Waste not, want not

Sarah Burtscher wants to show people how they can use the older, forgotten food from their pantries, fridges and fruit bowls to create delicious home-cooked meals.

The mother of three and former Tekapo cafe owner lives on a "fairly remote" high-country station where she has a four-hour round trip to a large supermarket, so is used to making do with what she has on hand.

"Having a lot of people to cook for, planned or unplanned crowds, it taught me to cook on my feet, so to speak, using what I had."

Living remotely also means being totally responsible for their own rubbish.

"It makes you aware. There’s no wheelie bins to take it away for you."

When they stay in the city she notices how their food or organic matter bins are quite empty.

"So it started me thinking, perhaps the way I cook my ‘fridge cleaning’ soups and whatnot, I might just have a point."

THE BOOK: Fridge Cleaner Cooking: Waste Not Want Not, by Sarah Burtscher, published by SJKB Ltd,...
THE BOOK: Fridge Cleaner Cooking: Waste Not Want Not, by Sarah Burtscher, published by SJKB Ltd, RRP$39.99


Burtscher started looking into the issue of food waste and was shocked by the statistics.

"Some people just don’t know how to utilise their grocery shop to the fullest. You don’t need to be a good cook, you don’t need fancy ingredients, you can just make do and cook on."

So she gathered together statistics from lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz and decided to write a book of recipes based on the top 10 foods thrown out in New Zealand — foods such as bread, fruit, vegetables, rice, beef and leftovers.

"If we all do something, even if it’s small, it has a cumulative effect and can start to make a difference."

Zela Russell’s eggs and rice supreme

Zela was my grandmother from my mother’s side of the family and was a McKinnon prior to marrying my grandfather, Noel, who fought in WW2. I did not know him as well as I knew my grandmother. Zela was a pint-sized woman, who played golf, had seven children, was a Catholic, liked whisky, had stunning blue eyes, lived her early years at Ohau Station and then the rest of her life in and around Karitane and Oamaru. From a child’s perspective you knew she was a force, old-fashioned but fun.

I’d call this "comfort food"; I know my grandmother would simply have called this dinner or lunch.

Rice is a big one to be thrown out; 4076 tonnes go to waste every year in New Zealand, so this is a good recipe to use that up, remembering to store it in an airtight container in the fridge and heat thoroughly before eating (cooked rice can also be frozen). Rice can go musty if not stored properly in the pantry, so always store in a well-sealed container — brown rice goes musty before white.

Serves 4

You will need

clean hands

chopping board and knife

medium-sized baking dish, greased pot

small mixing bowl/dish



wooden spoon

White sauce

Makes 1 cup

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp plain flour

1 cup milk/milk alternative

1 tsp mustard powder/Dijon mustard

The rice stuff

4 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise

Worcestershire sauce

2 cups cooked, well-seasoned rice

(brown rice works well, but any rice works or just use the rice from the night before)

handful grated cheese

finely chopped chives/green herb you like/spring onion

salt and pepper


Heat the oven to bake 180degC.

White sauce recipe

Put one of the tablespoons of butter in a small pot, melt on a medium heat then put your flour in and stir quickly to combine.

Pour the milk in and use the whisk to stir in continuously and heat through until thickened, making sure there are no lumps.

Stir in the mustard powder/Dijon mustard, taste, then add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.

Egg and rice dish

Remove the egg yolks from the hard boiled eggs and place in a bowl.

Add the other tablespoon of butter (you could use olive oil to be healthier, although Zela might have an issue with this!) and a big dash or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Mix well but don’t over-beat, then taste and adjust seasoning.

Stuff the egg whites with yolk mixture.

Place cooked rice, still warm, in your dish. If using rice from the night before then heat in the microwave for 1 minute.

Snuggle the halved stuffed eggs in the rice but don’t cover. Spoon the seasoned white sauce over the rice and eggs, and sprinkle the cheese over the dish. Pop into the oven for 5-10 minutes until heated through.

Grill for 3 minutes so the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Garnish with chopped chives or herbs and serve with a simple green salad.

Dishevelled sausages

This is a cheeky take on a Kiwi classic from the Jurassic years — some of you younger lot may not have heard of "devilled sausages".

This is relatively quick and easy with fewer pantry staples than in the original. The bonus is that you get to use up apples, which I keep harping on about because we throw out 5117tonnes a year totalling a grand $14,818,152!

Serves 5-6

You will need

clean hands

chopping board and knife


large stove top pan with a lid

wooden spoon

heavy-based pot

sterilised repurposed jars with lids, if making enough to store (a jam funnel, if you have one, helps make less mess)

10 small or 6 large sausages (plain beef works best, but use any favourite or try non-meat sausages)

2 Tbsp (approx) high heat oil (I use grapeseed oil)

2 brown onions, roughly chopped

4 large garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped

1 leek, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced or grated

dash of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar

2 or so cups of chicken stock (low salt is preferable)

2 Tbsp of 10-minute tomato sauce (see recipe below) or store bought

2 apples, cored and cut into thick segments, not too thin (green apples are ideal as nice and tart)

squeeze of lemon juice

1 Tbsp cornflour/potato flour

10-minute tomato sauce

Makes 5 medium jars

swirl olive oil (for the measurement folk, about 2 Tbsp)

4 onions, peeled and halved (use your old onions)

6 garlic cloves (use old garlic and the more the better, I think)

6 cans tomatoes

1 Tbsp any sugar or runny honey

salt to taste


In a large pan that has a lid, add some of the oil and saute the sausages until browned.

Set aside on a plate. If the sausages are really fatty I lightly rinse out the pan. Replace on stove on a low to medium heat, add more oil and saute the onion, garlic, leek and carrot until soft.

Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.

Add the partly cooked sausages back into the mixture.

Add the chicken stock to cover plus the 10-minute tomato sauce and bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer gently.

Add apples and cook with the lid on until the sausages are cooked through.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Put a couple of full spoons of the liquid in a cup and quickly stir the cornflour/potato flour in until smooth, then add to the dish, stirring thoroughly to thicken.

Let cool with the lid off and serve with mashed potatoes.

They are the family favourite: if no spuds, serve with rice, pasta or a grain.

I add a handful of chopped baby spinach, the kids don’t. Sigh.

10-minute tomato sauce

In a large soup pot, swirl in the olive oil, add all the onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, while you are opening your canned tomatoes.

Pour these in and sluice out each can with a little water to get all the tomatoes, and tip into the pot. Stir well and add the sugar and salt.

Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer, for as long as you want, but if I have hungry kids waiting I can do it in as little as 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend.

Have your cleaned and sterilised jars sitting on a board.

A jam funnel (easily found at the supermarket) helps prevent mess.

Pour well-blended tomato sauce into hot jars and tighten the lids.

If storing for a while, make sure to label your jars or write the date with a permanent marker.


Tip: Add grated carrot for an extra vegetable boost. If you don’t have onions a leek works well, or just add leeks for more sneaky vege!

French toast tray bake

This is quick and easy to make in the morning: let the oven do the work, and it makes a good pud. In France, the dish is called pain perdu, meaning lost bread. Why lost bread? Originally, people made French toast from stale bread in order to make use of bread that would otherwise have been thrown away

Serves 4-5

You will need

clean hands

chopping board and knife

pie dish or small lasagne dish,

approximately 20cm x 20cm, greased lightly with butter (using saved butter paper scraps)

serrated knife

mixing bowl

wooden spoon


6 slices bread, buttered

1 cup frozen berries of your choosing

2 eggs

2 Tbsp sugar (I used coconut sugar)

2 cups milk/milk alternative (I used oat milk)

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ tsp cinnamon

icing sugar, to dust

maple syrup and fresh berries, to serve


Heat the oven to fan bake 180degC

Cut each slice of buttered bread in half diagonally to make two triangles. If you are using a loaf of bread, carefully slice thin slices then do the same.

Lay four bread triangles butter side down.

Sprinkle with frozen berries and repeat to form layers.

Finish with a layer of bread with the butter side up.

Beat the eggs and sugar together, add the milk and vanilla. Pour over the bread and butter and sprinkle the top with cinnamon, if using.

Leave for 15 minutes or so for the bread to soak up the custard.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and the custard is set.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with some yoghurt or cream and fresh berries, drizzled with maple syrup. Also lovely with fried banana and bacon!

For a less crispy top, cover with foil when cooking (I like it crispy).

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