Danish chef Mads Refslund is the co-founder of Noma, one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world, but his first cookbook is about trash. "I had in my brain that my first cookbook would be a restaurant cookbook," he admits, but his friend and co-author, forager Tama Matsuoka Wong, convinced him to pen something about cooking with wasted food instead. The result is Scraps, Wilt & Weeds, which shows you how to turn things like vegetable juice pulp and coffee grounds into pastas and panna cottas.
"I have always cooked with things no one tends to use because I always thought it was stupid to throw it out," Refslund explains. "It is money that you are throwing away." As a chef, he felt it was his responsibility to teach others how to use up foods -- like cauliflower cores and fish collars -- that are typically tossed without thought. "I think people throw these [perfectly edible] foods away because of a lack of knowledge -- they just don’t know how to cook with them," he says. Leek roots, for example, are trimmed off and binned, but Refslund believes if people realized that the roots could be turned into something delicious, they wouldn’t want to throw it away.
Paired against stark facts -- nearly 1 billion pounds of uneaten lettuce goes into the trash each year -- the book is filled with ways to turn what you definitely think is garbage into elegant dishes fit for a dinner party. Case-in-point: Refslund’s recipe for a satisfying dessert crafted from old, dried-out bread and stale beer. Yes, stale beer.
The dish is based on the classic Danish porridge known as ollebrod. Back in the day, farmers tended to live off of mainly rye bread and beer, he explains. "When the bread got a little bit old, they would soak it in beer, boil it, and add sugar. If you could afford it, you would eat it with milk. If you really had means, you would eat it with whipped cream." Refslund’s version of the dish is gussied up with a bit of chocolate and salted caramel ice cream. Count it as breakfast or dessert.
Refslund says that you can use any bread you have lying around, but he prefers dark rye bread for its flavor. As for the beer, he is adamant you use one that is well past its prime. "I realized that when you boil beer to make any recipe, it becomes flat -- so why not just use flat beer from the start?"
Get the recipe for Flat Beer & Day-Old-Bread Porridge below: