Rich pickings: Mark Hix turns culinary cast-offs into delicious summer dishes

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

As a nation we waste an awful lot of food. Some of this is due to over-buying on the part of supermarkets, who bin the lot when the sell-by date is up; and some of it is down to shoppers who buy too much food and let it rot in the fridge. Restaurant and hotel kitchens are just as bad and I so often see greengrocers binning produce that is still good to eat.

A new book, Waste, by Tristram Stuart (Penguin, £9.99) aims to uncover the global food scandal and points out that in Europe and North America we throw away nearly half of our food. He, like me, believes that we are blessed with wonderful food in this country – and that we shouldn't throw it away.

Fish is a case in point. My view is that there is still lots to go around if we avoid just using the prime cuts and make good use of bits such as the cheeks, liver, belly, collar and bones in dishes which are every bit as enjoyable as those made from expensive fillets – plus, they're a fraction of the price. At the Fish House in Lyme Regis we use scallop frills (which is the muscle surrounding the nut of meat) blanched and deep-fried and then served as a delicious appetiser. The same goes for the skin of smoked salmon, which we cut into strips and deep-fry as a tasty nibble.

Below are a few ideas of how you can produce some tasty dishes from bits that you would otherwise chuck in the bin.

Chilled pea-pod soup

Serves 4-6

Pea pods generally end up in the compost, and they also have a small yield once you have prepared them – so why not get that little bit extra out of them and make a summery soup? You could garnish this soup with some freshly cooked peas or crème fraiche and pea shoots.

1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
50g butter
1.5litres vegetable stock
A few handfuls of nice green pea pods
A few sprigs of mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently cook the leek and onion in the butter until soft. Add the vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pea pods, bring back to the boil and simmer for 7-8 minutes, then add the mint and remove from the heat. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth and strain through a fine meshed sieve. Correct the seasoning if necessary.

Fried broad-bean pods

Serves 6-8 as a snack

I was messing around at home with a new broad-bean dish, and just as I was about to dump the pods in the compost, I suddenly had a moment of inspiration and decided to put them through flour, milk and flour again and deep-fry them. I gave them a sprinkle of Cornish sea salt and they were absolutely great. I even did a second batch and spiced the flour up a bit with cumin, paprika and black pepper – and they were even better.

The pods from 8-10 medium-sized broad beans

120-150g self-raising flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml milk
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Cornish sea salt for sprinkling

Cut or tear the beans in half lengthways on the natural seam and remove any stringy bits and discoloured ends, then cut the pods into 3-4cm lengths. Season the flour well and add the suggested spices above if you wish.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Have three bowls ready, one for the seasoned flour, one for the milk and the third for the finished bean pods. Coat the pods in the flour, shaking off any excess, then pass them through the milk and again through the flour.

Deep fry in batches, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until lightly coloured and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon on to some kitchen paper and sprinkle with Cornish sea salt and serve immediately.

Loganberry leaf and silver-tip tea jelly

Serves 4

I had a panna cotta flavoured with blackberry leaf a little while back and thought what a great idea it would be to carry out a similar experiment with the leaves of the loganberry bushes growing in my garden in Dorset. I've used green silver-tip tea here from the Rare Tea Company (, but you could use any good silver-tip tea.

500ml water
120g caster sugar (less if the juice is sweet)
A couple of good pinches of green silver-tip tea
A couple of handfuls of loganberry leaves
A few sprigs of mint with some of the small leaves reserved
3 sheets of leaf gelatine (11g)
100-120g logan or tayberries

Bring the water and sugar to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved, stir the tea, loganberry and mint leaves and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Strain the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve and leave to cool but not set.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft. Squeeze out the water; heat about 100ml of the liquid and stir in the gelatine until dissolved then stir into the rest of the liquid. Put the jelly somewhere cool, but do not let it set.

Fill individual jelly moulds, or glasses, or one large mould, with half the loganberries, then pour in half of the cooled jelly. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to set, then top up with the rest of the loganberries and unset jelly. This allows the berries to stay suspended and not float to the top. Return to the fridge. Serve with thick cream or ice cream.

Potato skins with spiced herb mayonnaise

Serves 2-4

When I'm making mash I first cook the potatoes in their skins (the flavour is earthier as the skins retain flavour). After scooping out the flesh for the mash, I leaving a little potato on the skins so that they don't end up too thin, and reserve them for a delicious snack. They're perfect popped in the deep-fryer and served with this spiced-up mayonnaise.

The cooked skins from 4-6 large baking potatoes
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mayonnaise

3-4 tbsp good quality or homemade mayonnaise
1tbsp chopped green herbs such as chives, parsley, chervil
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients together for the mayonnaise and season.

Cook the potato skins in the hot fat for 3-4 minutes until crisp, turning them occasionally. Remove from the fat and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve with the mayonnaise.

Fish stock

Makes about 1.5ltr

How often is fish stock made at home these days? Not very often, I reckon, but there are so many tasty things that can be made from a few bones and heads. Fish soup, for example, with the addition of just a few extra ingredients, is a great year-round dish and can be stored easily in the freezer. Or you could make a white fish soup like water souchet, salvaging any bits of meat on the bones for a garnish. Here is a simple fish stock that can be used for the base of fish soups – or just kept in the freezer for other fishy dishes or sauces.

1kg or so of white fish bones, washed
2 medium leeks, trimmed, roughly chopped and washed
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
A couple of sticks of celery, roughly chopped
Half a lemon
1tsp fennel seeds
20 black peppercorns
A couple of sprigs of thyme
1 bayleaf
A few parsley stalks

Wash the bones in cold water. Put the bones into a pot with the rest of the ingredients, cover with cold water and bring to the boil; skim off any scum that forms and then simmer for 20 minutes, skimming occasionally.

Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve. Check its strength and reduce it if necessary. Leave to cool.