Spring Kitchen – Leftovers
Leftovers are not so much a genre of ingredients as a way of life. Whether it be a roast chicken carcass for stock on a Saturday night, or leftover potatoes forming the backbone of breakfast on Sunday morning, there is no disputing their effortless beauty. Thrifty traditional cooks the world over will celebrate their virtue beyond any other, even reusing the leftovers of leftovers. Growing up, tattie scones and meat patties, sour milk holding scones together, and stovies, the quintessential leftover stew, were the standard leftover dishes in my house.
Especially in this day and age when so much food is wasted it’s increasingly important to ensure that we cook with what is left from previous meals. That can also be leftover ingredients, or even those we’d normally class as surplus to requirements, such as the broccoli stalks which I’ve used to make a creamy soup here. Vegetable peeling from carrots, onions, and garlic, can be used to make a fresh vegetable stock. As I started to cook myself I began to realise that a good stock could life a soup or risotto to new heights, giving a depth of flavour and meatiness that just isn’t possible with a cube. The spring green soup here goes a step further with the roasting juices from the beef also included, the vegetables just giving a hint or freshness to the dish.Potatoes are my number one leftover ingredient, there’s virtually nothing which can’t be done with them. On a Sunday morning I’ll often make bubble and squeak with the leftovers from Saturday night, or get the girdle out and make potato scones alongside bacon and eggs. The simple addition of flour and fat turning creamy mash into a solid scone. Alternatively the girls will get their hands dirty, rolling out, cutting, and indenting gnocchi. A creamy blue cheese like gorgonzola or the more local Strathdon blue making the perfect creamy sauce alongside.
When it comes to leftover meat, I find pulses and grains are the perfect accompaniment, and they go a long way. Green lentils provide a wonderfully earthy backdrop to roast beef, while couscous and lamb are perfect bedfellows, given a freshness with mint and pomegranate. Both these dishes hinting of overseas influence in flavour
Perhaps the ultimate leftover ingredient however, is bread, something that we take for granted and which more often than not ends up in the bin when it has gone stale. In her wonderful book European Peasant Cookery, Elisabeth Luard devotes a whole section to leftover bread dishes from around the continent. My two favourite are the Italian salad panzanella and migas from southern Spain. I’ve tried to mix the influence of both into one dish here, but the simple message is, don’t throw out old bread, simply use it with that slightly limp cucumber, the overripe tomatoes, and whatever else is lurking at the bottom of the fridge.
Fourth article in my Scottish Daily Mail Spring Kitchen series