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Using Leftovers Like A Real Chef

Matthias is a trained professional chef and currently in the middle of his medical studies. Therefore, when it comes to using leftovers in his cooking, he’s very knowledgeable.

Cooking in a restaurant, you naturally have completely different possibilities: Due to the large quantities of food, you naturally produce more vegetable peels and other, smaller leftovers, which can still be processed well since they gather up over the day. But there are still quite a few professional kitchen-hacks to reduce leftovers which you can use at home!

I interviewed Matthias so he could share his biggest tips and tricks as a professional cook, when it comes to using these leftovers at home.

What To Do With….

….Vegetable Peels And Scraps?

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Vegetable leftovers such as potato and carrot peels, but also the ends of vegetables can be boiled down to make a yummy and flavorful vegetable broth. Soup vegetables are best suited for this purpose. Root vegetables, for example (such as carrots, celery, leeks, or parsnips), as well as onions, and herbs (such as parsley or thyme) belong to this category. Bell peppers and tomatoes do not count as soup veggies, but also lend themselves to the occasion. You just have to be very careful to keep the bell pepper seeds out of the broth, since they might make it bitter. Not suitable for a vegetable broth at all are cabbage and mediterranean veggies such as zucchini.

Insights into the professional kitchen

Cooking for a hand full of people at home, of course you have nowhere near enough peels and leftovers for a vegetable broth after a day. It’s a different story for a chef in the professional kitchen: Every day you have about 40 liters of stock from the leftovers of 10 kilos of onions and 5 kilos of carrots, which then boils down to half that amount over the course of the day. You can’t do that at home.

That’s why Matthias has a little tip for us hobby cooks:

What you can do, is freeze the peelings and leftover vegetables. Then, when you have enough to fill about half of your pot with it, you get your leftovers out of the freezer. Afterwards you fill the pot to the brim with water, throw in your leftovers, season with peppercorns and salt and boil your broth for about 2 hours. Then, you have to pass everything through a colander and your vegetable broth is ready! Now you are free to either preserve it or eat it directly.

....Raw Meat Leftovers?

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From raw meat scraps you can prepare a meat broth. However, this should cook longer than the vegetable broth, for rather 4 hours. “With the quantities and times I have to rethink a bit. In the kitchen, you just have a huge hot plate, you throw all kinds of things on it and that then cooks all day – up to 12 hours. But 4 hours seem about right at home.

This Can Be Eaten!

The Stalk Of Broccoli And Cauliflower

More than just the florets of broccoli and cauliflower are edible: The whole stalk can be used in cooking! The only difference is that the stalk is a little weaker in flavor. But by using it, you not only reduce food waste, but probably save money too!
You don’t need three heads of broccoli anymore because you only eat the florets. Instead, one might be enough if you eat the whole broccoli – stalk and all.

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Dunkles Brot
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Old Bread

We have already had quite a few recipe ideas for you regarding the use of dry and stale bread. But Matthias has a special tip for the summer:

Old bread can be made into bread salad! Only thing is, you would probably need a good knife or a bread machine to cut the bread properly…
This is a really awesome recipe, especially in summer – you have a dark bread and basically make a nice Italian pasta salad with dried tomatoes, nice dressing, vinegar and oil. But instead of pasta, you use some dry bread, cut into cubes! Especially if it’s a little bit hard, that’s great. That way, it soaks up a little bit more of the salad juices and doesn’t get so mushy. Otherwise, you just put whatever you feel like in the salad.”

Potato Peels

Potato peels can be baked into healthy homemade chips/crisps!
You boil the peels very briefly with boiling water:
Throw them in, count to ten, then they boil out. Afterwards, spread them out briefly on kitchen paper to dry. Before baking, they must be well oiled so that each potato skin has enough oil on it. And when it comes to baking, they should be well distributed on the baking tray.”
It’s best to sprinkle salt on the chips after they’ve baked, or just before you eat them: “Otherwise the chips will quickly draw water and loose their crunch.

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Fish Scraps

In the restaurant where I worked as a chef, we used raw fish scraps (eg. whatever you can’t sell as steak – so everything between the bones, the fish meat close to the tail fin or the head) to cook ravioli filling. But of course, this is very time-consuming cooking. You have to have the time and energy to do that first.

Made Too Much Food?

Essentially, anything can be frozen.
I don’t really know of any dish that can’t be frozen. We  always froze everything in the kitchen. Especially to prepare at the beginning of a season. One time, for example, we rolled 2000 dumplings. For a week, all day every day, that’s what we did, to freeze them all afterwards.

Generally, however, Matthias recommends “cooking too much” for better use of leftovers. That way, you automatically need more ingredients and can often save leftovers because, after all, you can only buy certain things in larger quantities at the supermarket.
Sometimes it’s half an onion that’s left over when cooking small amounts…or you are left with a half-full can of tomatoes. With large quantities, you just add them. You don’t even notice it afterwards.

Increase Shelf Life


Herbs last longer if you dry them:
You wrap some thread around a few stalks of rosemary, hang that up, and then after a while you have sustainable, dried herbs. You can do that with just about any herb, really.

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Really Prolong Your Shelf Life With Pickled Veggies

Mix vinegar, sugar and water (1 to 1 to 1) with a small dash of allspice or juniper berries. Boil it, then add the vegetables and boil the mixture again to kill any potential bacteria/germs. Then, pour the whole thing into jars and after a while you have pickles, aka. preserved vegetables. This is how you can preserve things at room temperature!


To make your salad last longer, you should only ever pour dressing over the amount of lettuce that you know you can eat. Vinegar, after all, breaks down the lettuce leaf and quickly makes it mushy. And then, unfortunately, it can’t be saved.

Otherwise, herbs and lettuce can be kept fresh longer by putting a damp cloth over them or wrapping it around them. But the emphasis here is on *damp* – not wet. For example, you can hold your hand under the faucet and then shake it out vigorously once over the cloth.

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Fruit, especially delicate fruit such as strawberries or blueberries, should first be spread out on a cloth or piece of kitchen roll immediately after purchase. This allows slightly rotten or mushy colleagues to be identified early and stored away from the others.
If fruit loses its juice in the store-bought container, then other fruit will quickly become contaminated and start to mold more easily.

Proper Refrigerator Storing

Leftover food should generally be covered in the refrigerator.
How often do you clean the refrigerator? How much cross-contamination do you have in there? Stuff goes bad very very quickly in that kind of environment. There’s a lot that can be done preemptively with some plastic wrap or a sealed Tupperware.

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Private Handling Of Leftovers

Question:What do you do when you’ve cooked food for yourself and have some left over? Do you just eat it the next day and then cook something new for yourself in the evening? Or do you use the leftovers to make another dish?

Answer:Both. Sometimes I just eat it in between meals. Otherwise, you can usually cook a vegetable stir-fry with a wide variety of leftover dishes. So if you have a little bit of Bolognese left over from the day before – put it in. Then you have a bit of Bolo in there. And then maybe you open up a can of tomatoes and just like that you have a vegetable sauce with tomatoes and a little bit of ground beef.

Other option: He cooks the same thing again the next day and adds the leftovers toward the end. “Even if you don’t feel like eating the same thing again then, you can freeze it and save yourself the work another day.”

Title Image by  Michael Browning on Unsplash 

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