Zero waste chilli sauce

zero waste chilli sauce

I like eating food so spicy it’s nearly hallucinogenic – who’s with me? I also like milder sauces for chilaquiles or tacos that build flavour instead of fire. There are so many hot sauces to love. I would drink green Tabasco if you let me. Ditto Franks and Sriracha. On a backpacking trip too many years ago, I have a clear memory of eating chili ketchup on my fries at a Singapore McDonald’s thinking, why hadn’t I thought of this before? 

I go through a decent amount, so I’ve gotten into making it myself. Last March I made a one litre batch using a Grown and Gathered recipe based on fermenting jalapenos, salt, sweet white wine and sultanas. I just finished using it all and trust me I’m the only one eating it in this house.

I’ve planted a few chilli seeds with high hopes I’ll grow a crop to eventually pulverize. For now, I buy my ingredients. I have the sneaking suspicion buying the raw materials is more expensive than simply buying the sauce. Oh well. As I’ve said before, there is benefit in making your own, even if it’s not always about saving money or reducing packaging. It’s upskilling, and it’s keeping me off the streets.

How I made fermented chilli sauce

The main challenge with making your own hot sauce is finding the right chilis. Generally the smaller the chillies, the hotter the burn, so when I picked up some smallish ‘red chillies’ (thanks Woolworth’s for the unhelpful labelling) I had to assume they would be fairly spicy.

How lovely is this reusable bag by the way? I swapped with someone on the Crop Swap Sydney Facebook group for some pine rosin. She’d made the bags herself.

zero waste chilli sauce

I wasn’t too concerned with how much I’d bought or how much it would make, since fermented recipes are based on simple ratios that can be adjusted. The recipe I used, from The Joy of Cooking, called for salt and a sweet white wine. I used 2% salt, which is to say 276g of peppers x 0.02 = 6g of salt. If you want to start fermenting, it’s essential to have scales. I got this one at Vinnies.

zero waste chilli sauce

I washed the chillies and cut off the long stems, leaving some of the green end on.

zero waste chilli sauce

Then I blitzed them, keeping the seeds. I could’ve removed them for a less spicy sauce. More on that later.

zero waste chilli sauce

zero waste chilli sauce

I packed the blitzed chillies into a clean wide mouth Mason jar with a 1.5 cup capacity and added some of the sweet wine to cover. The trick with all ferments is to keep the solids below the line of brine or liquid. Here I used a pickle pebble – a 2 cm thick piece of glass that fits into the mouth of the jar – plus a silicone piece called a pickle pipe.

The nipple has a slit at the top that allows gases to escape while keeping oxygen out. Yes, you can ferment without special equipment, and I did for years, but I find it extremely convenient to use these two adapters. The process is easier if I can avoid struggling to find the right little jar to jury rig inside to weight everything down. This set up also keeps out any little flies.

After four weeks on a kitchen shelf, I pureed the mixture until it resembled the texture of Sriracha. This created a cloud of pepper spray in the kitchen, be warned.

zero waste hot sauce

zero waste hot sauce

In fact I decided an old Sriracha bottle was the perfect vessel to store it.

zero waste hot sauce

And so you know how this story ends…. This sauce is hot AF, and I will probably go through it a bit slower than the last.

Happy weekend everyone.

How to make corn tortillas without plastic

Corn tortillas were originally prepared from nixtamalized corn ground in a mill to make a dough. Today it’s simpler to make tortillas with instant corn flour, known as masa harina.

I started making corn tortillas long before I’d ever heard the term zero waste. My friend Christine taught me. I made them because they tasted good and were pretty simple to make. I continue to make them because they save me buying small packets of tortillas in plastic, and they taste so good when fresh.

zero waste tortillas

A tortilla press was the first piece of kitchen equipment I bought when I moved to Sydney, which I justified by making tortillas all the time. You don’t need to buy a press if you’re just experimenting – more on that later. I found a few places to source masa harina in paper rather than plastic. A one kilogram bag runs $6 and makes at least 60 tortillas (I make them smaller, so more still) and I can whip them up whenever I want.

It took trial and error to make them completely plastic free, since the usual method is to line the tortilla press with soft plastic. I’d clean and reuse the same ziploc bag, but still. Turns out that when my dough making skills I improved, I was able to switch to using parchment (I use a compostable brand). I’ve also tried without anything lining the press, but with no luck.

Ingredients for corn tortillas

  • 1 cup masa harina (instant corn flour)
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • pinch of salt

Some add a tablespoon of fat. I find it works either way. Alternatively, follow the recipe on the masa harina package. Some may differ slightly. It’s actually best to look at the dough texture as your guide and err on the side of less water, since you can always add more if it’s too dry.

Equipment to make corn tortillas

  • Tortilla press or try a baking sheet or a plate pressed onto a chopping board, or two baking sheets. If you’ve been to Mexico or any SoCal food market, you may have seen thicker style tortillas pressed by hand.
  • Sheet of compostable parchment paper, folded.
  • Cast iron pan or griddle.
  • Tortilla warmer or a bamboo steamer and tea towel. I scored this tortilla warmer from the local Vinnies for $4, and have seem them twice more secondhand. Anything is possible!

Method to make corn tortillas

To make the dough, combine the dry ingredients, then add the very warm, nearly hot water and mix with a fork.

It’ll start crumbly, but don’t add more water, just keep working the dough.

Knead the dough in the bowl until it resembles fresh playdough, which should take about a minute. Test by making a ball the size of a golf ball and squishing it – it shouldn’t crack.

Cover and let the dough sit for at least 20 minutes in the fridge, but an hour is better. You want the flour to fully rehydrate. I think chilling the dough might help the tortilla to puff up in the pan. You don’t need plastic wrap to cover. You could use a beeswax wrap, a damp cloth, or put the dough in an enclosed container, like I did.

To cook the tortillas, make balls from the rested dough. I like smaller tortillas, so my balls are ¾ of the size of a golf ball. Place the parchment on the press so it covers both sides and put the ball between the sheets and then press.

Remove the flattened tortilla by peeling it away from the parchment. If it’s difficult to peel away from the parchment, it could be you’ve pressed it too thinly. Just gather up the dough, roll into a ball and try again.

Place the tortilla onto the hot cast iron pan or griddle plate of a barbecue for about a minute. Flip to the second side for 30 seconds, then flip back to the first side. Now, press gently down on the centre of the tortilla with your finger to encourage the tortilla to puff. The puff tells you it’s nicely cooked through, but I don’t always achieve it.

Hard to see, but it was starting to puff here..

Remove from the pan and wrap in a tea towel inside a tortilla warmer or a bamboo steamer. The steaming it gets makes it pliable and keeps your tortillas warm.


Bulk store granola recipe

zero waste granola

I love to play in the kitchen. Buying grains, flours, nuts, spices and other goodies by refilling my own containers helps me avoid an astounding amount of packaging waste. Bulk stores (or buying groups / co-ops, etc.) work by sourcing larger quantities of foods than any person or family would buy at one time, and splitting between many customers. This gives us the opportunity to buy only the amount we need, when we need it.

In the last couple of years, Sydney has exploded with places to shop in bulk. These stores are a nice alternative to the chain supermarket experience. No bright lights and gaudy sales stickers, hideous music and ads over the PA. Refill stores are full of friendly people who appreciate your efforts to reduce waste and give you discounts for bringing your own containers.

Here is a very simple granola recipe I make with ingredients that are easy to find at any bulk shop in Sydney. My favourite way to eat this is on warm oatmeal or overtop warm stewed apples.

A basic zero waste granola recipe

Makes about 4.5 cups of finished granola.

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (large flakes)
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil (optional – makes the oats a bit crispier)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • Shake of salt

zero waste granola

Method to make zero waste granola

My friend Claudia is an inspiration to me for many reasons. She saves sharks, she knows everything about tofu and she taught me the secret to making great granola. You toast the oats first and separately from the other ingredients. This step helps to avoid burning the nuts and seeds, and creates perfect crunchy clusters.

  1. Toast oats on a baking sheet for 10 minutes in an oven heated to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Remove the tray from the oven and add half the coconut oil. Let it melt with the heat of the pan, then mix into the oats.
  3. In a bowl, mix together sesame seeds, pepitas, coconut flakes, honey, molasses, the balance of the coconut oil, plus a shake of salt.
  4. Work the sesame seed mixture into the toasted oats with a fork or your fingers. It doesn’t need to be perfectly even.
  5. Put the baking sheet back into the oven for another 10 minutes until the mixture is toasted as much as you like. I like them to be a light golden brown, not too dark.
  6. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the waste granola recipe

One you’ve got the method down, try mixing up the ingredients. Switch up the types of nuts or seeds, add some bulk store spices like cinnamon, or mix in some puffed rice to the cooled granola. Use whatever you have on hand. There are endless variations.

How to shop for granola ingredients in bulk

I’ve found Sydney’s bulk refill shops – whether coop, chain or other – to unanimously ‘get it’ when it comes to BYO containers. Shopping at the bulk spots is a little different to the grocery store, but not more difficult. Here are some tips to make it a smooth experience.

  • Bring your own containers or bags to refill. You can reuse any container or bag, so long as it’s clean and will survive the journey home.
  • Anything heavier than a plastic bag should be tared before filling. Most bulk shops will have scales for this purpose. Weight the item and write the ‘tare weight’ on the jar or bag in grams if you’re in Australia.
  • Check if liquid items like honey and molasses are sold by weight or volume before filling.

I maintain a list (one day soon, it will be a map!) to help you find a bulk store in Sydney. I hope that one day soon, everyone has a refill shop in their own suburb.

A zero waste treat to make at home and take anywhere

zero waste snacks

Craving a Snickers or some other packaged treat? Try making these plastic free morsels instead.

All you need to make these tasty treats are medjool dates, peanuts, peanut butter and chocolate buttons. It’s hard to beat the dreamy caramel texture of a medjool. Chocolate goes on the inside, so they are like inside out chocolate bars. I like salted peanuts in this recipe, because why hold back here. 

To make, slice open the date, remove the pit, smear on some peanut butter, then add your peanuts and chocolate. No baking and no bowls or appliances to clean. You’re welcome. 

They hold together nicely on strenuous hikes, or casual strolls around the kitchen. They’re no better for you calorically than their packaged counterparts, although you could argue they are slightly less processed. I like to make a batch and store them in the freezer, ever at the ready for a weekend adventure. Everything I need to make them comes from any bulk food shop around Sydney.