Laziness, recycling… call it what you will, but reusing leftovers is always a winning idea in these money-strapped times. And in this case, producing less waste also means creating more delicious dishes like burgers, stir-fries, pie fillings and puds.
Leftover chicken, lamb or beef, blended with chopped onion, fresh parsley, breadcrumbs and egg (roughly one egg for each cup of mix), can make great hamburger patties. You only need to fry them a little, as the meat is already cooked. Also try these pork and apple burgers from scratch or ditch the kitchen and go out for one of these gourmet burgers http://eatout.co.za/Best-of-guides/568/Great-gourmet-burgers around SA.
Yesterday’s ciabatta gone a bit stale? Break or cut it into big chunks, drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden. Perfect for salads and soups.
The last bit of jam stuck in the bottom of the jar, combined with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and shaken vigorously, makes a lovely salad dressing.
It’s hard to know exactly how much rice to make. There always seems to be too little or too much – but mostly too much. Use the leftovers to make this Asian staple. In a wok, stir-fry the rice till heated, then add whatever vegetables you fancy (we like peas and spring onions). Season with soy sauce and white pepper. Separately, beat an egg and a glug of sesame oil and add to the rice. Wait till the egg mixture begins to set, and then start tossing it around. Stir fry for a minute or so longer, and then serve straight away.
Slices of lemon for G&Ts, overripe strawberries for Pimm’s and lemonade: there are many clever ways to incorporate leftover fruit into cocktail hour. For more ideas, look at this long list of cocktails.
Stuck with near-empty packets of spices from the curry you made? Combine it with plain yoghurt, lime juice, ginger and garlic to make a marinade for an Indian-inspired leg of lamb. (See our list of favourite Asian recipes.)
If, for some bizarre reason, you are left with a half-full bottle of bubbly, use it to make grown-up dessert jellies. If the bottle in question is vodka, here’s our favourite solution: glow in the dark jellies.
Leftover pita breads from your Greek dinner? Turn them into a kid-friendly meal by toasting the breads, and adding the cheese and veg of your choice as topping. If your kids are slightly sophisticated (read: not fussy) try these beetroot, dill and feta numbers. (Or take the kids out to one of these child-friendly spots.)
Plain yoghurt is a wonderfully versatile ingredient, so it’s doubtful that you’ll be stuck for ideas of what to do with it. But if you’re stuck with three cups of it and feel like something cheesy, try this. Add a teaspoon of salt to the yoghurt and spoon it onto a piece of muslin cloth. Tie the corners together and chill it, suspended over a bowl overnight. The next day, once strained, you’ll be left with labneh, a Lebanese cheese that’s similar to cream cheese. It’s lovely combined with fried brinjal and mint, and spread onto flatbreads or toasted pitas.
Used the yolks and now stuck with a few egg whites? Whip up meringues to use as the base for a pavlova or Eton mess, or to enjoy just like that. A few leftover pieces of chocolate thrown into the mix will add something different – but who has spare chocolate lying around? Try these little meringue pies, lemon meringue cupcakes, litchi Eton mess, and chocolate, coffee and hazelnut meringue.
Make a quick Asian noodle salad by combining leftover roast chicken with noodles, shredded carrot and cabbage, coriander, and a dressing of lime juice and sweet chilli sauce.
When you’re on the verge of losing a bag of tomatoes because they’re overripe, simply oven-dry them to give your sauce a more robust flavour or toss them into your favourite bread dough before baking.
Scraps of meat and veg are the perfect beginning for a pie. Even leftover stew can be used. Simply spoon into ramekins, top with puff pastry and bake. (Try one of these 15 recipes to pie for.)
Almost anything can go into a quiche. Take your basic recipe and improvise with leftovers and grocery cupboard basics. Our current favourite combinations are porcini, thyme and feta, and gruyere and pancetta. Check out this tomato and ricotta quiche for inspiration.
Shape leftover risotto into little balls, place a piece of mozzarella into the middle of each, and shallow-fry until golden. Serve hot.
With the help of a roll of puff pastry, the remnants of an antipasti platter or cheese board can easily be converted into a beautiful savoury side dish or tea table treat, such as this chorizo and caramelised onion tart.
Give (lightly) blanched vegetables a second life by coating them in a tempura batter and lightly frying them. One egg, a cup of ice-cold soda water and 140g cake flour should make enough batter for about 800g of veg. Try this recipe with garlic aioli as a dip.
Never got to the cheese board you so lovingly prepared for after dessert? No worries, simply use the camembert and gruyere for this delicious upside-down caramelised shallot and camembert tart.
Making lasagne is usually rather laborious, with all the cooking of separate ingredients before adding them together for a final oven bake. If, however, you have leftover roast vegetables, half the battle is won. Simply layer the veg with cooked sheets of pasta, add a cup of cream or your favourite bechamel sauce, some fresh herbs (like sage) and a handful of grated cheese, and bake in the oven until lightly golden and bubbly. (Or just take the easy route and order lasagne at a restaurant.)
Still want to enjoy your Christmas pudding the next day? Make a trifle-like treat by combining slices of your pud with a mixture of ricotta and frozen berries. Make sure you blend these well before layering with the Christmas pudding.
Brunch’s leftover fruit salad and yoghurt can be turned into healthy ice lollies by crushing the fruit pieces, stirring them into the yoghurt, and then pouring the mixture into ice lolly moulds to set in the freezer. Try this recipe for granadilla sorbet.
This time, you’ve made meringue and are left with egg yolks. Make Italy’s gift to the dessert scene by beating two egg yolks and a tablespoon of castor sugar in the top of a double boiler (with simmering water underneath) until thick and foamy. Beat in a tablespoon of Marsala or champagne. Whisk constantly for about five minutes, until it forms a thick, creamy foam that coats the back of a spoon. Serve immediately over biscotti or fresh fruit.
By Anelde Greeff
Photograph: tomato and ricotta quiche