“Leftovers or excess food need not be waste!”
At a time when some food prices soar, food poverty is prevalent and a huge media campaign to highlight communities starving around the world. I’m not going to get sanctimonious about how we shouldn’t waste so much food, but it has been an education to think more about food purchases, planning meals ahead and the nifty skill of being able to turn a vegetable or leftover bowl of food into something you can be proud of. You’ll also see your food budget go further!
Clever cooking by utilising some creativity with food scraps as I call them, is as much an art as cooking a knock-out dinner party dish.
Here in the UK The Soil Association estimates that between 20% – 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets on the grounds of their strict cosmetic requirements, i.e. wonky fruit and veg. Other statistics show that nearly 50% of thrown away food in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink that we could have eaten. We can do our bit, by becoming canny cooks and turning practically anything into a dish. At a time when we are budget conscious and food costs for some items are increasing, we can and NEED to have the ability to turn around leftovers into tasty dishes.
Think of this blog post as an exercise in how to create a meal from very little…I have struggled in the past with keeping ‘on top’ of my grocery shopping with a busy lifestyle and trying to cook everything, before it goes off and not knowing what to do with bits. These ideas are the basis around what I look for.
Here are a few ideas to consider
Meat – beef or pork ground for mince, sausage-meat filling, pies, cottage pie or chilli con-carne. Stir fries and curries. Sausage meat into sausage rolls or ‘toad in the hole’
Poultry – chicken and turkey as a curry or stir fry. Filling for pies.
Fish – fish cakes, fish pie, fish fingers, fish curry.
Fruit – compote, stewed fruit, sorbet, ice cream or smoothies.
Vegetables – mashed potato used in fish cakes, vegetables like courgettes used as veggie fritters; beetroot, courgette and carrots in cake or brownies, tomatoes cooked up into Italian pasta sauce, pickles, chutneys, salsa or chilli jam. Soups and stocks.
Bread – French toast, summer pudding, bread pudding, panko breadcrumbs.
Eggs – French toast, omelette, pavlova or meringues for egg whites and custard with yolks. Cakes, pancakes or yorkshire puddings/batter. Quiche.
Rice – special fried rice or Italian arancini (rice balls).
Twelve recipe ideas
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Fish cakes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potato or excess fish for that matter. Works particularly well with meaty fish. Serve with hollandaise or tartare sauce and a fresh green salad for something low calorie – mixed fish (cod, coley, hake, haddock, salmon and smoked haddock).
These South African pancakes, similar to what in Britain we’d call drop scones (thick american style pancakes). In Afrikaans they are called Plaatkoekies. It is in essence thick batter being the difference to normal pancakes, or french style crepes. Perfect breakfast or snack for using up leftover eggs.
Using up a glut of tomatoes are perfect to have for creating a classic tomato sauce – In Italian known as salsa di pomodoro classica. Bubble this away for several hours (slowly) and keep on the stove until the next day as it matures. What you have leftover can be boxed and put into the freezer until required. This can be a lifesaver, when you don’t know what to cook!
Courgettes also know as zucchini, are perfect for these vegetarian fritters. They make a great, last minute snack, or served as part of a meal substituting potatoes. I often mix the courgette with carrot to give it a sweeter edge. Very moreish! I see no reason why you could use any combination of vegetables. Just remember to wring out any excess water, before cooking the veg.
Sweet chilli jam – Ever had this fabulous sauce from a Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai restaurant and wondered how they make it? I found a similar recipe to this online and making it has been very successful and brings back my days of travels through Asia. Perfect accompaniment to salmon, chicken or pork. Use an a sauce or topping/glaze. Batches will keep sealed in a cool dark place for 3 months.
Pavlovas are one of my favourite desserts – A perfect and light dish for the summer, utilising all those wonderful fresh berries. You can top this with any of your favourite fruit and cream. Unlike supermarket meringues, this recipe will leave with with a crisp shell and a mallowy (chewy) centre.
Spicy vegetable soup – This is a hearty, winter’s dish that can be enjoyed by all. Simply omit the pancetta for a fully vegetarian version (I’ve used a home-made vegetable stock as the base). Here you can use any vegetables you like, especially those that have seen better days. This doesn’t require any fine chopping, as the soup does into the blender. Serve with crusty bread or rustic croutons
Mozzarella pesto arancini – Sicilian stuffed rice balls (using left over risotto rice), these Italian morsels are fried in breadcrumbs, so have a crunchy coating, but soft centres with melted cheese. Arborio or carnaroli rice (cooked and cold). This recipe works best with leftovers as freshly cooked risotto doesn’t have the starchy texture that is required.
Mention meatballs, who turns their noses up at this meal. There are many ways with many ingredients, but this recipe has been condensed down to save time and money. For a variety, why not mix up the pork mince with some beef mince (lean of course). If you have no mince about, you could always use a packet of 6 sausages.
Chocolate courgette tray-bake – While this cake might sound strange, it is lovely and moist from the courgette, which you cannot taste, but there more for moisture. The texture of the cake, is very similar to that of a carrot cake. For the more health conscious out there, the recipe can be fully adapted as a ‘free from’ bake.
Smoothies are the perfect way of hitting your five-a-day, using up what’s left in the bottom of the fridge or has seen better days in the fruit basket. Remember to balance well vegetables and fruit, so you don’t overload your sugar intake. There are certainly some interesting combinations out there and they make for an interesting shade of smoothie…
This is a real cheat’s version of a curry, for someone that doesn’t have the time to blend their own thai spices into a curry paste or want to spend hours in the kitchen. This versatile dish can be made from chicken, lamb, beef or fish. It can be made in advance and leftovers can be frozen.
If you have any of your own fantastic recipes, why not share and upload on Chilli Jam here for others to try and enjoy…
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