When I was growing up, Thursday was leftovers night in our house. My Mum would reheat everything we hadn’t finished that week. I remember it fondly, as well as with a shudder.
It was a real mix of dishes. A mish mosh of flavours, too, but we had to eat it all. There couldn’t be any leftovers on left over night. It’s because of my Mum I appreciate a no waste principle, and I am really proud she instilled that in me.
I was once extremely lucky to have worked as a chef in a vegetarian inn in North Carolina. That’s not something you get to say every day. But my memories were stirred as both Pumpjack and I contemplated making our respective dinners this week.
Pumpjack is someone who prefers to have bought his ingredients and has a concept in his head of what he is going to make. I am a recipe lover. Thinking on it as mini bouts of learning from others. Or, at the least, hoping for moments of inspiration.
And then there are the nights when you are confronted with a nearly empty fridge and must concoct a meal. Neither the ingredients you want are there or enough ingredients to fulfil a recipe. Luckily for me, and hence the memory jogging, at the vegetarian inn I was taught well how to work with what I had.
The nearest shop was 50 miles away, so we only shopped once, maybe twice a week. We couldn’t just nip out and buy what was missing if we forgot or ran out of something. I learned to substitute, re-think and most importantly look in the fridge and determine what I could make. It wasn’t about what I couldn’t do, but what I could.
So last night I was facing the leftovers of 2 chicken legs, a half jar of tomato sauce, a half container of crème fraiche (sour cream for my American friends) a partial bag of frozen peas and another of frozen spinach.
The result? Marinated cumin and coriander roast chicken on a bed of tomato peas rice with sautéed spinach in a garlic crème fraiche sauce. I was told it was one of the best meals I had ever made. Just shows what you can do when confronted with nothing.
If you are not one for conjuring up dishes, here are some actual recipes of what to do with leftovers: