Cook once, eat twice: making the most of leftovers

Priscilla Pollara
by Priscilla Pollara  |  26 December 2011  |   6 comments

Ever wondered what to do with leftover pasta and partially-mouldy bowl of bananas? Don't throw them away. Cook them!

Cook once, eat twice: making the most of leftovers

Sadly, we all waste an awful lot of food. Have you ever wondered if amassed together, how many of the discarded extras on your weeknight plates, would make an entire meal? Compared to four years ago, there’s some good news: British households are now throwing away less food, dropping 13% since 2006-07. 

But is this sudden improvement in figures suggestive that as a recession-hit population, we're all buying, eating and therefore wasting less food? Or is it that we’ve finally realised that the disposing of mouldy apples, half of our unfinished curry or a bunch of unused window-shelf herbs is not only a waste of money, but completely immoral, too?

If ever we needed a time of year to remind us how easy it is to use leftovers, Christmas would have to be it. After all, isn’t half the fun of prepping the turkey and wrapping pigs in their blankets, really to do with the mouth-watering guarantee you’ll be eating the same feast all over again on Boxing Day? Cold turkey sandwiches, bubble and squeak and Stovies – a traditional Scottish dish concocted with leftover roast beef, potatoes and onions - are just some examples of how re-heating, re-distributing, re-packaging or re-seasoning can make some food be just as tasty the next day, as it was the evening before. 

Here are just a handful of tips on how to make use of some of those remaining crumbs…

Pasta

We all tend to forget that like rice, pasta expands once cooked. In other words, when we think we’ve poured a reasonable amount into a pan of boiling water, we have in fact emptied a little too much in it. So what do you do when you have an abundant mass staring at you in the colander? Pasta doesn’t really ‘go off’, that said, it’s not exactly at its best after a few days .. especially if it’s been drowned in a sauce that has, quite unfortunately, begun to smell a little. In Italy, therefore, it’s common for leftover pasta to become part of an omelette. To make this frittata/fritter, throw your spaghetti into a pan, crack open a couple of eggs on top of the mound (adding things to that if you wish), and once all slowly cooked together, one does normally result in a revived almost-Chinese-noodle dish, if not quiche-like plate, with a taste rivalling the pasta’s former guise.

Fruits

Apples, bananas – what to do with them when they linger at the bottom of bowls evidently well-past their sell-by dates? Firstly, don’t throw them away. If a banana is mushy, why not put its pulp towards a banana bread recipe? Or, why not try splitting its skin, placing it on the grill and once steaming hot, sprinkling chocolate and scoops of ice cream all over it? A perfect banana split. Who will know the ripe banana was bruised before you began? Apples? A stained, mouldy apple makes great food for dogs (if that’s the sort of healthy pet you have), yet also, it’s a great filler for an apple pie. The same rule for a banana, applies to apples. Once cooked, the soft, sweet skin and ‘meat’ is just as delicious as when it was in its prime.

Potato

Unused mash can sometimes turn quite crispy around the edges of the dish it sits in. The buttery, milky taste you laboured so long to achieve is often undistinguishable in a discarded portion of it.  But it can easily be used atop a shepherd’s or cottage pie. Slap it on with a spoon, and in the oven it goes. Will anyone ever know the difference? With a touch of re-seasoning and a dash of olive oil (or your poison of choice), it’ll be just as brilliant.

So many options

There are a myriad of things to do in order to transform leftovers into appetising, and worthy meals. So when you think you’ve run out of everything and are in a rush to replenish your shelves at the supermarket, it’s worth taking another look inside that fridge. Your straitened wallet may well be thanking you for it in the long run.

If you've any top tips for leftovers please let us know in the comments below.

more leftover recipes

Rachel Green's kedgeree

Kevin Dundon's bobotie

Phil Vickery's one pot turkey pilau