Leftovers were a staple for me during my childhood in the west of Scotland. I probably didn’t even know the term existed; we just took it for granted that any food which was left would be reused. Mum would regularly make stovies from leftover meat and broth which seemed to be able to stretch on forever as more water was added to the moisture hungry barley mixture.
However, it was my Gran who was the master and it’s recollections of her that inspire my leftover cooking most. Having lived through wartime rationing there was no such thing as waste. I can still recall her reusing the teabags a second time, recanting tales of people hanging them on washing lines to dry out as the dark bitter liquid stewed on the hob, all the while making scones with sour milk. When there were leftover mashed potatoes that’s when she really came into her own, patties of all varieties were concocted from whatever was left over; chicken, haddock, ‘tuna fish’, while my favourite ‘tattie wallopers’ (potato scones) were a frequent treat from the girdle.
It seems in the intervening years we’ve become a generation of food wasters. These habits have begun to disappear and we’ve lost that thriftiness to eke out the food we buy as the waste mountain grows year on year. One of my favourite ways with leftovers is fishcakes. Most types of fish can be used although I prefer to use something like trout, especially using the bags of offcuts which are incredible value at the local farmers market in Glasgow.
Trout fishcakes (makes 4)
150g Cooked trout (flaked)
300g Mashed potatoes
Vegetable oil for frying
1 egg whisked
Coarse semolina for dusting
- In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients with a little black pepper. Split the mixture into four and make into patties around 1″ thick
- In a shallow bowl whisk the egg and spread the semolina on a plate. Dip both sides of the patty in egg then coat with the semolina. Do this for each.
- In a frying pan heat the oil to a high heat, brown for a minute on both sides and then cover and cook until hot. Around 4-5 minutes.
If you’re planning to freeze the patties to cook later don’t coat until cooking. Also fry the leftover egg in the pan for a little omelette on the side
Another way of reducing food waste, adding nutrition to your meal and maximizing the flavour of your food is to make your own stock. So many of the things people commonly throw out are perfect for stock; roast chicken carcass, the bones from a leg of lamb, plus the peelings from most vegetables can be used to provide a rich stock for soup, stew, or risotto.
You can use any number of vegetables for a vegetable stock, especially onion (including the skin for darker stock), celery, broccoli stalks and carrot. Starch rich vegetables like turnip and potatoes should be avoided. To be even more cost and waste conscious one trick is to keep all your peeling in a box in the fridge and then make your stock once a week. Add salt, pepper, aromatic herbs like thyme and bay leaf, cover with cold water and slowly bring to the boil and simmer for around 45 minutes.
For meat stock you can simply use the leftover bones (you may get bones for stock from a butcher or the supermarket), adding anything from a teaspoon of salt, to an array of vegetables, herbs and spices. Again cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 hours. Roasted bones will give you a darker more intense stock whereas for a lighter stock use the bones unroasted. Suddenly waste becomes a thing of the past and you get more intense natural flavours.
One of my favourite meals is to make a light chicken stock with a leftover chicken carcass and use the meat for a Monday night risotto; however you can also make cock-a-leekie soup, Scotch broth, or stovies.
Leftover Roast Chicken Risotto (serves 2/3)
1 onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – crushed
1 sprig thyme leaves
150g risotto rice
75ml white wine
400ml chicken stock
200g leftover roast chicken shredded
Knob butter and splash oil for frying
This stock is simply made by slowly simmering the carcass of the chicken in 1 litre of water along with one sprig each of rosemary and thyme, plus two bay leaves and a teaspoon of sea salt.
- In a heavy based pan sweat the onion and garlic in the oil and butter with the thyme leaves until softened, do not brown
- Add the rice and stir to cover with the oil, cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often and being careful not to burn
- Turn the heat to medium and add the wine, stirring rapidly until it all evaporates
- Add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring until each is evaporated before adding the next
- Continue adding the stock one ladle at a time until the rice is almost cooked, approximately 15 minutes, leaving one ladle of stock
- Stir through the chicken, add the last ladle of stock and cook through until rice cooked
- Remove from the heat and at this point correct for seasoning with salt and pepper
I found out recently that every year we throw away 380,000 tonnes of food waste which equals around £470 lost in every household. So, next time you’re thinking about what to do with your food waste have a think about some of the delicious recipes you could make instead.
For more advice or handy tips for avoiding food waste in your home I’d recommend visiting the Greener Scotland recipe finder, which you can find here.