One of the most significant lessons I have received from any chef I have worked with can be summarised in four simple words — don’t throw that away! For all kinds of reasons — social, environmental and financial — this makes complete sense.
When planning a meal, think about what the extras can become. It’s a real time-and-budget saver: if you prepare twice the vegetables you’ll need for tonight’s dinner, you’ll have the starting point for a soup or pasta dish later in the week. Anticipate using leftover roast chicken on sandwiches. Think of them as ‘ingredients’ not leftovers! Here are a few ideas to begin with.
This is a great way to use leftover vegetables, and can simultaneously pack a ton of nutrients. Leftover tomatoes from a salad or carrots or boiled potatoes, can all go into a soup. Add some soaked and pre-cooked beans, or canned ones if you have access to them, for that extra bit of protein to make it a more wholesome meal.
Cucumber soup to beat the heatCourtesy: Vanita Tondon
Not only are these trending, they are an absolutely fabulous way of using a salad from the night before, leftover rice, or even a dal or curry. Toss some sauteed bell pepper and corn into the leftover rajma, jazz up the rice with some coriander and lemon, then chop up onions and tomatoes for a simple Pico de Gallo (the Mexican version of our simple Kachumber salad). Grate some cheese over all of this, add some Tabasco sauce for some extra heat and there you have an Instagram-worthy Burrito Bowl.
French toast, croutons, bread crumbs
Before a loaf of bread gets mouldy and stale, there are several things you can do with it. Soaking stale bread in egg and turning it into French toast, breathes new life right back into it. Top it with some fruit, syrup or seeds and turn it into a delicious breakfast or teatime snack.
One can also dry out leftover bread in an oven at a low temperature to make croutons. Season the bread with some dried herbs, salt, and a dash of good olive oil, and you have the most delicious croutons for a soup, or to top a salad. Blitz these croutons in a grinder or food processor to make beautifully seasoned bread crumbs which can be used from cutlets and burger patties to meatballs and fish fry.
Making a stir-fry with leftovers is easy and foolproof. Sauté any leftover vegetables with onion, garlic, and ginger. Add a protein of choice (paneer, tofu, chicken — whatever you have at hand), some blanched greens, and soy sauce and serve it over brown rice or quinoa for a delicious meal in a pinch.
Throw everything together kinda stir-fryCourtesy: Vanita Tondon
Pakoras, cutlets or tikkis
Do you happen to have rice in your fridge which is already a couple days old? Another night, and it will surely spoil. Soak this up in yogurt and leave it in the fridge to develop a sour flavour overnight. Next morning, you can mash this mixture up, add some chopped onions, coriander, and season with salt and chilli. Add some gram flour (besan) to this to bind them when you make cutlets or tikkis, two inches in size. Pan-fry these for a delicious breakfast. You can similarly reuse leftover vegetables from a vegetable curry — mash them up to form the body of the cutlet, dip these in a cornstarch slurry, coat with the breadcrumbs (made from salvaged stale bread!) and pan-fry, deep-fry or bake in the oven!
Cooked vegetables make for great stuffing in a paratha. In fact, these Indian flatbreads are so versatile, one can knead the dough with leftover dal instead of water. What you have is the most delicious Dal Paratha for a hearty breakfast or lunch. In case making dough or rolling flatbreads is not your favourite kitchen pastime, you can use ready-made multigrain tortillas to create interesting wraps. In case you have leftover Thai green curry with vegetables, pan-fry a tortilla with an egg, add some of the vegetables with a dash of the curry right down the middle, top up with sliced raw onions, squeeze a little lemon juice and Sriracha sauce into it and simply wrap it up!
A burrito wrap with rice, beans and some saladCourtesy: Vanita Tondon
To summarise, all one needs to do is get a little creative and have an open mind when it comes to using leftovers. The possibilities are endless — from stock to smoothies, fried rice to frittatas, stir-fries to sandwiches — they can all be made using leftovers plus staple pantry ingredients. There are no set rules for food, and fusion is the mantra of the hour! Mix it up, jazz it up, but surely, USE it up!
Vanita Tondon used to cater parties for friends before she decided to broaden her batter. Having honed her skills at École Lenôtre in Paris, her repertoire includes everything from cinnamon rolls to entremet cakes, Turkish pizzas to sushi. You can find her at @browns_foodwithlove on Instagram.