Maggie Bob Gets: Creative With Leftovers

I read an article in the Guardian last week that said millennials waste more food than their grandparents generation. The article lays some of the blame on Instagram (which if you remember from an earlier post of mine is also apparently the reason none of us read any more), but whatever the cause I don’t find it surprising that we are wasting more food these days. In fact, the most surprising thing in the article was the revelation that apparently I count as a millennial!

So why do so many of us waste food? There’s definitely a lack of education when it comes to cooking. I know I’m fortunate in this respect as not only did I grow up with two parents who cooked – and had both done so professionally at various points in their lives – but my school offered a well rounded food technology syllabus. We had fully equipped kitchens at our disposal and I was even able to achieve my basic food hygiene certificate as part of my GCSE in the subject.

Harissa chicken and garlic couscous
Taking leftovers in for my lunch

Not only are many of us not taught how to cook, we’re also not shown how to manage a store cupboard; my dad always taught me to move old tins to the front and put the newer ones behind for instance. There’s also lots of bad information out there on use by/best before dates, and many people are overly cautious or afraid of eating something that will make them sick.

Surplus veg makes great soups

I think the final issue is a timing/planning one, and I know this is where I often fall down. Living with a spoonie makes it difficult to make a plan and stick to it at times. I know the virtue of meal planning, making sure everything gets used while it is fresh and incorporating one ingredient over a number of meals to use up whatever I’ve bought in. I do this to an extent, but try and reach a compromise where the mental health of those in the house comes first of course. Luckily I can afford to do this, but it still niggles at me when I have to throw something out because our plans have changed.

So how do I combat food waste? There’s a couple of great resources I refer to regularly: Jack Monroe has plenty of cheap recipes on their website which are ideal for using up bits of things, and I especially like the guide on how to shop for your kitchen store-cupboard.  I’m often to be found hanging around the Old Style board of the MoneySavingExpert forums where there’s always good suggestions for what to cook from what you have in. I would also recommend the Storecupboard Challenge on Penny Golightly for inspiration on using up all those last little bits in the cupboard instead of letting them go to waste.

Turning spoiling fruit in to jam

Here’s some of my top tips for reducing waste without sticking to a rigid or unimaginative menu like The Guardian suggests our grandparents did (Tuesday was always gammon and eggs, Friday was always fish etc).

  1. Learn to love leftovers: I’ve talked before about my love of leftovers, and being prepared to eat whatever I had for dinner again for lunch the next day has served me well. It’s obviously important that you store leftovers properly and reheat anything thoroughly before eating if you’re having it hot.
  2. Have plenty of recipes at your disposal: I have at least 10 recipes I love to make with butternut squash, so if I have one that needs using up, but I don’t fancy butternut squash lasagna, I could make soup, or curry, or roast it whole and top it like a jacket potato. This means I’m less likely to waste something because I wasn’t in the mood for a particular meal that day.
  3. Be soup-er inventive: Almost anything can be turned in to soup. I definitely feel like I’m ‘hashtag winning’ when I look in the kitchen to find a solitary carrot, some wilting leeks and a sad potato and – voila! – 30 minutes later we are enjoying the warm hug of vegetable soup.
  4. Be conservative: No, not politically or morally. I mean making conserves, preserves, jams, pickles – whatever. I’m yet to try pickling anything, but I did recently turn some sorry looking apples in to a jar of delicious apple sauce for my morning porridge.
  5. Know how to store leftovers properly: okay tiny confession – I often eat leftover rice, reheated the next day. I know I’ll have some friends gasping in horror at this. There’s a lot of bad experience about rice – incorrectly stored and reheated rice can make you very sick, I know. But I also know how I should prepare things properly, how to store them, and to make sure things are reheated adequately. And it’s not make me ill yet. Read up, understand about temperatures and bacteria, and make wise decisions. Just maybe stay away from nuking that leftover egg fried rice until you know what you’re doing.
  6. Plan for leftovers: We’ll have ‘rubber chicken‘ weeks – which I’ve mentioned here before. I’ll roast a chicken on the Sunday and we’ll have that in the traditional way, then the next few days are meals made with the leftover meat, usually culminating in chicken noodle soup to use up the carcass.

So there you have it. Do you have any recipes or meals you like to make with leftovers specifically? Please let me know in the comments.

Lunching Leftovers: Chicken Noodle Soup

If I roast a chicken for Sunday dinner, I can make the leftovers from that last most of the following week. I’ll shred off any leftover meat I can reach and make pie, croquettes or risotto – I might even have some in a sandwich for a quick lunch. I call this rubber chicken, because it stretches so far.

When it looks like there’s no more conceivable meals to be had, I’ll take the carcass and perform one more magic trick – my chicken noodle soup. This is just as satisfying for dinner as it is for lunch, and so easy to do it’s almost a folly to call it a recipe, but here we go!

chicken noodle soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 roast chicken carcass
3 pints water
1 vegetable stock cube
2 ‘nests’ egg noodles (I use fine, you may prefer thicker ones)
4/5 spring onions, finely shredded
100g frozen peas
Salt & white pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Place your chicken carcass into a big stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil.
  2. Add the stock cube (you could use chopped carrot, celery and onion to flavour the water, but I find a stock cube easier), turn the heat down so the water is simmering and cover with a lid.
  3. Leave for 1-2 hours, but check occasionally and top up the water if it gets too low – keep the chicken covered.
  4. Strain the broth from the chicken; put the broth back in the pot. Shred/pull any edible meat from the chicken carcass and add it to the liquid.
  5. Put the pot back on a medium heat and break in the noodles. Add the frozen peas and simmer until the peas and noodles are cooked.
  6. Taste the broth and season with salt and white pepper as needed.
  7. Serve piles of the noodle-y, chicken-y mixture with ladlefuls of broth. Scatter the spring onion on top just before serving. If I’m feeling under the weather I like a good shake of chilli flakes over my soup too.

Sounds good, right? And much more thrifty/clever than just throwing away that last bit of chicken. I’m constantly surprised how much meat comes off in the soup, even after I swear I’ve stripped the carcass clean before.

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Lunching Leftovers: Roast Dinner Pasties

A pasty is the leftover’s best friend. You can dice up almost anything, wrap it in shortcrust pastry and boom! A delicious and portable snack.

leftover-pasty

 

After salivating over my sister’s slow-cooked beef, I knew it was time to get my slow cooker out again. We enjoyed a lovely Sunday dinner of slow cooked beef skirt, maple roasted parsnips and carrots, paprika butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, bathed in homemade gravy of course (yup, sounding a bit ‘The Good Life’, even for me!). And as always happens I was left with a pile of leftovers. Wanting something a bit different from beef sandwiches, I whipped up these pasties.

Roast Dinner Pasties

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp mustard powder
225g plain flour
115g (cold) butter
60ml cold water
4 heaped Tbsp cooked beef
4 heaped Tbsp cooked vegetables
1 Tbsp gravy
Milk, for glazing

Method:

  1. Stir the mustard powder and a pinch of salt through the flour and then rub the butter in to this until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Work quickly so that the butter doesn’t melt in your hands
  2. Add the water a little at a time and stir in until the mixture just binds together. You may need more or less water depending on the absorbency of your flour. 
  3. Wrap your ball of dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for 10/15 minutes. At the same time, get your oven on at 180oC to preheat.
  4. Chop your cooked leftovers in to small chunks and stir in a bowl with just a little bit of gravy to bring everything together.
  5. Get your pastry out of the fridge and roll it out (on a lightly floured surface) to a thickness of 3-4mm and cut circles out – I used a soup mug as a template and got 8 circles about 10cm in diameter.
  6. Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling in to the middle of each circle, and brush milk around this. Fold the circle in half over the filling and pinch the edges together, crimping however you wish.
  7. Put the pasties on a greased baking tray, brush lightly with more milk and bake in your pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry has browned.

As you can see, I then took two of these little pasties in to work for my lunch, having them cold with a bit of salad. They work heated up in the microwave too if you would prefer. You could leave the meat out if you’re veggie, or swap out the filling for pretty much any other leftovers you have. Do let me know what flavour combinations you come up with!