Vegan chef Max La Manna on how to cook zero-waste

Food & Drink

Want some tips on how to shrink your food footprint? We know just the man who can help. Meet vegan chef Max La Manna who has written the ultimate zero-waste cooking bible…

Where did your zero-waste journey begin?

It started when I was a child as my mother was very into the environment and would tell me to pick up rubbish. That set up the foundations but it was really in 2017 when I was living in Australia. There were bulk stores and farmers’ markets, everyone had a Keep Cup, and more people were just appreciating the planet and taking care of the community. It made me realise when I moved back to New York I could not go back to such a wasteful life.

What can we expect from your new cookbook ‘More Plants, Less Waste’?

When I started writing the book I thought this needs to be a guide not just a cookbook. There are 80 recipes with ideas about to use up leftovers and create less waste. We are not going to see a change overnight but if I can use my tips and tricks to help people move closer to living a life with less waste then I’ve done my job. It’s a book I think will last a lifetime.

What’s your favourite recipe from the book?

The ‘seed to skin squash and sage pasta’ (see recipe below) which utilises every part of the vegetable.

What’s the best thing about living a life with less waste?

I am always learning more about myself and the world that we live in and it brings value to my life.

What is the hardest thing?

I know that I can’t be perfect. There are always areas of improvement.

Tell us your top zero-waste hack

Utilise everything you have and eat everything you have in your kitchen before you buy more food. If you have to throw any food away look to see if you can donate food to a charity or compost it.

Where are your favourite zero-waste/bulks stores in London?

Liberte Cherie in Notting Hill which is owned by a great French man named Charles. The Source Bulk Foods in Chiswick and Battersea is another one and Whole and Planet Organic have bulk food sections. I also just discovered Pipoca in Brixton which has the most amazing pasta selection.

MAX’S SEED TO SKIN SQUASH AND SAGE PASTA

As we transition to autumn and its colder and darker days, all I crave is a warm bowl of hearty deliciousness. One vegetable I never ate when I was growing up was butternut squash – I think my parents thought we wouldn’t like it. Well, they hadn’t tried adding it to pasta! In this dish the skins can be peeled then roasted or simply left on. Save the seeds as you can toast them and have them as a snack or use them to add extra crunch to a soup or salad.

SERVES 4-5

5–7 sage leaves
(or 1 tbsp dried sage)
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped (keep the skin and seeds)
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled (save the skins for your vegetable stock or compost them)
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp paprika
200ml milk (I like coconut but use any you have)
500g pasta (I like pappardelle for its thickness and because the lengths pick up more of the sauce)
Salt and pepper
To serve handful of rocket or shredded kale

1. Preheat your oven to 200oC.
2. In a bowl, mix the sage, squash seeds and skins with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15–20 minutes. Remove from the tray once roasted and lightly crisped. Separate the sage, seeds and skins for later.
3. Put your butternut squash, garlic and onion on the same baking tray with a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the paprika. Roast in the oven for 40–45 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and crisp and the flesh is soft.
Once ready, leave to cool on the baking tray.
4. To a blender or food processor, add your roasted garlic and onion and half of the milk. Give this a good blend until smooth and creamy. Add the roasted butternut squash, a few leaves of roasted sage and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until thick and a bit chunky still – if you blend at a high speed continuously you’ll end up making a soup.
5. Cook the pasta until tender (or cooked to your liking), then transfer to a serving bowl with heaping spoonfuls of the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Serve with the roasted pumpkin skins and toasted seeds. Adding a bit of leafy greens like rocket or shredded kale can really give this dish more nutritional value (we musn’t forget our greens).

‘More Plants, Less Waste’ by Max La Manna is available to buy in bookshops and on Amazon

By Sam

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