about it and I’m way more cautious about food scraps. I find myself second guessing everything before I put it in the bin.
Sustainable eating isn’t overly hard. There’s many ways to be an ethical eater. Educate yourself. Know where your food comes from or at least be aware of what has gone into the process of creating the food you’re eating. Being mindful of waste. Try to eat local food. Support local businesses.
On top of trying to be waste-free, this was actually my first dinner party! I had signed up for cooking for people that weren’t my parents or my boyfriend’s parents. I was cooking a dinner for friends for the first time. How hard can it be? Shocking, considering I love the idea of cooking for people. I’m always turning up to friend’s parties with a dish of some sort.
Asian cuisine is really great for being waste-free. They love to use the bones, and things like fish head to make curries. They’re really into their nose-to-tail dining, pig trotters anyone?? They’re all about using leftovers. Plus, I’ve never actually cooked Chinese food for anyone other than family and my boyfriend! It was a bit of a no-brainer to go with an Asian-inspired menu.
Here’s was my final menu:
- Lap cheong & cucumber bites
- Miso soup with enoki mushrooms
- Siu yuk (roast pork belly)
- Belachan kang kong (water spinach)
- Bean sprout and pickled carrot salad
- Chinese masterstock marbled eggs and tofu puffs
- Steamed jasmine rice
- Vietnamese coffee ice cream
- Chilli Aperol spritz
- Hendrick’s, jasmine and lavender iced tea
Thanks Sam for the great photos! I was too busy to take many of my own!
This blog is a summary of the actions that I have taken since trying to change the way I eat and cook to produce minimal waste. Recipes for certain dishes to come! And will be updated here accordingly 🙂
In the weeks leading up to the dinner:
I made two different types of stocks from scratch using meat bones and herbs that I had been storing in the freezer. Not that saving bones for stocks is a new concept to me, but it kickstarted me actually using up said bones that were taking up freezer space! I made a huge batch of everyday stock and then with half of it, I made an aromatic Chinese masterstock with heaps of Asian spices. I used this aromatic masterstock to poach pork belly. I reserved the stock to make the marbled eggs for the dinner party. Multiple meals with one stock!
I used up leftover cream to make homemade butter.
I juiced up oranges that I needed to use up and sun-dried the skin. Which I ended up using to make my syrup for a cocktail at my dinner party.
I zested a bunch of lemons and stored them in the freezer – so now I have lemon zest ALL the time, instead of going out and buying a lemon just for the zest.
I julienned a bunch of carrots and pickled them in a mix of vinegar, sugar, chilli and fried onions.
I restocked my supply of sliced green spring onions which I slice and then freeze. The ends I kept and threw into a jar of water to grow my OWN spring onions! I also kept the end of a leek and did the same thing. So now I will have my own supply of spring onions and leek
The day before the dinner:
As my last post, I attended the Brisbane Good Food and Wine show on the day of the dinner party. This meant I had to be seriously organised and do a lot of prep the day before the dinner. Not to mention, cleaning up the apartment and rearranging space in my tiny kitchen to fit 6 people!
Firstly, I had to thaw out the aromatic Chinese masterstock from the freezer and making sure I had all my ingredients for the other recipes.
The biggest task was prepping the pork belly. Admittedly, I used pork belly from Coles as it was on sale that week. I’m talking almost half price of what I would get from my local butcher. This was a boneless cut. But my stock had used the rib bones cut off a previous cut of pork belly. So kind of waste-free. It was flavoured with salt, pepperberry salt, garlic and Chinese five spice.
The ice cream admittedly was not very waste-free. I used thickened cream from a plastic bottle, condensed milk from a tin but the coffee grinds I’ve been using as a scrub for my skin (tip: caffeine is great for waking up tired skin, and I’m hella tired permanently).
I attempted to make red bean fudge but I stuffed up and it ended up turning into a caramelised paste that didn’t set. With some quick thinking, I thought about making steamed buns filled with red bean paste but alas, I ran out of time. I didn’t serve this for the party, but I definitely ate the red bean paste by the spoonful for a few days later!
That night, I took some lavender from the neighbouring apartments garden. Both for decoration as well as for my alcoholic iced tea!
On the day:
After GF&W wrapped up, I quickly ran into the West End Markets to pick up a fresh bunch of kang kong.
After resting from an early morning, it was time to get busy. I am crazy about lists and timing. I recommend writing up a time sheet/checklist if you’re planning dinner parties. It ensures nothing is forgotten. That random ingredient that you bought especially for a dish won’t get forgotten, to be never used again and eventually thrown out.
The cucumber bites were given a tiny dollop of hoisin sauce (storebought) and a few slivers of quickly fried lap cheong (Chinese sausage). The Chinese sausage was from a packet. No escaping there.
For the alcoholic iced tea, I brewed jasmine and the lavender together with the dried orange peel, frozen lemon zest and a touch of honey with water and some caster sugar to make a concentrated tea syrup which I allowed to cool before topping up with soda water and Hendrick’s gin! I added a squeeze of juice from a leftover orange half and pre-zested lemons as well.
Next, the masterstock free-range eggs had to be simmers for two hours. Cracking the eggs after the first 20 minutes to allow the stock to create that marbled effect.
The enoki mushrooms were cleaned and separated. The ends of which I chopped off but threw out as I didn’t know what to do with it. In hindsight, I should’ve washed the dirt off and reserved it for making a vegetable stock.
For the bean sprout salad, I used coriander and chilli from my garden along with fish sauce and vinegar to make the dressing. I threw in my pickled carrots and even used the skins from cucumber (from the cucumber bites), chopped them up and threw them into the salad.
The kang kong was tossed in a wok with some belachan and garlic. Asian vegetables are great because you can use the stalk and the leaves. So that was able to be all thrown in. Too easy.
Banged the pork belly into the oven. Unfortunately I hadn’t considered timing so the crispy crackling had softened up by the time it was ready to serve!
I used my DIY leek and spring onions as centrepieces as well as a recycled can as a vase for lavender. Showing that being sustainable can be pretty too!
Things I learnt:
Plastic wrap and alfoil are handy. I’m guilty of just using gladwrap to store food. But it’s far better to use reusable containers – I have a shit ton of plastic and glass containers so I may as well use them.
I need to invest in an organic waste/food scraps compost bin. Which they have available for small apartment living! Most of my waste either goes in recycling or are food scraps. If I can compost, my waste going into the bin will easy be cut down to almost nothing.
Simply recycling things isn’t always the best solution. I learnt that food that goes into landfill (no/low oxygen environment) produces methane, a known contributor to greenhouse gases. Unlike food that goes into compost, which breaksdown without producing methane as it regularly gets turned in an oxygenated environment (which is why you must regularly turn your compost).
Waste-free doesn’t necessarily mean zero waste. It means being smart and using food to it’s full potential. Although I ended up with a total of 1 small plastic bin of waste, it was the end product of my month-long sustainable process from such things as the stock.
It was overall a successful dinner. Lots of full bellies. Happy smiles all round. Wonderful, generous company with my friends.
I tried to be as waste-free as possible. By any means, I’ve become a much more conscious home cook.
There’s no such thing as the perfect dinner party but this was close.
RECIPES AND TIPS TO COME IN FUTURE BLOG POSTS!