We can all feel uninspired or stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking and it’s easy to become bored of the meals we regularly make.
Ryan Simpson, joint chef proprietor of acclaimed restaurant Orwells in Henley-on-Thames, says: ‘When you’re faced with leftovers, your first thought might be “what am I going to do with these?”
‘But it’s those moments that can ignite your inner creativeness to do something different but delicious.’
He gave us his tips on how to cook up leftovers to do just that, including making your own tortilla chips, cooked lettuce – and even flavoured vodka.
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Leftover idea: Sweet Yorkshire puds
You’ll naturally think of roast beef and gravy when you think of Yorkshires, but they can have life beyond the Sunday dinner table.
Ryan says: ‘Leftover Yorkshire puddings can be turned into a delicious sweet treat.’
Serve with custard or homemade dulce de leche by simmering a can of condensed milk in a pan of water for two to three hours (making sure to constantly top up the water).
Pour over the Yorkshire puds and serve with sliced bananas or berries and icing sugar.
Leftover idea: Cake vodka
It may be that cake doesn’t last long in your household, but it might also be that you’re glad to put it to good use in other ways in order to spare your waistline during lockdown.
Whatever kind of cake you have – fruit cake, Madeira cake or lemon drizzle – pop the leftovers in your vodka then let the flavours infuse.
Leave in storage for a couple of months for the flavours to combine and once it’s done, strain through a muslin cloth and it’s ready to drink on the rocks or added to cocktails.
It also works with liqueurs such as Southern Comfort.
Leftover idea: Stuffed cucumber or courgette boats
You’ve no doubt used mince to make various pies (cottage and shepherd’s) as well as chilli and bolognaise. But here’s something different to do with it.
Ryan says: ‘Cut a cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds then fill it with mince – minced lamb is particularly good – before roasting in the oven.’
Or try it with courgettes. These could also be wrapped in tinfoil and cooked on a barbecue, before serving with rice, and a yoghurt and mint dressing.
Leftover idea: Vegetable terrine
As well as the usual suggestions of putting leftover veg into a soup, curry or stew, you can also use them to make a terrine.
Take a terrine mould or baking dish, grease the dish and line vegetables such as green beans and carrots up against the sides, and then pour egg mixture on top.
Serve sliced with salad. Ryan says: ‘You can add ham or chorizo in the centre.’
Another idea is vegetable hash, but instead of sticking to cabbage and potato as you would with bubble and squeak, use carrot, swede and any other veg you’re left with.
Leftover idea: Roasted lettuce
Cut a lettuce into four and pan-fry it with a bit of oil until it’s lightly browned (the sugar in it will help it to caramelise).
Sprinkle with cheese then pop it into the oven to roast for 10-20 minutes.
Another leftover salad idea is to whizz up cucumber in a blender to use as a garnish.
Ryan says: ‘Juice your cucumber and season with lemon then pour it over fish dishes.’
Alternatively, pickle sliced or julienne cucumber with two parts water to one part vinegar, adding caraway seeds for flavour. Let it stand for 3 days.
Leftover salad leaves – especially rocket-based salads – are great for making pesto. Just whizz up in a blender with olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan, then freeze or keep in the fridge and use within three days.
Leftover idea: Reverse wrap
Instead of serving it as cold cuts or as the filling in a sandwich, why not use your leftover joint of beef as the ‘bread’ component in your meal instead?
Ryan says: ‘Make a reverse wrap. Finely slice your beef then pan fry some of your leftover veg, such as green beans and carrots. Or load it with a burrito mix such as rice, onions, pinto beans and soured cream.
‘Put the mix inside the sliced beef and you’ve got a great high-protein, low-carb alternative to your usual wrap.’
Leftover idea: Homemade tortilla chips
Got any leftover tortillas that are a bit too stale to roll into a wrap? Create your own tortilla chips instead.
Cut them up into triangles then shallow fry them, bake with some oil or cook in an air fryer.
Ryan says: ‘They end up like nachos and they’re perfect for eating with dips.’
Add paprika, salt and any other spices or toppings you fancy.
Leftover idea: Flatbread
If you don’t have the patience to make bread or are missing some of the essentials such as yeast, go for a simple flatbread instead.
Ryan says: ‘Mix flour and water together into a dough, shape and then pan fry so that both sides are golden brown.’
Load it with pan-fried leftovers such as salmon and chickpeas or roast chicken and avocado.