A year at the Market: sustainability and tackling waste

Categories: News and previews

Ed Smith on how the Market’s commitment to sustainability and tackling waste is reflected in the new Borough Market Cookbook

Image: Issy Croker

We have seen in previous posts that The Borough Market Cookbook, which is due to be published on 4th October, will prompt readers to make the most of, and take inspiration from, seasonal market produce. Importantly, the Market’s environmental and community values are inherent in the book too; key themes such as environmental responsibility, sustainability and innovation come to the fore.

In his essay on new food ethics, Professor Tim Laing, a former trustee of the Market, writes convincingly about making ‘good’ food choices—which means embracing new (and old) flavours, and really considering how food gets to our shopping baskets and plates. What is the true cost of the food we buy?

Thoughts are also provoked by former trustee chair Donald Hyslop and Kate Howell, the current director of development and communications, who note Borough Market’s role as a platform for innovation, for sharing ideas, and for social enterprises that use food and drink as a vehicle for change, such as Change PleaseLuminary Bakery and The Colombian Coffee Company.

Cooking resourcefully
The Market’s commitment to sustainability and tackling waste is evident throughout. There’s also an essay on this subject, which includes reference to Plan Zheroes, which collects surplus produce from traders twice a week and redistribute it to charities across London. And the theme runs subtly through the recipes, as they pass on hints and tips for shopping and cooking resourcefully at home. As Nadia Stokes of Gourmet Goat has noted, as home cooks it’s about changing our mindset so that we think ‘surplus’ instead of ‘waste’, and view one meal’s leftovers as the starting point for another.

The recipes strive, for example, to promote the idea that we should endeavour to use all of the vegetable; ‘root to fruit’ seems likely to become as well known and adhered to a philosophy as ‘nose to tail’. In practice, that means always thinking about using things like the stems and greens of a cauliflower as well as its florets, or the peelings of Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, in the same way that many of us already try to make a whole chicken last a couple of meals, picking meat from the carcass and making stock from it for another day.

We hope the cookbook will encourage readers to think and cook resourcefully. For example, if you’re left with egg whites from one recipe, flick to the recipes for meringues, marshmallows and whisky sours; use syrups leftover from stewing vegetables as a highly flavoured base for drinks; and turn the ageing end of a sourdough loaf into breadcrumbs to top a fish bake, croutons to go in an autumnal panzanella, or the Portuguese migas that’ll mop up a pork and clam stew.

A dish of thrift
This month’s cookbook-related recipe is for the Italian soup ribollita. You may be familiar with it, but it’s as good an example as any of cooking resourcefully; a prompt to use the remains of the vegetable drawer, the ends of a loaf of bread, and one or two of those parmesan rinds that you (hopefully already) store at the back of your fridge.

‘Ribollita’ means reboiled, a reference to making a large batch of the soup to reheat repeatedly over a few days until the pot is finished. It’s a dish of thrift: the only ingredient I had to specifically buy for it was a bunch of chard. It’s the peak of the northern European tomato season and there are a few too many of them wrinkling and blighting on my windowsill; carrots, celery, garlic, white beans and bread are generally in my fridge, veg box and cupboards, and this was a good way to use up those of them that weren’t already allocated to a meal. You could throw other things in, like diced courgettes, kale or cabbage if your larder is stocked differently to mine.

Happy cooking and hopefully, come October, happy reading too.