Waste not! By Josean Alija

Sustainability in our kitchen is based on a deep knowledge and respect for our surroundings and everything it offers. We have developed strong relations with farmers and producers who live deeply connected with the territory and who developed their knowledge practicing traditional ways of farming and eating through generations. Thanks to them, we are able to enjoy the greatest products and know when is the best moment for using them. This requires a lot of work and intense observation. Our daily engagement has taught us about usage of those products in the best possible way and keeping a healthy balance between offerings of nature and our necessities. Our mission is to share with you the culture and our flavours.

Josean Alija. Photo: Andoni Epelde
Josean Alija. Photo: Andoni Epelde

Knowing our products enables us to use also those parts that were often treated as waste. Receiving products intact – the way they grow, not yet trimmed and prepared for classical consumption – is merit of our close collaboration with the farmers and other producers.

Rice for example is one of the most consumed foods worldwide. But for the rice as we know it, some of its best parts are discarded. Have you ever thought what happens with these parts? Already years ago we began investigating the rice germ – that small part which is located underneath the rind and is in the case of refined rice discarded – the embryo of the seed. Elimination of that part allows longer storage but deprives us of important nutrients. For us rice germ represents a pure and noble product of even greater value than rice itself.

Rice germs. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria
Rice germs. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria

The germ is essential for reproduction. It has a sweet nutty flavour and contains a great amount of valuable nutrients, especially proteins with all the amino acids, lipids, vitamins, minerals (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium) and many other elements, so for us it became a treasure also because of the great nutritional aspects.

Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria
Cooked rice germs with tender pods. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria

We enjoy using it in our dishes because of its flavour which reminds me of dry fruits. It is a great ingredient for savoury and sweet dishes, it is rich in nutrients that contribute energy and it opens a world of new possibilities in our cuisine.

Castañuelas (pork salivary glands) in walnut confit with mashed rice germs and endive. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria
Castañuelas (pork salivary glands) in walnut confit with mashed rice germs and endive. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria

The rice germ can be used raw or cooked and from its emulsion can be created other products – tofu for example. The amount of fat contained in the germ can be beautifully used as an emulsifier replacing butter to create a lovely creaminess.

Knowledge contributes to creativity in haute cuisine and allows us to use something that is otherwise discarded. In our dishes such ingredients regain the attention that they definitely deserve.

Josean Alija, Nerua (Bilbao, Spain)

Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria
Grilled leek with rice germs and sauce of Iberico pork. Photo: José Luis López de Zubiria

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