Don’t trash it

Think twice before throwing away those seeds, peels & stalks, as trash cooking is the latest buzzword

Jackfruit seed curry

It all began with an innocuous question. “Ma, did you know that you can make a curry out of jackfruit seeds and raw mango?”

“Ya-a”, came the reply; indignation, scorn and pity dripping from one extended syllable and one raised eyebrow. This article is therefore dedicated to unenlightened offspring and omniscient mothers.

The jackfruit seed recipe, along with others that use vegetable peels, stems, animal parts and other things we would normally toss, falls under a category that some call ‘trash cooking’. While that may have the ring of a clickbaiter headline, the concept has always been part of traditional Indian cooking. Bring up this topic with millennials and an initial puzzled look is followed with, “Oh yes, my mother used to make this amazing cucumber peel chutney” or “My grandmother used to add coriander stalks to make a green brinjal masala.” But like many food traditions, this too has gathered dust, for want of skill or will. Many also believe that they compromise taste. Nothing could be further from the truth. While these were probably born out of a housewife’s creative thrift, many would be right at home on the menu of an elegant dinner party.

Traditional following

Take for example orange peel pachadi. Simple to make, with a dash of red chilli and jaggery, the mélange of tart, sweet and spicy goes well with rotis and rice. Pair it with curd rice garnished with pomegranate pearls and you have the perfect recipe to beat the summer heat. If oranges can be found in summer that is.

Peels are also turned into chutneys. The most well-known of these is the ridge gourd peel chutney. Grind the peel with tamarind, green chilli, cumin and jaggery in a base of coconut, and you have yourself a chutney extraordinaire. The ridge gourd’s smooth-skinned cousin, the bottle gourd, also has a peel that lends itself well to chutneys. Its pulp can also be added to dosa batter to add a punch of flavour and nutrients. Yet another one in the edible peel category is cucumber peel chutney, a popular speciality of coastal Karnataka.

But this is not restricted to vegetables. People in many parts of the country, especially those with a hunting tradition, believe in the nose-to-tail concept. No part of the meat is wasted, out of respect for the animal that has given its life. Entrails, internal organs and other unmentionables (sold as ‘spare parts’ by butchers) not for the faint of heart or stomach are transformed into the most delectable dishes like boti curry.

Someone seems to have taken the nose-to-tail principle and applied it to the jackfruit as well. Cooked raw, the fruit becomes a faux meat option for vegetarians and vegans; ripe, it is gobbled as-is or fried into chips; the seed is sun-dried and roasted into an awesome snack or julienned for a dry stir-fried vegetable. That’s not all. Marry the seed with raw mango, and you get an amazing curry. Haritha, a crunched-for-time techie in Bengaluru, says, “Every time I eat jackfruit, I save the seeds. Cook it with raw mango and coconut and its the perfect accompaniment to rice.”

While on the subject of seeds, it is time for another did-you-know moment. Jyothi Dass, a dedicated foodie, says, “Mango is an eternal favourite, but the mango seed is interesting too. In some parts of Tamil Nadu, people slow-cook the seed on hot coals in a small stove-like contraption called a kumti. Then they crack open the outer seed and eat the cooked inner seed.” An authentic kumti might be hard to come by, but perhaps a tandoor or grill would do the job too.

In addition to full-fledged recipes that use ‘waste’, there are other uses that come naturally even to the most culinary-challenged amongst us. Here are a few:

  • Turn split milk to paneer and use the whey to knead dough for softer rotis.
  • Make stock out of leftover vegetable peels, stems, etc.
  • Make a snack by baking, frying or roasting potato peels. Add a dash of butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little oregano.
  • Dice and sauté leftover vegetables with a little salt and pepper, add to eggs to make a stuffed omelette or use as stuffing in a paratha. Add spices as desired.

We have just scratched the surface. Clearly, there is an unending scope for creativity, but more than that, there is a need to embrace culinary thrift and make it fashionable once again. The planet needs it, and our palates will thank us for it.

 

Orange peel pachadi 

Ingredients

  • Orange peel: 1 cup
  • Oil: 3 tbsps
  • Curry leaves: A sprig
  • Green chillies: 2
  • Salt to taste
  • Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
  • Jaggery: 3 tbsp
  • Tamarind extract: ¼ cup

Method

  • Wash and finely chop the orange peel.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard and allow it to splutter. Saute the chopped orange peel, then add curry leaves and the slit green chillies.
  • Now add tamarind juice, jaggery, salt, chilli powder and turmeric powder. Let it boil till the mixture becomes thick. The pachadi is now ready!

(Courtesy: Shobana GS)

 

Bottle gourd pachadi

Ingredients

  • Bottlegourd peel: 1 cup
  • Bottlegourd pieces: 1 cup
  • Coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
  • Fenugreek seeds: ¼ tsp
  • Jeera: ½ tsp
  • A pinch of hing 
  • Red chillies: 3 to 4
  • Green chillies: 1 or 2
  • Channa dal: ½ tsp
  • Tamarind: small marble size
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil: 1 tsp
  • Oil, mustard seeds & urad dal for tempering

Method

  • Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, channa dal, hing, fenugreek and coriander seeds.
  • Add red chillies, green chillies and sauté for a bit before adding the peels.
  • Sauté for a few minutes before adding the bottle gourd pieces. Cook for a bit. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Once it cools, grind to a coarse paste. Finish with the tempering.

(Courtesy: Jyothi Dass)

 

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