Sunday, 10 April 2011

The secret of dealing with cooked leftovers

I was reminded this week just how easy it is to make something delicious out of leftovers - and also how easy it is to forget the fundamental principle which is to do something with them while they’re still hot - or at least warm.

I decided to pot roast a joint of beef I bought a month or so ago from a very good farm shop nearby. Admittedly with the temperature in the 20s the timing could have been better but I was trying to clear the freezer for summer. (Too late. It seems already to have come.)

I cooked it with onions and diced bacon and a fair amount of wine (I also write about wine so am inundated in the stuff: you could equally well use a mixture of stock and beer or cider) and added roasted carrots at the end to keep their colour. Then I served it with buttered cabbage and mash.

I guess there was just about enough meat for two portions at the end of the meal but as it had been slow cooked it would have ended up dry if I’d simply wrapped it in foil. So I chopped it, and the carrots, as small as I could, mixed them with the remaining gravy of which there wasn’t a lot but enough to moisten the meat and put it in a pie dish. Then I covered it with a layer of cabbage and the remaining mash. One cottage pie with five minutes effort and nothing to do the next day.

It turned out pretty well - more than enough for two although we managed to make short work of it. I liked the texture of the chopped meat as a change from mince - I think the only change I’d have made would have been to mix the greens with the mash for a bubble and squeak topping.

It’s not so much that I couldn’t have made this the following night (though I don’t think it would have been as good) it’s just that it would have been less appealing - leftovers to be dealt with rather than a meal that simply needed reheating. That's the way leftovers tend to lurk in the fridge until you give up on them and throw them away.

The same applies to other kinds of leftover food. If you want to make something of it it’s generally better to do it straightaway. Like dressing pasta, rice, beans or potatoes for a salad, making fish cakes or turning pasta into a bake, with, say, some leftover roast peppers or courgettes if you have some. Or stripping the remaining meat from a chicken and adding it (and maybe some ham and/or mushrooms) to a creamy sauce which can then be used as a pie filling. You can of course freeze it too if you do it quickly.

What are your favourite ways of dealing with cooked leftovers?


Anonymous said...

My favorite way to use leftover soup and stew is to stuff winter squash or bread bowls. The first night we have as prepared, the second in a halved, roasted acorn squash or a hollowed loaf of bread. Feels fancier, and gets a side in without trying!

Fiona Beckett said...

Wow that's a great idea. I like that. Sure it looks fabulous too!

Robert said...

Bubble and squeak is excellent. I use anything in the way of cooked vegetables and leftover meat. But it's always based on potatoes and greens. I might also add a poached egg, if there's not much meat going in.

Tipsy pudding is another one. Using up stale cake and the last dregs from spirit bottles. Although it's probably better to drink it but I'm never keen on that.

Fiona Beckett said...

Gosh, Tipsy Pudding, Robert. I'd completely forgotten about that. Will have to make one pronto!

Anonymous said...

My middle daughter came up with a roasted vegetables (or any left-over veg) Toad in the Hole.