A-z of ingredients and leftovers

A-z of ingredients and leftovers

Fiona Beckett
38 recipes
Published by
Absolute Press
Mike Cooper

Sometimes I think I prefer to cook from leftovers than fresh ingredients. It requires more creativity yet less is expected of you. If you manage to conjure up a meal from next to nothing everyone is wildly impressed and you have a smug feeling of satisfaction at all the money you've saved.


Although cooking apples like Bramleys are the best for making apple pies, crumbles or tart apple sauces, you can cook with many eating apples too. Try adding chopped or grated apple to scones, make an apple cake or simply pan-fry some sliced apple in butter and sugar or honey and top with yoghurt or creme fraiche for a quick, tasty dessert.

Eating apples work well in savoury salads especially with celery, ham, cheese and nuts. Grate a little apple into a shop-bought coleslaw to zip it up. Add some to your breakfast muesli.

If you have a glut, make chutney or juice with carrots for an invigorating start to the day. Or make a batch of apple compote or apple sauce which you can freeze.


The main thing is not to waste half the spears. Although the bottom quarter can be woody the middle section is fine for salads, soups, pasta and risotto dishes and stir-fries. If it's nearing the end of the season you may need to peel them first with a vegetable peeler. Asparagus has an affinity with all kinds of seafood especially crab, prawns and salmon and with eggs and goat's cheese.


Slice and spray lightly with olive oil, and roast in a hot oven or cook in a ridged grill pan or on a barbecue. Can be used for salads or sandwich fillings. Can also be roasted whole and combined with olive oil and spices for a smoky middle-eastern spread (baba ganousK). Aubergines go well with cooked tomatoes, Mozzarella, cumin and coriander.


Great added to salsas and salads, especially with seafood such as prawns and crab. Ripe avocados that are about to go over can be whizzed up into a cold soup or guacamole (though remove any blackened sections which will affect the colour of the finished dish).


Everyone knows what to do with a decent amount of bacon, it's the odd rasher that might pose problems. Another reason (apart from the cost) to favour streaky over lean - it can be fried crisp and added to sandwiches, salads, scones and muffins. An odd rasher or offcuts can also be chopped and fried to give flavour to stews, pulses and pasta sauces such as the classic carbonara. Adding a spoonful of sweet or hot paprika to bacon is a good substitute for chorizo.


Just-ripe bananas can be fried up with a little butter, brown sugar and rum or bourbon for an indulgent dessert or baked on the barbecue. Once they're very ripe they're best used for smoothies or baking as banana bread, cake or muffins (see Banana Chiffon Cake). Or, even simpler, mash them with a little brown sugar or honey and drizzle over a little cream. You can freeze them if you think they're about to go over but they will go quite soft as they thaw. Bananas go particularly well with chocolate, nuts, orange, strawberries, blueberries, yoghurt, cream and vanilla.


Doesn't keep well so best made into pesto if you can't use it within a couple of days. Goes well with tomatoes, Mozzarella, olive oil, Parmesan and Cheddar. Add a few leaves to a pizza topping or salad.

Fresh pesto

Cut up 50g of mature Parmesan or Grana Padano and put it in a food processor. Add 50g of pinenuts and a finely chopped small clove of garlic and pulse/process in short bursts until the mixture is the consistency of large breadcrumbs. Add two large handfuls of fresh basil leaves and process briefly then gradually add olive oil until you have a thick paste. Tip into a bowl and season with freshly ground black pepper, a small squeeze of lemon and a little salt and some more olive oil if you think it needs it.


Fresh green beans can be added to stir-fries and chunky vegetable soups such as minestrone. Lightly blanched, they can be added to salads such as salade Nicoise or to a mixed bean or tomato salad.

Cooked skinned broad beans are a decorative and tasty addition to salads, pasta dishes and risottos. You could also cook them, unskinned, with garlic and bacon, ham or chorizo as a tasty tapas. Canned beans such as cannelini beans or flageolets can also be added to soups or stews or whizzed up with some crushed garlic and a little stock for a tasty, hummus-style spread.


It's hard to beat cold roast beef served rare, but more well-cooked leftovers can be incorporated in a cottage pie (preferably with some added fresh mince) or spicy beef hash. Beef goes well with onions, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, red wine, beer, garlic, soy, Worcestershire sauce, chilli and blue cheese.


In the unlikely event you have some leftover, a good robust beer makes a great addition to a gravy or stew, or can be used as a marinade for dried fruit (see Barm Brack). Unlike wine it won't keep for more than 24 hours once opened though.


Scrub clean, oil lightly and wrap loosely in foil and roast in a moderate oven for about an hour until tender. Peel and slice or cut into wedges to add to a salad. Raw beetroot can be used raw in a borscht (Russian beetroot soup), mixed with carrot in a slaw or roasted along with other root vegetables.

Don't throw away the leaves which can be cooked in the same way as spinach or chard. Goes well with goat's cheese, yoghurt, hummus chives, fennel, walnuts and walnut oil, carrots and orange.


Can be used along with other berries in a fresh fruit compote or cheesecake or tart topping. Good for baking in muffins, crumbles, cobblers, etc., as they hold their shape well (frozen blueberries are often cheaper than fresh). Blueberries go well with other berries such as raspberries, strawberries and cherries, with peaches and nectarines and creamy desserts.


Undoubtedly one of the most useful leftover ingredients so long as you buy a loaf with some substance, texture and keeping quality. Sliced two or three day old bread makes a good base for simple snacks, great toasted sandwiches such as Croque Monsieur and quick breakfast or teatime treats such as cinnamon toast and French toast. It's also a classic base for inexpensive desserts such as bread pudding, bread and butter pudding and Summer Pudding. You can also use roughly torn bread to stretch meatballs or to make a rustic Tuscan-style panzanella salad.


Small amounts of broccoli can be broken into florets and stir-fried on its own (good as a warm salad with spring onions, garlic and chilli) or with other veg. It can also be incorporated into frittatas and quiches (broccoli works well with eggs and cheese). The stalks can also be added to a stir-fry or soup (peeled first if they're tough). A small amount of broccoli works well in a pea soup.

Butternut squash

Add to a selection of roast vegetables or a mixed vegetable bake such as the one or add to a risotto. Roast butternut squash, along with red peppers, makes a colourful addition to a couscous salad or the flesh can be scooped out for a soup. Butternut squash goes well with dark leafy greens and strong-washed rind cheeses.


Rather than boiling, try shredding and stir-frying cabbage and spring greens with oil and garlic (remove the tough central leaf first) or slow-braise with spices such as juniper or caraway. Finely shredded leaves can also be added to soups as a replacement for parsley. Crisper varieties can be turned into a good coleslaw with finely chopped onion, grated carrot and sliced green pepper and apple (soak the shredded leaves in iced water first). Cooked cabbage can be turned into Bubble and Squeak. You can braise red cabbage with onion, apples, cloves and red wine or again, turn it into a slaw.


One of the most versatile vegetables, raw carrots can be used for salads and slaws, to dunk in dips such as hummus or to make soup. Small amounts can be added to all sorts of stews and braises. They can also be roasted along with other roast veg or turned into purees (they mix well with swede) and soups. You can also use them to make carrot cake and muffins and to make healthy juices if you have a juicer. Carrots go well with beef, cabbage, swede, onions and other root veg, Jerusalem artichokes, apples, hummus, olives and spices such as cumin and coriander, peanuts and fresh parsley.


Much more versatile than you'd think from cauliflower cheese. Best lightly blanched before using in salads, dry curries or pakoras. Good in a vegetable curry or couscous. Also makes fabulous soup. Cauliflower goes well with cheese sauces, potato, spices such as coriander and turmeric and fresh coriander.


A useful addition to add bulk to soups, stews and pasta sauces without affecting the taste. A crunchy addition to salads. Good as a braised vegetable with a little stock too. Celery goes well with most cheeses especially blue cheese such as Stilton, carrots and apples and cashew nuts. Can be substituted for fennel.


Most uses for leftover cheese are pretty obvious - sandwiches, cheese on toast, salads, quiches, pizza toppings and pasta bakes - but sometimes the cheese you have isn't suitable for any of those uses. Mature-washed rind cheeses for example are very hard to use in recipes. The only answer is buying less to ensure you don't have leftovers.

Small amounts of cheese can be turned into a spread with or without the aid of butter. You can also experiment with the cheeses you use for familiar recipes. Taleggio, for example, makes a great pizza topping, sliced Brie can be used for a melt with a few fried mushrooms on toast. Other regional cheeses such as Lancashire and Red Leicester can be used for cheese sauces and for scones and muffins, crumbly white cheeses such as Caerphilly and Wensleydale can replace Feta in salads and blue cheeses can be used in a pasta sauce like the Stilton Sauce. Oh, and a useful tip - save any rind from a hard cheese like Gruyere or Parmesan to add to a vegetable or bean soup.

Chicken and turkey

A whole chicken is possibly the thriftiest meal going. A medium to large bird can easily be stretched to serve 10-12.

I find it helps to divide the leftovers into three categories - white meat, brown meat and the carcass.

White meat's not the problem. Everybody loves it - it eats well cold: in sandwiches or in salads.

Brown meat (the kind you get on legs and thighs and on the underside of the carcass) I find needs to be cooked up into something else - a pasta bake or a pilau or saved for a soup or soupy stew. Which is where your third component comes in - the carcass - which you should, if you're feeling truly frugal, use to make a stock (or freeze until you have several cooked carcasses then make a big batch).

The key thing to remember is to cover the bones with cold rather than hot water which will make the stock cloudy, to skim it once you've brought it to the boil (again to keep it clear) and to cook it slowly so that you don't extract the more bitter compounds from the bones. Then cool it, refrigerate it and skim it. That may sound like quite a palaver but it's a routine that becomes familiar and it's worth it for a really great tasting base for soups, stews and risottos.


Small amounts of chickpeas can be added to a leftovers fry-up. They combine especially well with Spanish-style ingredients such as onion, chorizo and peppers and with North African and Indian spices with added fresh coriander (see Sweet Potato, Spinach and Chickpea Bake). See also Homemade Hummus.


Leftover chocolate? You're joking....


A good addition to casseroles and pies, especially with pork or chicken. An economical alternative to white wine (like beer, cider doesn't keep well once open. Use within 24 hours). You can also mull cider.


A cheap alternative to chocolate for cakes and icing. To make a chocolate frosting for a small cake, sift 75g of icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder into a bowl. Put 25g sugar and 15g butter into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil. Pour into the icing sugar and beat well till smooth. Use straight away or wait for it to harden for a fluffier frosting.


See fish.


Leftover black coffee can be used for coffee cakes and also makes a great addition to chocolate cakes and icings (see Cappuccino Cake). Or mix it with iced milk, sugar and vanilla ice cream for an indulgent iced coffee.

Coriander (fresh)

You might buy coriander for Thai and other Asian dishes but the leftovers can be used in curries, Middle-Eastern and Mexican dishes such as tomato salsa. Washed roots and stalks can be added to curries and stews for extra flavour. Chopped coriander leaves are good added to scrambled eggs if you want to make them a bit more exotic. Note that coriander is best kept in the fridge door in ajar or glass of water with a plastic bag secured over the top with a rubber band. Change the water every couple of days and it'll keep for up to a week. You can also freeze the leaves but crumble them into a dish while still frozen.


Not great reheated but the odd courgette can be incorporated into a pasta sauce, frittata, quiche, soup, couscous or Mediterranean vegetable bake or cooked a la grecque. Sauteed courgettes are good cold as a salad. Courgettes go well with Feta and other white cheeses, lemon, mint, dill, olive oil, tomatoes, prawns, pasta and couscous.


Leftover couscous can be reheated in a microwave or steamer or dressed lightly with olive oil and vinegar and added to chopped grilled or roasted vegetables such as onions, peppers and courgettes (see Chargrilled Chicken, Pepper and Herb Couscous Salad) or Red Peppers, White Cheese and Butternut Squash.


You're unlikely to be left with surplus white crab meat (if so, season with a little chilli, coriander and lime and serve on small lettuce leaves), but brown is less immediately appealing. The taste is fabulous though. Combine with pedestrian white fish to give a luxurious taste to fish soups, quiches, fish pies and fish cakes. Brown crab meat goes well with cream, saffron, tomato and brandy.

Cream/creme fraiche

A luxurious last-minute addition to all kinds of dishes from soups to quiches, to sautes and casseroles. Probably only our anxiety about weight gain holds us back. Buy double cream and full-fat creme fraiche then at least they freeze (though may be a bit grainy and won't whip when thawed).


Curiously unfashionable these days but a brilliant base for such quintessentially English dishes as cucumber sandwiches, cucumber and herb salads cucumber and cream cheese mousse and chilled cucumber soup. Can also be served stir-fried as a veg, (peel, cut in half lengthways, run the tip of a teaspoon down the centre to scoop out the seeds then slice into half-moon shapes). Goes well with salmon, white crab meat, dill, tarragon and mint, cream cheese.


Not much on a duck but maybe enough leftover to make an elegant little starter salad combined with some of the ingredients below or to make a pilaf with the scraps (see Spiced Game Pilaf). Duck goes well with honey, orange, mango, raspberries, blackberries and plums, pomegranate seeds, soy and hoisin sauce.


Whole eggs are never really a leftover though they are the invaluable basis for many a scratch meal such as frittatas, pancakes, spaghetti carbonara and such old-fashioned favourites as egg mayonnaise, stuffed eggs and egg Florentine (with cheese sauce and spinach). And, of course, all kinds of baking. It's leftover yolks and whites that pose the problem.

Fat and dripping

It's well worth saving leftover fat from a roasting tin or frying pan (in the case of bacon) as the flavourful base for another dish. Goose and duck fat is great for roasting potatoes, beef dripping is gorgeous slathered on toast (with a little coarse salt sprinkled on the top) and bacon, chicken and pork fat all good for frying other meats. Only lamb fat is rarely appealing. When you pour off the fat and have refrigerated it, retrieve the jellied meat juices underneath which make a fantastic addition to a pasta sauce, risotto, pie or stew.


A mainstay of Italian cooking. Finely sliced it makes a great raw salad. You can also braise it with a little onion and serve it at room temperature as an antipasto salad or blitz it into a puree with cream (great with grilled fish). Makes a good risotto base too. Fennel goes well with prawns and other seafood, poached chicken, cream, Parmesan and dill.


The ideal use for leftover fish is fishcakes. Small amounts of cooked white fish can also be lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and served with a few chopped capers, some finely chopped gherkin and parsley. Or there may be enough, with a few frozen prawns and a hard boiled egg, to knock up a mini fish pie. See also Salmon and Smoked Fish.


Not so much a leftover as a storecupboard staple but so useful it's worth listing here, not least for the opportunity to include this lovely shortcrust pastry recipe.


The tail ends of fruit bowls or leftover berries can get wasted unless you salvage them in a smoothie, compote or simple fruit salad don't have that much left over, mix them with some frozen or tinned fruit as in the Strawberry and Apricot Fruit Salad). You can grill, barbecue or roast fruit such as pineapple, peaches and nectarines.

See also suggestions for Apples, Bananas, Lemons and Limes and Oranges. Berries such as Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries are good for baking too and if still fresh can be frozen.


Leftover feathered game can be treated much as any other bird such as chicken, guineafowl, turkey and duck. Use prime breast meat for sandwiches and salads, tougher leg meat for pilaus and pilafs (see Spiced Game Pilaf), and the carcass for a particularly flavourful stock. Game goes well with redcurrant, orange, apricots and other dried fruits, bacon, chestnuts, cabbage, celeriac, mushrooms, pastry and port (see Pot Roast Pheasant). Leftover venison can be treated much as beef.


There isn't much flesh on a goose so you're unlikely to have much prime quality meat left over but what there is will make a great pilaf (see Spiced Game Pilaf). The prize leftover though is the accumulated fat which is fantastic for roasting potatoes (see Fat and Dripping). Goose goes well with potatoes, apples, oranges and red cabbage.


Always worth making extra to add to a shepherd's or cottage pie or to freeze so that you have an instant gravy when you need it. Add some leftover stock, beer, cider or wine if you have some.


See Cabbage


See suggestions for chicken and game.


Apart from the obvious (cold cuts and sandwiches), a bit of ham makes a good addition to all kinds of dishes such as omelettes, scrambled egg, frittata, quiche spaghetti carbonara (instead of bacon), macaroni cheese, rice dishes such as jambalaya or a pie (with cold chicken or turkey). A ham bone makes a great basis for a soup. Or try the tasty spread below.


You use very little of some herbs such as bay leaves, sage, rosemary and thyme which is why it's worth growing your own rather than buying them by the pack. Other herbs such as chervil, chives, coriander dill, parsley and tarragon can be used lavishly. Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme are the kind to use in long slow cooking or for roasting. Sage is best fried or used (in small quantities) in a stuffing. Parsley is the most versatile herb and can be used both to flavour or garnish dishes or as a basis for a soup or sauce.


Keeps well but not always used as widely as it might be for sweetening fruit or as a substitute for sugar in baking. Can also be used as a glaze for grilled meats such as chicken wings as in the simple marinade below from Jill Dupleix


Reheated lamb takes spices well. Add to a rogan josh sauce (cheaper made with a curry paste) for a quick lamb curry or give it the pilaf treatment. Cold lamb also works well with spicy chutneys. You can also use it to make shepherd's pie, but I think it's made better with fresh mince. Lamb goes well with onion, leeks, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, rice, haricot beans and flageolets, garlic and a wide range of spices and herbs, especially mint and coriander.


Great in their own right but can be substituted for onions or spring onions in all sorts of dishes from soups to stir-fries to stews. Particularly good with eggs, cheese (especially goat's cheese) and cream - see the Spring Vegetable Frittata. Leeks also go particularly well with chicken and salmon.

Lemons and limes

Invaluable fridge ingredients, with a wide range of uses in sweet and savoury dishes. A squeeze of lemon or lime will often finish a dish off while lemon and lime-based desserts provide a refreshing and inexpensive way to finish off a meal. Unwaxed fruit is better for zesting but keeps less well so you need to step in and freeze it before it deteriorates. You can freeze the zest, juice or slices which can be dropped direct from frozen into drinks.

Lemons go well with practically all fish and shellfish, chicken, veal, lamb, courgettes, herbs such as parsley mint and dill, garlic and parsley and desserts that contain cream, almonds and eggs (see Empress of Puddings) and cakes such as the Lemon Drizzle Traybake

Limes go particularly well with other Asian ingredients such as garlic, chilli and coriander, with avocados and fresh tomatoes (see Mexican Salsa Chicken), and with tropical fruits, especially mango.


Cooked whole green or brown lentils can be heated through and used as an accompaniment for grilled or fried sausages or turned into a salad with goat's cheese, beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes or artichoke hearts and plenty of parsley or other fresh herbs. Red lentils can be added to a vegetable soup to make it more substantial or, if already cooked as a dhal, just add a little stock to turn it into a soup. Lentils also go well with spinach and coriander.

Lettuce and salad greens

Outside leaves often get thrown away but if still in reasonably good condition can be added to a pea soup or a French-style dish of peas cooked with onion and bacon. Hold onto the stalks of leafy salad greens such as watercress and spinach and add them to a vegetable soup such as the Stalky Spinach, Pea and Mint Soup.


See lemons and limes.


Once very ripe, mangoes are best whizzed up with yoghurt and a little lime juice for a refreshing mango lassi (thin with a little water to get the right consistency), or combined with a banana in a smoothie.


The more meat is cooked the harder it is to transform it into another cooked dish. I'm absolutely not a fan of rissoles or shepherd's pie made with leftovers from the roast. If you want to make a shepherd's pie your best bet is to chop any meat up small and mix it with some freshly cooked mince and vegetables (good gravy also helps a lot). Or fry the last bits and pieces of meat (preferably in some of the tasty fat you've saved - see Fat and Dripping and add them to a pilaf or hash. Less well cooked meat can be cut into slices or chunks and reheated in gravy or turned into a curry or stew but don't cook it too long otherwise it will go unappealingly squelchy. See also Beef, Lamb, Chicken and Pork.


Useful for savoury dishes as well as sweet ones. Try mixing ripe Charentais melon cubes with strawberries and/or raspberries or make a salad with cubes of honeydew melon, cucumber and seeded tomatoes, toss with a light salad dressing, leave for a couple of hours to extract the juices then scatter over some finely chopped herbs such as mint, parsley and chives. Melon goes particularly well with air-dried ham.


Like eggs, more a fridge staple than a leftover - an invaluable base for sauces, pancakes, Yorkshire pudding, toad-in-the-hole, milk puddings such as rice pudding and Empress of Puddings and other British nursery treats. (Many of these can be made with soy milk if you're dairy-intolerant.)


Apart from its use in recipes mint also makes a great fresh-tasting caffeine-free infusion. Simply pour boiling water over some sprigs and leave for 3-4 minutes or make it in a pot, Moroccan style. Put a green tea bag and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar in a pot with a handful of fresh mint, fill up to the brim of the pot with boiling water, stir and leave to infuse as before. Mint goes well with lamb, Feta and other crumbly white cheeses, couscous, new potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and melon.


Hugely versatile cheap ingredient that makes a fantastic spread (see Mushroom Caviar) or can be added to omelettes, quiches, pasta sauces, risotto and other rice dishes, casseroles and sautes or simply cooked up with a little butter, garlic and cream and served on toast or as a filling for pancakes or pastry cases. Raw mushrooms are very good in a salad with Parmesan and watercress or rocket or can be cooked in white wine and olive oil for a simple starter salad. Mushrooms go particularly well with butter, cream, cheese, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, bacon, kidneys, white wine, onions and garlic. Their savoury flavour can be boosted by soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mushroom ketchup or a splash of Madeira, dry marsala or sherry.


Small amounts of rice noodles or egg noodles can be added to an Asian-style broth like the one, added to a stir-fry or cooked and rinsed with cold water and added to a salad (you can substitute ordinary spaghetti for noodles in many recipes).


Nuts don't keep that well so you need to find ways to use them up. As well as adding them to cakes, cookies, flapjacks and puddings (see the Apple, Blackberry and Nut Crumble and the Hazelnut Meringue Cake) you can add them to stuffings, gratin toppings, pilafs and couscous, salads or even pasta dishes such as Linguine with Stilton for a bit of texture and crunch. And also, of course, serve them with cheese. If the pack has been open for a while refresh them in the oven before using.


As well as making porridge and muesli, oats can be added to flapjacks, muffins, wholemeal bread, and used to stretch a meatloaf. Refresh them in the oven as you warm it up to intensify their flavour.


Can be added to salads and pasta sauces and French-style daubes (beef or lamb stews), or North African tagines to give them a bit of a kick. You can also add them to breads like the Sheep's Cheese and Olive Bread. Olives go well with cooked tomato, Mozzarella and sheep's cheeses, basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme, chilli, lemon, orange and anchovies.


Rarely redundant but can be a useful base for a flavourful white sauce or gravy, a quiche, an onion marmalade or a cooling raita. Or indulge yourself with some deep-fried onion rings. Spring onions can be used in stir-fries, salads, frittatas or quiches. Onions go well with milk, cream, yoghurt, thyme, sage, Parmesan, sausages, beef and tomatoes.

Oranges, satsumas and mandarins

More versatile than generally assumed from their usual use as juice. Can replace lemon in many dishes such as salad dressings and cakes. An orange fruit salad is very refreshing. Skin the oranges by scoring them into quarters then put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a minute then drain off the hot water and pour over cold water. The skin should peel away cleanly taking most of the pith. Slice the oranges horizontally and pour over the Cardamom Syrup or plain sugar syrup and chill well. Oranges go well with duck, pork, mackerel, chicory, watercress, walnuts, almonds, olives, parsley and dill.


Well worth buying in large bunches so it's likely you may have some left over which could be added in generous quantities to garlic or lemon butter a pea soup, a white sauce (great with boiled bacon) or used as the base for a pesto instead of basil. Deep-fried parsley also makes a good accompaniment for fish. And don't forget the stalks which can be chopped and added to sauces, soups, stews and frittatas for extra flavour. Like other fresh herbs, it also freezes.


The odd parsnip can be added to a tray of roast veg or very finely sliced and deep-fried for delicious chips. If you have a few more you can make a puree, while part-cooked parsnips can be brushed with honey and finished under the grill. Leftover roast parsnips make great soup. Parsnips go well with cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, curry powder, venison sausages, pheasant, carrots and other root veg.


Leftover pasta can be used for pasta salads so long as you dress it soon after you've cooked it. Alternatively, rinse it with cold water so it doesn't stick together, refrigerate it, then add it to a pasta sauce or stir-fry it with oil, garlic and chilli for a crisper effect.

Peaches and nectarines

For a quick dessert, fry a skinned, stoned, sliced peach in a little butter. Add some sugar (and a dash of bourbon, dark rum or marsala if you have some) and a few drops of vanilla extract or flavouring and serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream. You can also use peaches as the base of a crumble or cobbler or skin and poach in a red or sweet wine syrup. Also good in chutneys and relishes. Peaches go well with chicken, ham, berries such as blueberries and raspberries and vanilla.


Crucial to catch them in the narrow window between being completely hard and unripe and soft and woolly. If you have a glut of unripe pears poach them in leftover red wine or cider and sugar. Ripe pears can be added to fruit salads, smoothies and juices and also make very good tarts. Pears go well with blue cheese, walnuts and watercress, almonds, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.


Everybody's favourite standby veg - can be used direct from the freezer so rarely wasted. A few leftover peas can be added to a salad, frittata, pasta sauce or pilaf. Peas go well with chicken, bacon, ham, salmon, prawns, rice, pasta, Parmesan, spring onions, carrots - virtually anything.


Red peppers in particular are a useful standby veg to add to salsa salads and stir-fries but can also be stir-fried on their own. If you have a lot to use up, slow-roast them with oil and garlic and use for chunky Italian-style sandwiches or antipasti. Peppers go well with onion, butter beans, chorizo and eggs, tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines.


See game.


Marinate small cubes of pineapple for half an hour with lime juice, chilli and mint for a refreshing salsa (also quite good at the end of a spicy meal). Pineapple goes well with lime, chilli, coconut and rum and with ham.


Use for crumbles and cobblers. Stir-fry sliced plums in a little butter for a couple of minutes, sprinkle with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and serve on toasted malt bread. Make chutney. Plums go well with apples, cinnamon, pork and duck.


It's worth cooking extra polenta so that you have some leftover for grilling - a great accompaniment to grilled or barbecued meat and vegetables. 'Wet', sloppier polenta goes well with dark winey stews.

To cook polenta, bring one litre of light vegetable stock (made with an organic stock cube or 1 tablespoon of vegetable bouillon powder) to the boil in a big (preferably non-stick) saucepan then reduce to a simmer. Tip 175g of polenta into a jug then gradually pour it into the simmering stock, whisking all the time. Continue stirring until it begins to thicken then turn the heat right down and cook for about 15-20 minutes until thick, stirring it every couple of minutes. If you're going to grill it gradually beat in 50g of butter and 25g of freshly grated Parmesan, season with salt and pepper then pour onto a baking tray to a depth of about 1 1/2cm, evening the surface with a spatula. When cold you can cut up the polenta, brush it lightly with oil and cook it on a ridged grill. If you want a sloppier polenta to go with a stew, stop the cooking slightly earlier and add 25g more butter and another 15- 20g of cheese and season as above.


Unless eaten as a cold cut, cold pork needs jazzing up with a bit of hot spice to boost the flavour. Good dishes to try are Jambalaya and the Indonesian dish Nasi Goreng. You could also turn it into a Cape Malay-style curry with apricots or brush thick slices of cold pork with a spicy marinade or barbecue sauce and heat them under the grill. Pork goes well with potatoes, onions, fennel, apricots, cheese, cream, mustard, curry paste, chilli and smoky barbecue sauces.


Possibly the world's most desirable leftover, perfect for sauteeing, turning into a hash or Bubble and Squeak a potato salad (see below) or, in the case of leftover mash, potato scones or fishcakes. Even a leftover baked potato can make a great topping for some leftover stew if you mash the flesh while it's still warm. Well-scrubbed organic potato peelings make great fried potato skins for dunking.

Potato cakes

The best way to make these is to set aside some mashed potato before you add any butter or milk - you want the potato to be quite firm and still warm. Add 20g of sieved flour for every 100g of potato, add an egg yolk (unless you've got a particularly small amount of potato) season the mixture generously with salt and pepper, divide up and shape into shallow patties. Cool and refrigerate until needed. Dust with flour and fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter. (You could also add some fried finely chopped bacon and chopped onion and/or a little crumbled blue cheese.)


Prawns don't keep or reheat well, so leftovers are best used as soon as possible in a sandwich or salad. You can, however, make an excellent prawn-flavoured butter from the shells of whole prawns or shrimps. Put the shells in a saucepan with a generous amount of butter (about 125g for the shells of about 500g of prawns) and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne or chilli powder and heat slowly until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil then take off the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Pulse the shells and butter briefly in a food processor then strain through a fine sieve. Cool and refrigerate then use in pasta sauces, risottos and fish pies. Prawns go well with hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, lemon, lime, chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander, dill, tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, pasta, rice and couscous.


Can be used along with other berries in a fresh fruit compote or cheesecake topping. Add to an apple crumble. Puree, sieve, sweeten with sieved icing sugar and serve as a sauce or turn into a sorbet or ice-cream. Heat frozen raspberries through with sugar for a fresh-tasting winter compote or soft-set fridge jam. Add fresh or frozen raspberries to a Queen of Puddings or Bakewell tart. Raspberries go well with white and dark chocolate, cream and creamy desserts such as pannacotta, hazelnuts, toasted oatmeal, other berries such as blueberries, strawberries and cherries, and peaches and nectarines.


Makes a great breakfast compote or pie or crumble base (delicious mixed with strawberries). Rhubarb goes with pastry, crumble toppings especially with almonds, ginger and orange, cream, sour cream, cream cheese and yoghurt.


Can be reheated (best microwaved) but better cooled and refrigerated first. Egg-fried rice needs to be made with fridge-cold rice. If you're making a rice salad, dress the rice while it is still warm so that it absorbs the dressing and bring it to room temperature before serving. Leftover risotto can be made into tasty arancini (deep-fried risotto balls).

Salad leaves

See Lettuce.


The best use for cooked salmon is in fishcakes but you can also add it to a creamy sauce for a pancake filling or a fish pie, or add it to a risotto or kedgeree (taking care not to break it up too much). Other good uses include quiche or a pasta or cold noodle salads (it works well with a limey Thai-style dressing). Or make a quick salmon pate by whizzing it up with some melted butter or cream cheese and seasoning it with a squeeze of lemon, a little mace or nutmeg if you have some and a pinch of cayenne or chilli pepper. You could also add a few finely chopped chives. Salmon goes well with butter, cream, asparagus, broccoli, peas, red peppers, cucumber (fresh and pickled) ginger, orange, lime, soy, coriander and dill.

Smoked fish

You're unlikely to struggle to think of what to do with a bit of leftover smoked salmon or trout but, in addition to most of the ingredients mentioned above in the Salmon entry, it goes particularly well with eggs. So odd scraps can be added to scrambled eggs, quiche or a spaghetti carbonara (instead of bacon). It also makes a great classic bagel filling with cream cheese and pickled cucumbers and also goes well with beetroot. Raw smoked fish such as smoked cod and haddock can be cooked up in a creamy sauce and frozen in portions to fill omelettes or pancakes or as a topping for toast.


Uncooked spinach leaves can be shredded and added to a soup or curry instead of fresh herbs. Reheat cooked spinach in butter, add a little cream and nutmeg and use as an omelette or pancake filling or whizz up in a pea soup. Spinach goes well with eggs, cheese (especially Parmesan, Ricotta and - when raw - blue cheese) cream, ham, bacon, mushrooms, curry spices, potatoes and pulses like chickpeas and lentils.


More versatile than you'd think. Very good stir-fried or shredded into winter salads. Cooked sprouts are perfect for Bubble and Squeak or can be turned into a gratin. Sprouts go well with onion, bacon, potatoes, chestnuts, cream, parmesan, ginger and soy sauce.


Macerate with leftover red wine and a little sugar. Mix with less expensive fruit such as tinned apricots. Whizz up into a smoothie or ice-cream. Strawberries go well with cream, vanilla ice-cream, yoghurt, fromage frais, cream cheese, Mascarpone, other berries such as raspberries and blueberries, bananas, orange juice and vanilla.


Corn on the cob should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase. The kernels can be stripped off the cob and used for fritters or creamed corn, or almost dry-fried in a hot pan rubbed with a little oil to make a spicy salsa. Frozen sweetcorn can be used in a similar way or added to a chowder or a stir-fry. Sweetcorn goes well with butter, cream, chicken, ham, bacon, salad vegetables, spring onions, chilli, coriander.


Easy to use up in salads, pasta sauces, soups and stews but don't forget Tomatoes on Toast or fresh tomato salsa. Tomatoes go well with chicken, prawns, pasta, Mozzarella, Feta, basil, coriander, olives, capers, aubergines, courgettes and onions.


See Chicken.


Best used cold, added to salads or used to fill sandwiches (try a tuna version of the Chicken and Celery Sandwich Filling). Tinned tuna goes with hard boiled eggs, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, green beans, mayo, anchovies, olives, capers, and lemon. Fresh tuna goes well with Asian flavours such as soy sauce, ginger, chilli, lime and fresh coriander.


See Nuts.


More robust than other salad leaves so can be successfully used in a quiche or a frittata or turned into a soup. (Note, the leaves discolour and lose their flavour quite quickly so use within 24 hours of purchase, ideally). Watercress goes with eggs, roasted or grilled meat, pates and terrines, oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, bacon and Cheddar and Feta cheese.


Often vegetables are too far gone to do anything with them. By and large the longer they're cooked the less useful they are. Well cooked buttered veg or crispy roast potatoes rarely reheat well. A well-seasoned hash such as Bubble and Squeak is about the only rescue remedy.

Lightly stir-fried or steamed veg on the other hand such as broccoli, cauliflower or peas are a useful addition to pasta sauces, curries, pilaus or frittatas. And even rather scruffy raw vegetables from the bottom of the fridge or the tail end of a veg box can be salvaged if you get to them in time.

For more specific suggestions check individual entries - Tomatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, etc. - but if you've a mixture of veg to use up try either making a tray of roast veg, preferably of a similar type (in winter I base it potatoes, carrots, onions and parsnips, in summer on onions, courgettes, peppers and aubergines) or making a mixed vegetable soup, curry or couscous.


Great to have around the kitchen for marinades or to chuck into sauces, gravies and stews but don't use wine from bottles that have been open for weeks (or ones that are corked) otherwise it will taste like vinegar. If bottles are less than half full (the most likely scenario...) transfer the wine into a smaller bottle or container and refrigerate it or even, if you can't use it over the next few days, simmer it in a saucepan until reduced by about half in volume, cool and freeze it in an ice cube tray to take out as you need it. If you're slow cooking a stew or casserole with wine add a dash at the end of the cooking time to revive the flavour.


Apparently yoghurt is one of the most frequently chucked out foods from the average household. Maybe it's all the flavoured ones no-one likes. If you buy plain yoghurt it's hard not to find a use for it. Mix it with pureed fruit for a smoothie or your own fruit-flavoured yoghurt. Stir it into a cooked fruit compote. Serve dollops on spicy food such as curries. Make a raita or a tandoori marinade for chicken. Add to salad dressings or cold soups (great with cucumber). Use for yoghurt-based ice-creams. Yoghurt goes particularly well with bananas, berries, mango, cucumber, mint and lamb.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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