In Finland, a country where the growing season lasts just three to four months, Sasu Laukkonen stands out by using only local and foraged produce at his restaurant Chef & Sommelier—and wasting none of it. He sources ingredients from the restaurant's own farm outside the city, regional vendors and the surrounding forests, which provide berries and mushrooms depending on the season.
“When you know where a product comes from, you can comfortably use 100 percent of it and feel proud,” Laukkonen says. His approach also helps the bottom line. “In the end, a chef needs to make money. When using wild produce, it’s free for you to pick. When we buy a local potato, we just wash off the mud and everything else goes on the plate. If the potato peel isn’t used in the same dish, it is incorporated in another. So why order, let’s say, celeriac from Holland, peel 40 percent of it, and only use 60 percent of what you bought?”
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While the dishes Laukkonen’s kitchen team assemble may look advanced and unsuitable for the home cook, Sasu Laukkonen is not one for overcomplicating things or secret recipes. As part of his strong no-waste attitude and push for local sustainability, he is eager to share his knowledge and strives to educate not only chefs, but home cooks, on how to take simple steps to create less food waste and support local farmers.
Here, Sasu Laukkonen shares five tips on how to love your summer produce and make use of even the most unwanted parts:
1. Plum Pits
The inside of a plum kernel is actually edible with an astonishingly similar taste like a bitter almond. When plums are in season, buy or pick from local farms, and freeze. When ready to use, dip the plum into warm water for three minutes and crack open by hitting gently with a hammer, Laukkonen advices. Use the kernel (crushed up or grated) like bitter almond for baking or seasoning but remember – the flavor is quite strong, so little goes a long way.
2. Rosemary Stalks
It's not just the leaves of a rosemary plant that are great for cooking. Save the bare stalks and let them dry completely and you can use them as skewers to grill things like shrimp. You can also spread several stalks under a piece of meat or fish when grilling over charcoal to give the protein a smoked rosemary flavor, “completely different than the taste of rosemary leaves,” Laukkonen says. The dried stalks can also be added to olive oil for a homemade rosemary oil.
3. Cabbage Stems
All cabbage stems (broccoli, cauliflower, kale) are very versatile and just as delicious as the head. When peeled, the stems can be chopped or sliced and used raw in salads, or boiled and made into a mash. Peeled cabbage stems are also great when pickled.
4. Fish Skin
Eating fish skin might sound quite off-putting, but Laukkonen knows a trick that will turn them into a fun snack. When completely cleaned with all meat scraped off, dehydrate the fish skin on a very low temperature (120-140°) for a minimum of 1 1/2 hour. When dried, deep fry in 435° hot oil and you will have crispy fish skin chips. The chips taste surprisingly much like potato chips and are delicious by themselves or served as a crisp topping to a salad.
Apples that have fallen of trees and been bruised may look unappealing, but are still fully edible. Use these “ugly” apples by pressing them to juice and pasteurize (heated up to 160°), or freeze the apples whole and fermented after melting without adding anything. The fermented apples can then be incorporated into a dish, made into juice or stewed for a chutney.
Chef & Sommelier, Huvilakatu 28, 00150 Helsinki, Finland. chefetsommelier.fi