Food Waste Interview: Elena Duggan

Elena Duggan, superstar chef, and me chillin’ in some beautiful leafy nest.

In yesterday’s Case Study of Pledge a Plate and OzHarvest I may have name-dropped a little about Elena Duggan, and I’m about to do so again! For those of you who don’t know, the 2016 Masterchef Australia winner is my sister, and she has graciously given me a quick interview.  Over the years, she’s made me millions of meals, and given my poor-student status continues to takes breaks in her busy schedule to give me food tips and tricks to make my low-budget meals last for days without losing any of their tastiness.  Rather, with her tips, they gain tastiness!

So, with that in mind, I asked her to give us an inside peek into her kitchen, find out what she always keeps in her pantry, and share some expert leftover reuse ideas!

AD: What leftovers do you have in your fridge right now?
Elena: Homemade fried chicken, a bunch of wilting vegetables, roast vegetables, olives, a punnet of grape tomatoes, two avocados, green herb oil, spice poached rhubarb, wild boar salami, 1/4 packet of grated cheddar, 1/2 a lemon.

AD: What would you create out of them?
Elena: I’d need to refresh the veggies in some iced water and create a fine dice of them and the roast leftovers, sauté them with some diced salami and smother in cheese. Fanciest bubble and squeak ever! The chicken, tomatoes, avo, and olives is a super simple, satisfying and low GI salad screaming to be tossed through the green oil and lemon juice as a dressing!

AD: What are some of your favourite ingredients to purchase that have a long life stored in the fridge or cupboard?
Elena: Tinned tuna, tinned tomatoes, tinned chickpeas, buckwheat flour, sweet potatoes, pickled onions, gherkins, CHEESE, anchovies, olive oil, garlic, crispy shallots, quinoa, rice, nuts and seeds, spices and stock powder.

AD: What condiments do you always have in your kitchen?
Elena: Dijon mustard, whole egg mayonnaise, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, ketjap manis, samba oelek, siracha, kewpie, mirin, sesame oil, chilli garlic sauce, needless to say I have a sauce obsession.

Getting super excited to walk through Monet’s Garden in Giverny a couple years ago!

AD: I’m going to give you a list of dinner meals or ingredients that would usually be eaten by uni students or be in their fridges. Please list 1 or more ways you could use the leftovers of each.

Spaghetti Bolognese:
Umm… Jaffle! Duh! You could put the Bolognese in spoonfuls on a pizza base too, then add extra cheese, always extra cheese…

Charcoal or roast chicken:
Tear all the flesh away from the bone and toss it through a pasta with mushrooms and spring onions, or throw it into a super salad with grains and plenty of fresh veggies. I actually really lovely doing a fine dice, almost mash of leftover flesh, mixing through some fresh herbs, spanish onions, lemon zest, pepper and salt and mayo for a yummy sandwich filling.

I loved cold boiled eggs as they are with a little salt. But, you could also blend them with lemon juice and honey for a tangy, sweet and creamy salad dressing. I love eggs, tuna, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, the French weren’t wrong when they made the Nicoise Salad official. If they’re fresh, you could put together a quick Spanish omelette with potato slices and some chill to wake you up!

What can’t you do with potatoes?!? Cold boiled or steamed potatoes make the best crunchy roasted tatos or crunchy chips, if you have the time and inclination. They recook, refry super well, put them with your favourite flavours and chow down! Pan fried potatoes and chorizo. Potato and rosemary pizza. Roasted, split and filled with your fave slaw.

Mince meat:
I love flavouring chicken mince with turmeric, ginger, cayenne and lemon grass, it is super flavoursome and good for you, and a little goes a really long way when you mix it with shredded kale or spinach, bulk it up with some quinoa or Doongara brown rice for long lasting energy and add seeds, nuts, other veggies to your desire. This is an awesome student salad that you can put in containers to last the week! Lamb mince= koftas, yum! Beef and pork mince= taco Tuesday, double yum!

Soup can get boring if eaten repeatedly, (just ask my sister, who dreaded my love of soup convenience) so think of quick ways to change the experience of eating it to avoid boredom. For regular pumpkin soup on day one, make parmesan croutons for it day two, sprinkle with spiced dukkah day three, sprinkle with fresh spring onions and coriander day four, roast a head of garlic until tender and blitz it through for day five.

Day old rice makes the best fried rice, heat some sesame oil, add chilli sauce and sliced spring onions, fry rice until toasted and fragrant, stir through one egg until cooked and drizzle over your favourite soy sauce- this is a super comfort food and can be pimped to your desire- add some bacon, chicken, prawns, coriander for example! Or… for a little decadence and a comfort dessert, get one part milk, one part cream and cinnamon to your desire, bring to the boil with your rice and reduce until thickened- sweeten with maple, honey or sugar (if you must).

2 Minute Noodles:
Make them seem less budget and more delicious by adding a tbsp of peanut butter, tsp of soy, tsp of garlic chilli sauce to create a super quick satay, then sprinkle over some crispy shallots and fresh coriander! If the tomato flavour still existed mixing through some grated cheese is a super satisfying snack, but chicken may have to do. If you’ve got some veggies, you could whip up a simple stir fry.

Leftover Thai:
Make it go further by boiling some rice or quinoa and quickly stirring through leftovers. Eat it cold with some extra salad ingredients.

Boost the nutritional value by adding some fruit (frozen berries are in prime condition and more often more affordable than fresh and you don’t have to worry about them going off in the freezer), yoghurt, nuts and seeds, while they may be an initial financial investment, they go a long way and make the meal extra satiating, providing extra study power and focus …and if your budget allows, add some of my favourite cinnamon and maple syrup! Depending on what kind of cereal you have, many lend themselves to a super delicious and crunchy crumb to fried foods- calamari and chicken are delicious, a little flour, then egg wash then coat in coral crumbs- corn flakes, weetbix- yum!

Canned Tuna:
In a toastie! Toss through pasta with cheese! Atop a simple salad! Mix through some sour cream and chopped chives for an easy dip! Tuna is a super simple and versatile protein boost!

Elena Duggan with the team at OzHarvest.

Thanks Elena! Helpful and fun and cheesy as always.  Follow her on Instagram for more amazing food snaps!



Case Study: Pledge A Plate

Maeve O’Meara and OzHarvest Ambassadors, by Elena Duggan.

Pledge a Plate is a social media campaign developed by amazing food waste company OzHarvest.  The whole premise is that you make a tasty meal out of leftovers, share it on one of your social platforms with the hashtag #PledgeAPlate, nominate someone to do the same, and then donate.

You could make Elena’s Apple, Cheese, and Bickies with me, by Elena Duggan.

As a passionate foodie, but also a tertiary student for like the last seven and half years, I love this campaign.  Combining my love of food and cooking with my entire lack of dollarydoos, I can feel great about being creative with my leftover food stuffs and donating a very small amount that I would otherwise probably spend on the crazy expensive Sydney transport system.  Shout out to #Opal.

Two of my first experiences with OzHarvest were actually through my deep fan commitment to MasterChef Australia, and my annual three weeks of every possible meal spent at the Sydney Night Noodle Markets in October.  MasterChef Australia has done a really good job the last few seasons of really emphasising the food philosophy of tail to snout, root to stem by having contestants challenged to be creative with all food scraps.

Poor little shells, by Elena Duggan.

If you were a fan of this most recent season you would have seen dishes like Elena Duggan’s Cool as a Cucumber which made use of one ingredient in a million possible ways which really helps people consider different ways to utilise ingredients in creative styles when they have leftovers.  I’d say I’m plugging most recent Masterchef winner Elena Duggan here but let’s be real, she doesn’t need the help.  She’s helping a sister out… thanks for all the rad sketches!

Anyway, my love of MasterchefAU led me to wondering where all the excess food goes.  They actually partner with organisations like OzHarvest and Food Bank.

At the NNM (Night Noodle Markets guys, come on!) a lovely volunteer for OzHarvest approached me and my friends to see if we’d wish to purchase some fortune cookies.  The proceeds were going towards feeding those in need.  I had such a lovely conversation with this woman, and she was a wealth of knowledge on something she was obviously so passionate about.

Now you might be thinking, “…oooh how timely!  She’s talking about food waste the same day the NNM kick off!”  Well, I just can’t get anything past you guys, can I?  I wouldn’t do you guys like that… except that I totally would and totally did. 
*See upcoming Tips and Tricks post about scheduling and planning out your calendar in a social media campaign! 😉

Berry Smoothies for me, by Elena Duggan.

More recently, what’s making them successful?  Sarah Wilson is the woman who quit sugar, and mind you not only still lives to tell the tale, but has lived on to become an entrepreneur, writer, health conscious individual, and someone who has changed a lot of peoples’ lives.  She is also a woman who pledges plates.

Big names like her and their LONG list of celebrity official ambassadors, plus their endless commitment to nourishing the country have kept their name at the forefront of this initiative for social change.  Within a year of starting OzHarvest, founder Ronni Kahn and a group of lawyers worked tirelessly to achieve a legislative change that removed restriction of repurposing surplus food.

Lots of stuff to take in obviously, and you can tell it’s close to my heart… You can donate here but regardless, I’d highly recommend reading up and following these organisations so you can lead a more aware existence on these matters.  (I say this knowing my readers are probably all over leading aware existences… Love y’all!)

Here’s a *toast* to all the cranky bread out there, by Elena Duggan.


  1. The Night Noodle Markets in Sydney is a food mecca we should all attend every year.
  2. Creative and easy ways to get people to contribute to a cause are essential.
  3. Keeping your followers and contributors up to date with the amazing impacts they’re having is key to maintaining their dedication to your cause.
  4. Consider the roles of ambassadors, and approach people you’d love to have on board.
  5. One visit to their website or social platforms shows a very clear and memorable branding.  Their logo and colour scheme is etched in my mind, and I know that if I see people in those shirts, I know what they’re doing immediately.
  6. Finally, taking things offline in activism is not only important but necessary for social change.  We here are not ignoring or pretending that’s not true.  Online activism is a good start, and essential but should work in conjunction with offline work.

There’s so much you can do with my skin and rind too, ya know? By Elena Duggan.