Everything but the pips: Arc Café is pioneering the vegetarian version of zero-waste cooking

Samuel Muston discovers why we should think twice before we throw away those peelings.

Scan the TV pages this week and find a cookery show on the schedule. It doesn't matter if it's a repeat on the cable network, American or British, new or something from the days when Keith Floyd was the man. Watch a few of them and try to spot the similarity between the chefs. Nearly all of them waste food. Not flagrantly, not even consciously, but still they do it. When they slice off that bit of fat, bin those peelings, drain that grease and throw it away, they are wasting things we probably would have eaten in times past. And the reason we don't notice it is because that's the way we all cook – they simply cook like us, and, indeed, we cook like them. Throwing stuff away is as ingrained as a part of our culinary culture as using a knife and fork to eat a steak.

Or at least, that's what the 26-year-old Bristol chef, Shane Jordan, is telling me over a plate of vegan curry at Arc Café, where he works.

"TV chefs are all chop, chop, chop, put this to the side, throw away this," says Jordan, who is to be found in the kitchens of Arc Café on Bristol's Broad Street most lunchtimes. "I used to watch and think: 'I could make a dish out of what you are throwing away alone.'"

So that's what he started doing. At Arc he has created a series of dishes that are zero waste, or a hair's breadth from it. So if he uses one part of a vegetable or fruit, he'll use the rest of it elsewhere, so long as it isn't injurious to health.

In fact, my curry – dark, earthy and picked out with little spicy thorns of chilli that singe your tongue – is banana-skins curry, the skins filling in for what would normally be meat. Laid on the plate in front of me, his signature dish looks just like any other vegetarian or vegan curry. But where did the idea to use that particular part of that particular fruit in a curry come from?

"Well, it's a matter of connecting the dots for me," he says. "I make a lot of banana fritters with the flesh, so I'm left with all these skins. And I thought, 'what can I do with them?' Then I found an Asian recipe which tells you how to make them edible and I built the dish around that."

In some senses, this sums up his cooking. It is inventive, like a vegetarian version of the nose-to-tail cooking of chefs like Ferguson Henderson. Cross-cultural, too, borrowing techniques and recipes from all over the world.

But at its core it is merely good kitchen sense with a make-do-with-what-you-have attitude that, Jordan joyfully admits, has a backwards-looking feel to it.

That may not be a bad thing, Tom Tanner, of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, says. "We have become used to fast, quick, disposable food. A return to the culinary values and good housekeeping of our grandparents may help reduce the vast quantity of food we all chuck away."

Certainly the SRA's own figures on waste are a cause for jaw-clenching concern. A 2010 study of 10 London restaurants found, on average, that each wasted a massive 21 tonnes of food each year, with two-thirds of that coming from preparation waste, off-cuts and garnishes. While discomfiting, that pales in comparison to how much we waste at home. The Waste & Resources Action Programme's 2011 study into home eating concluded that we waste one-fifth of all the food we buy, which amounts to £680 a year and 7.2 million tonnes of food in landfills around the country.

It is against this that Jordan is fighting, in his own way. "I believe in spreading what knowledge I have of my type of low-waste cooking, I don't want to lecture people," Jordan says. "But I do want to try and show people there's another way."

To help do this he has teamed up with Nakd, the raw-food snack bar company based in Bristol, to create a rolling programme of school visits. In these, he'll teach kids how to cut vegetables and fruit (tight to the flesh) and think about food as something that isn't infinitely available from the fridge – and infinitely disposable.

He is also targeting slightly older cooks. "In the next few months we also plan to set up a webcam to livestream what we do in the kitchen so people can learn exactly what you can and can't eat," Jordan says. Hearing about some of his other dishes, there'll be lots of tips we could pick up – and some we might want to avoid. I'm not quite taken with his idea for using pumpkin and butternut squash peel as a sort of crouton for salad after you've dried them in the oven. But using peelings from fruit to add flavour and bulk to cakes and jams seems eminently sensible. His pineapple smoothie, too, sounds interesting. Although the peel isn't edible you can use the core. "Cut it out and blend it in a food processors with some of the flesh – it tastes nice and the core has lots of bromelian enzymes in it," he says. The ends of broccoli stalks and leeks, often overlooked, are also great for throwing in stir-frys.

This may all sound a little left-field, but this type of creative thinking might just be what we need, according to the SRA's Tanner. "We have to face up to the fact we have a waste problem," he says. "It costs us money and it's bad for the environment – and to change it we need to change our attitude to the food we eat."

While we may not all be ready to start boiling down banana skins or knocking up vegan jams with our old bits of peelings, in a time of belt-tightening and retrenchment, we could all do with cutting down on the throwaway – and Jordan may just be one of the men to help us.

Tips on cutting down on waste

Soft, slightly pulpy fruits and vegetables on the turn are great for throwing into soups or casseroles – don't waste them.

Buy little and often. This way, you're less inclined to fill your fridge with things you fancy, but don't need, and then end up with lots of spoiled fruit and vegetable at the back.

Shop locally. Get to know your local suppliers; they'll not only tell you when foods are coming into season but will often give you older, riper fruit and vegetables at a discount.

Be careful with your knife. Don't slice away unconsciously. You probably don't want to eat the end of the carrot but equally there is no point in cutting away lots of the good bits, either.

If you do buy things from a supermarket, make sure you use things in order of their sell-by dates. Sounds simple, but lots of us don't.

Don't be afraid to experiment.

England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'