Not content with being the chef/owner of the’The World’s Best Restaurant’, Massimo Bottura is at war with waste. Here 50 top chefs make the most of’rubbish’.
I’ve never eaten at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. I almost did a month ago, but a terrorist alert grounded my plane at Stansted and I arrived too late for my reservation. Those terrorists have a lot to answer for.
Bottura also has a social waste enterprise project called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Refettoria Ambrosia,” basically a soup kitchen that helps feed the less fortunate, and at the heart of it is the idea of using everything.
Refettoria makes economical and delicious dishes using what would be either waste or surplus food. Refettorios are now springing up in other locations in Italy.
Many top chefs have been more than happy to do a stint at Ambrosia, cooking with whatever happened to turn up, be it excess food donated by a supermarket or food simply heading for its sell by date and so the bin.
For chefs used to the having very best ingredients, making great dishes out of capsized courgettes, limp lettuces and tomatoes rapidly turning into compost was a challenge they had never faced before and it brought out the best in them.
Each section of recipes by each chef has a long introduction from Bottura, talking about the chef from his own personal experience and the chef invariably talking about how the experience has been both humbling and inspiring. That may sound like I am being cynical, but it’s simply a fact.
So the recipes are by chef section, and not by starter, main, dessert etc. It’s a book to dip into, to read with pleasure and to cook randomly from. The dishes are not always complicated, although some are, but always surprise with their creativity on a budget.
Take’potato nest with poached egg and goat cheese sauce’. It’s simply deep-fried potato strands topped with a poached egg and a sauce made from goat’s cheese and goats milk. You just know that has to taste great.For the homeless eating in the restaurant, it must be manna from heaven.
Bread was never wasted in Bottura’s childhood and so, as per the title, bread features in the book a lot, a caramelised chicken dish with a bread puree, for example, as well as simple home cooked sourdough loaves. Toasted stale bread crumbs adorn many a dish, transforming the ordinary through simple culinary alchemy.
There are so many recipes in the book, so many good ones, and some remarkable twists such as using cooked popcorn to replace pine nuts in a classic pesto. All the sweetness and texture but a fraction of the price.
Which is the book in a nutshell, delicious food that costs pennies. Sometimes familiar, sometimes far out but always fascinating. This is a book that will help us all cook differently and hopefully more thoughtfully.