Leftovers. It’s not the most tantalising way to describe the remains of a meal (the French have a lovelier expression – les restes). In fact, the term ‘leftovers’ does a disservice to perfectly good food by implying that it’s somehow second-rate, or less delicious than it was on its first outing to the table. To my mind, nothing could be further from the truth.
For a start, leftovers are often tastier than the original meal because the various ingredients have had a chance to cosy up, and for the flavours to develop. What’s more, this is an efficient approach to preparing meals. Using food that is already cooked saves time because you’ve done much of the work already.
In fact, I now deliberately generate leftovers wherever I can, and make double (or more) than I need. It just makes so much sense. If I’m switching on the oven, why not roast several trays of vegetables instead of just one, to save time and energy, and create future meals?
I find using up random scraps of food an exciting and satisfying way to cook. Years ago, when I was flat-sharing, our household had a fine old time playing Ready, Steady, Cook with the slim pickings lurking in the fridge and kitchen cupboard. Once you’re in the leftovers mindset, it’s not hard to improvise. Start by corralling on your worktop what needs using up and assessing what you have.
The end of a pot of cream? Simmer with a spoonful or two of cooked chopped vegetables (frozen peas would do), a cup of stock and some added flavours (herbs, spices, garlic and so on) for a fine sauce for pasta. A handful of things left from last night’s dinner? It doesn’t really matter what you have, just chop it small, then fold into pancake batter or beaten eggs for an omelette. Dinner done.
I prefer to view leftovers as potentially delicious future meals, rather than using them up as a worthy act. Second helpings are an opportunity too good to waste.
Extracted from Second Helpings, by Sue Quinn (Quadrille, £18.99)