Food waste ferments: 4 easy preserves from chef Adam Handling

Food waste ferments: 4 easy preserves from chef Adam Handling

by Adam Handling 11 May 2020

Too many tomatoes? Leftover wine? Wondering whether there's anything you can do with cauliflower leaves? Chef Adam Handling shares his four favourite ferment recipes which tackle food waste and provide jars of deliciousness in one fell swoop.

View more from this series:

With countless awards to his name and an ever-growing empire of restaurants, Adam Handling has achieved a huge amount in his illustrious career. Taking inspiration from his travels, utilising modern cooking techniques and sourcing the best of British produce results in flavourful dishes full of playful twists and theatre.

With countless awards to his name and an ever-growing empire of restaurants, Adam Handling has achieved a huge amount in his illustrious career. Taking inspiration from his travels, utilising modern cooking techniques and sourcing the best of British produce results in flavourful dishes full of playful twists and theatre.

Fermenting food sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, and it’s something I think everyone should get familiar with. It’s such a good way to make the most of seasonal ingredients, ensuring nothing goes to waste and meaning their flavour can be enjoyed months after the season ends. Now that we’re in the midst of spring, it’s a perfect time to start fermenting as British produce starts to come through.

The benefits of fermentation are threefold – it promotes the growth of good bacteria, transforms the flavour of fresh ingredients and extends their shelf life. It’s also great if you’re looking to minimise waste, be it gluts of homegrown veg, offcuts that would normally end up in the bin or even half-drunk bottles of wine. Here are some of my favourite ferments to make at home.

Fermented tomatoes

This works best with firm tomatoes, so don’t wait until they’re too soft. It’s worth buying extra tomatoes when you’re next at the shops just to make this recipe. They go particularly well with grilled meat, fish and other vegetables, as the smoky, charred flavours contrast with the bright, zingy tang of the tomatoes.

2l water

80g sea salt (I use Cornish sea salt)

2kg firm English tomatoes

Place the water and salt into a saucepan and heat gently, until the salt has dissolved, then leave to cool to room temperature. Place the tomatoes in a large jar or plastic container and, once cooled, pour the brine over the tomatoes. Seal or cover and leave at room temperature for 5 days.

Once the salinity drops and the tomatoes have developed a tangy taste, move them to the fridge, where they will keep for up to a year, provided they remain submerged in the brine and there is no bacterial contamination.

Fermented carrot slaw

We always seem to have a few carrots left in the fridge – this slaw is a great way to use them up and extend their life. It’s also much more flavourful than standard coleslaw – especially when you make the mayonnaise yourself.

For the carrots:

Approx. 3 large carrots – heritage carrots in a mix of colours look and work best, but any carrot will do

Sea salt

For the mayonnaise:

2 egg yolks (save the whites to make marshmallows – recipe here)

50ml fresh orange juice

200ml rapeseed oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

6 large mint leaves, shredded

1 spring onion, finely sliced

Weigh the carrots, then calculate 2% of that weight and ensure you have that amount of salt (so if you had 400g of carrots, you would need 8g of salt). Place the carrots and the salt in a zip-lock bag and mix together thoroughly, then seal and leave to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days. As the carrots ferment, they will release liquid and the bag may inflate – this is normal. If the bag looks like it might burst, open the seal slightly to allow the built-up gas to escape.

Once the carrots have fermented, drain them from the liquid and gently squeeze to release any excess brine. Cut the carrots into matchsticks and set aside while you make the mayonnaise.

Using a hand whick or a food processor, mix together the egg yolks and orange juice until thoroughly combined. With the motor still running (or whilst constantly whisking), add the rapeseed oil in a steady stream until the mixture emulsifies and creates a mayonnaise. Stir in the Dijon mustard, then gently bind the carrots with the mayonnaise and finish with the mint and spring onion. This slaw will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Cauliflower kimchi

I think kimchi has to be one of the most underused ingredients. I add it to so many dishes to give them spice and a depth of flavour. This recipe uses the leftover leaves and trim from a couple of cauliflowers, so it’s brilliant on the food waste front. And once you start making your own, there’s no turning back!

500g cauliflower leaves, stalks and trim

30g sea salt

2 garlic cloves

6g ginger

1 tsp caster sugar

25g gochujang (a Korean fermented chilli paste that’s now available in many supermarkets)

1.5 tbsp fine table salt

Chop any larger pieces of the reserved cauliflower – you don’t want anything to be larger than around 4cm. Place in a large bowl and then sprinkle the sea salt over the top. Massage the salt into the cauliflower with your hands, then cover with cold water. Put a plate that’s slightly smaller than the bowl on top of the cauliflower to keep it submerged in the water, then set aside for 2 hours.

Drain the cauliflower, give it a good rinse, then leave to drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and ginger, then place in a food processor with the sugar and blitz to a paste. Mix in the gochujang and table salt until combined, then set aside.

Squeeze out any excess water from the cauliflower, then add it to a bowl with the gochujang paste. Wearing disposable (and recyclable!) gloves, use your hands to thoroughly mix everything together. Transfer to a large clean jar and press the cauliflower down, packing it tightly so the juices rise to the top. Ensure there is still a gap at the top of the jar, then seal the lid.

Leave the kimchi to ferment at room temperature for 2-5 days, depending on how tangy you like it to taste. Check on it every day, opening the jar to let out some gas and pressing the vegetables down further into the brine (keep the jar on a saucer in case any of the brine bubbles over while you do this). Once happy with the flavour, transfer the jar to the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 months.

Champagne (or wine) vinegar

There’s no question that during lockdown our wine consumption has increased, but we don’t always finish the bottle, or sometimes we open something that turns out to be a bit disappointing. Rather than throwing away any leftover wine, decant it into a sealed container in the fridge. When you’ve collected a litre of different wine dregs, you can create an incredible wine vinegar very easily. It might take a while for the flavours to develop, but requires zero effort to achieve.

1l leftover Champagne, red or white wine

100ml raw cider vinegar (with a ‘mother’ in the bottle)

Pour the ingredients into a non-reactive open container, like a large glass jar. Leave for at least six weeks, tasting every so often. When you’re happy with the flavour, transfer the vinegar to sealed bottles and store in the fridge to retain a fresher flavour.