Thursday, 16 April 2009

Impromptu 'tapas'

We had the kind of lunch I love yesterday - a selection of little dishes created from assorted leftovers and the contents of the storecupboard. I already had some red peppers I'd roasted the day before which I thought would go well with the sardines we try to fit in once a week as a nod to our recommended oily fish intake. (I have to say I don't much like them so strong flavours like the peppers help)

I also had some asparagus stalks leftover from an omelette which had only used the tips. so sliced those up and stir-fried them for a cooked 'salad' (above) adding a splash of soy sauce and a bit of chopped parsley. (I was thinking this would also have been good with grated ginger and fresh coriander and maybe a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds - not as a tapa but a stir-fried side for salmon or tuna)

There was also a stale baguette (a common occurrence - baguettes stale very quickly) which I sliced and toasted on the hotplate then rubbed with garlic Spanish-style and drizzled with some of the oil I'd used to cook the peppers.

I laid it all out on little plates and must say it looked quite appealing. I could have added a couple of hard boiled eggs or a few slices of chorizo too if we'd had them.

Without looking it up I'm sure that this is the origin of tapas and their French counterpart hors d'oeuvres: a way to use up the leftovers from the previous day - cooked or uncooked. It took next to no time to prepare and felt like we'd had a 'proper' meal.

People sometimes question whether you should use offer leftovers to guests (do you? would you?) but I'd have been more than happy to share this meal with friends.


Niamheen said...

Cooking with leftovers is one of my favourite things! I can't bear waste and it forces me to be more creative.


Kip said...

I save even the smallest of portions leftover and very often create mezze or tapas style dishes with them- once or twice a week I'd say! No one even knows they're leftovers...

Greenlady said...

I think the " official " version of the origins of tapas was that it came from bars offering highly spiced and salted snacks on little saucers that fitted as a cover on top of the glasses. But East End pubs used to do this too once upon a time - sensible to give away cheap snacks that would induce the patrons to buy more drinks ;)

Anyway - point being that yes, most cultures have something similar, meals or pre-meals of bits and pieces and delicious oddments that are more enjoyable than a culinary main event. Mezze, and also zakuski etc. And who can forget scenes such as the one in E Nesbitt's The Railway Children where the family move up North and arriving after dark and unable to find their way round their new house, concoct a funny and delightful supper from odds and ends their aunt packed up in one of the moving crates.

Spontaneous assemblages from fridge and larder foraging are just about my favourite kind of meal :) And of course you should offer leftovers to your guests - the dismal days of grim fifties style leftovers are far behind us thankfully, and as a rule I would never offer guests anything I would not be happy to eat myself so of course it will be good =P

Carolyn said...

I love eating this way. Just last week I served an impromptu leftovers-tapas lunch to a couple of drop-in guests. Toasted day-old baguette slices and a variety of toppings: a homemade green garlic, herb and almond pesto; a leftover few ounces of artisan cheese from the market; some mushrooms in marsala and cream that I'd served with steak the night before; a few pickled peppers and sundried tomatoes. Am starting to feel like Albert from "Bread & Jam for Frances" here - but I, for one, couldn't have been happier with our lunch!

Carlo said...

The efficient and excellent use of leftovers is a high culinary art! We often end up using leftovers on pizzas on Sunday night, or in omelettes and frittatas.

Fiona Beckett said...

Great to hear you all share my enthusiasm for using up leftovers.

Never read the Railway Children I'm ashamed to admit Greenlady but it sounds a splendid feast. And how fantastic to find a fellow fan of Bread & Jam for Frances - I remember reading that to my kids when they were small (though fortunately not jam-fixated.) If any of the rest of you haven't read it do try and get hold of a copy. It's a kids' book but wonderfully wry and funny.

And I'm a big frittata fan too, Carlo. That's another great way of using up bits and pieces.

recipes2share said...

I would have been more than happy to share it with you! I love this style of eating - sounds heavenly!

James said...

With a bit of kitchen magic you can make left overs into a whole new meal without anyone knowing any difference.

A good trick with the baguette is to cut it in half when you get it home and freeze half - it saves that half going stale, and you just re-heat it from frozen. You could also make it into garlic bread before you freeze it - then put it in the oven from frozen, who can resist garlic bread?

Fiona Beckett said...

Yes we do this a lot in France, James, for the days when the baker is closed. And garlic bread, you're right, is another great thing to keep in the freezer.

Glad you like the suggestions recipes2share!

Carlo said...

If I make garlic bread, it won't make it into the freezer, whatever my intentions :)