19 February 2018

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers without Killing Yourself ~ Good Idea or what!

how to cool, store and reheat leftovers
Why not pin to keep
other people alive!

I have just read on a site called Read & Digest a post titled Avoid Eating these 4 Leftovers at all cost especially the 3rd one and,whilst I respect what they are saying, I certainly do not agree we should avoid eating them!

In three out of the four leftovers the only problem was the danger of incorrect storage and insufficient reheating. The fourth one is at the end of this post!

According to the article, and completely correctly, failing to cool, store and reheat leftovers properly can have dire results.  They are right, for instance rice ...

When saving leftover rice cool it as quickly as possible; I rinse the cooked rice under cold running water as soon as it has finished cooking. Once cool refrigerate immediately and make sure it is utterly steaming hot before eating.

It is, however, ridiculous to throw away good food, instead ffs (excuse me!) learn to store and use leftovers properly.

How to Cool Leftovers

Leftovers should be cooled as quickly as possible – aim to have them cool enough to put in the fridge within 90 minutes.  Here are four ways to achieve this …

1.   Decant the leftovers into a cold shallow dish.  Spread the food out so that it has as large a surface area as possible but don’t compress it, it should be loose packed.
2.   Divide the leftovers between several smaller shallow containers and continue as above.
3.   Stir runny dishes such as soup or casseroles frequently to bring the hotter food to the surface to cool.
4.   If possible put the cooling food in a cool (but clean) place, even away from the cooker might help.

Never leave the food out for long periods, don’t leave out overnight.

How to Refrigerate Leftovers

~   The fridge should always be at 5oC or below.
~   As soon as the food is cool enough put it the fridge, uncovered, to allow it to rapidly chill right down. (You could then freeze it if you wish.)
~   When completely cold put it in a clean airtight container, a freezer bag is good, even if you are not going to freeze it.  If using a bag, squeeze out all the air, if a box choose one the correct size for the food so there is not a lot of air in there.
Freezing Leftovers
~   Your freezer should be at -18oC and your leftovers completely cold and carefully stored as above.

How to Reheat Leftovers

~   Use up your fridge leftovers within two days.
~   Always reheat food to piping hot, at least 75oC, and maintain this heat for 2 minutes.
~   If reheating in a microwave stir the food around a couple of times to avoid cold spots.
~   Do, however, remember that foods can be spoiled if reheated to too high a heat, life’s never easy, is it! Make absolutely sure not to boil things! See here for the perfectway to reheat meat in gravy or other sauce

Important Point about Leftovers

This post is all about storing and reheating leftovers, but I want to make a very important point.

Leftovers are not just something that you reheat and eat again– they are ingredients, inspiration, maybe a cook’s treat or the start of a different and delicious new meal.

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers by Suzy Bowler
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This is why I have written a whole book of creative ways to use up leftovers. It is called Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers and that is no coincidence!  As it says in its subtitle it is An Inspiring A – Z of Ingredients and Delicious Ideas. 

My book is about getting the utmost pleasure out of every single scrap of food available to you.  The waste it tackles is not so much about money or resources but of good eating opportunities. As a bonus, of course, this will save you money and may even benefit the planet!

This is actually the second edition of my book which was previously known as The Leftovers Handbook - the new edition is out on 1st March but can be pre-ordered here.

Oh, and this is the leftover I am not sure about …

Leftover Vegetable Oil

According to the Read & Digest reheating polyunsaturated oil that contain linoleic acid release a toxin that has been linked to all sorts of problems such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, some cancers and more.  They may well be right, I am not going to get into this as it is not something I know much about. Used cooking oil is one leftover that doesn’t inspire even me much!

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6 February 2018

18 Ways to Use Up "Leftover Wine" ~ Deliciously!

Diogenes on wine
Nice pinnable quote by
Diogenes (412 BC-323 BC) –
 the founder of Cynicism!

When thinking about writing this post I made a note to myself to explain the term “leftover wine” but I just can’t – it seems to be an oxymoron. I suppose it could happen so if, inexplicably, you do have leftover wine here are my thoughts and ideas.

Leftover Wine Generally

~  My first idea ~ if it’s still good enough to drink, drink it!

~  Freeze it!  Do so in ice cubes and you have a ready to use “splash of wine” to add to your cooking as and when you need it.

~  Add to a pan sauces. These quick, easy and delicious sauces certainly benefit from a bit of vino. 

~   Similarly stir into gravy. See my easy way to make real gravy here and act accordingly.

~   Braises, Stews and Casseroles all take kindly to a little wine. 

~  Add a little wine at the start of cooking risotto – apparently it should be lightly warmed so as not to shock the rice when adding to the pan! 

Wine Vinegar

Sometimes wine turns to vinegar without any help at all but here are a few guidelines so as to have a better chance of success.

a bottle of organic vinegar
2 sterilised jam jars
leftover wine

The reason I say organic vinegar is that this is more likely to contain strands of vinegar ‘mother’ in it.

~  Put 2½ cm of the vinegar into each jar and allocate one for white wine and one for red.
~  Pour leftover wine into the appropriate jars and cover with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band.
~   Store at room temperature topping up with leftover wine as it occurs, the liquid in the jars will evaporate so it is important to keep adding to it.
~  After about a week test the vinegar and as soon as it tastes good to you it is ready to use.

If a new vinegar mother has formed in the jar use it to start a fresh batch.

Leftover Red Wine

glass of red wine
Chorizo in Red Wine – this is a delicious way of cooking chorizo and delicious on toast with a little Boursin!  

~  Make a Gastrique, this is a useful reduction of wine, sugar and water which adds a great boost to dishes, and is also great drizzled over blue cheese, added to pan juices.  Once you’ve made your gastrique you can then make ...

~  Caramelised Wine Vinaigrette – whisk together 60ml red wine gastrique and 120ml olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste.
Wine Glazed Shallots – these are lovely as a side to cheese, steak etc. and good on pizza. 

Pears Baked in Red Wine

6 not quite ripe pears ~ Comice are particularly good
250ml red wine
50g cold butter
100g soft light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

~  Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~  In an ovenproof dish of size to hold the pears snugly in one layer, melt together the wine, butter and sugar.
~  Peel the pears and add to the pan turning to coat.
~  Add the cinnamon stick.
~  Cover the pan (foil will do) and bake for half an hour.
~  Remove from the oven and turn the pears in the juices.
~  Cover and continue baking till soft and tender - about 40 minutes.

Serve warm with clotted cream or ice cream.

Mulled wine syrup is the best way of making mulled wine and very useful to have in the storecupboard –   

Leftover White Wine

glass of white wine
~  Make a spritzer – just a little white wine topped up with sparkling water.

Fromage Fort is a French potted cheese which uses leftover cheese and leftover white wine! 

French Onion Soup, somewhat surprisingly, is made with white wine. 

~  White Wine Vinaigrette – substitute white wine for some or all the vinegar in the basic vinaigrette recipe here and adjust the flavour with honey and lemon juice. 

Onion, White Wine & Parmesan Tagliatelle – serves 4

 3 x 225g onions
45g butter
60ml dry white wine
500g dried tagliatelle
45g freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
a handful of chopped parsley

~   Cookthe onions my favourite way till utterly tender.
~   Add the wine and simmer till it has disappeared.
~   Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of salted boiling water.
~   Drain and toss with the winey onions and grated cheese.
~   Taste and season using plenty of pepper then toss together with the parsley so that it looks as good as it tastes

Find more ideas and recipes for using up leftovers on my Pinterest Board ...

Leftover Food ~ Delicious Ideas

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28 January 2018

How to Make a Warming Winter Stew, Braise or Casserole

Today I am braising the knuckle end of a leg of lamb for our dinner. I can’t wait, its lovely aroma fills our little home, it will be delicious!

Here’s the recipe …

Wine Braised Leg of Lamb

This is a brilliant way to cook lamb shanks too, of course.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
half a leg of lamb – knuckle end
1 large onion, sliced
1 carrot – coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
½ tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
300ml red wine
300l beef stock

~   Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the meat on its side.
~   Season the meat with a sprinkling of salt and carefully brown on all sides in the pan. Set aside.
~   Add a drizzle more oil and cook the onions and carrots, stirring often, till softening and just starting to take colour.
~   Stir in the garlic and cook gently for a minute.
~   Stir in the tomato paste and cook gently another minute.
~   Stir in the flour and, yes, cook gently another minute.
~   Add the wine and stock and bring to the boil stirring and scraping to dissolve any meat juices on the bottom of the pan.
~   Return the meat to the pan and if necessary add a little stock or water to bring the liquid to just about half way up the meat.
~   Turn the heat to low.
~   Cover with foil and then the lid, so as to seal the pan.
~   Simmer for 2-3 hours till very, very, very tender and wonderful.
~   If the sauce is a little runny for your taste remove the lamb and set aside whilst you boil the gravy down a little. If it is far too runny – try adding a little beurre manie!  See below.
Nice Pinnable image ↑
Now, for all the specific instructions above, this is a basic or core recipe.  Once you know how to do it you can stew or braise pretty well anything!!!

Here are some guidelines and suggestions …

Braise vs Stew vs Casserole

In a stew the meat is usually diced or in pieces and is completely covered in liquid when cooking.  Casseroles are pretty much a stew cooked in the oven!  Braising is the method generally used for a single large piece of meat and the liquid normally only comes half way up the meat.   

The Meat

Happily, the best meats for stewing and braising are the cheaper cuts!  These are usually tougher or more hard-working meats such as shin of beef or lamb shanks – the gentle cooking makes them tender and luscious.

Browning the Meat - the Maillard Reaction


I wrote, a few months ago, a post on making delicious pan sauces where I gave a lot of details on Pan Searing, so please have a look.  It is an important step in making a delicious stew.

The Stew Base

Once the meat is browned and set aside the vegetables are added.  Onions are pretty well compulsory.  

Different cultures use different combinations of aromatics to create different effects.  In France the classic combination is onion, carrot and celery and it is called mirepoix.  In Italy, Spain and other Latin countries they do a similar thing, but they call it sofrito and often add garlic, fennel, parsley plus finely shredded prosciutto.  

All you need do is choose what you fancy, to compliment your main ingredient and then add them to the remaining fat in the pan after setting aside the meat.

Liquid for Stewing

Well, at a pinch water will do but we can do so much better than that! Use an appropriate stock, homemade or bought in; beef stock will work for lamb too, chicken stock is good for pork and veg stock is fine with chicken and pork. The addition of wine is  a great flavour boost, it is normal to use red with beef and lamb, white with chicken and whatever you fancy with pork but there are exceptions e.g. Coq au Vin is made of chicken and red wine.  Steak in ale is a great combination as is pork braised, or stewed, in dry cider. Again, it’s up to you.

Other Additions to your Casserole/Stew/Braise

Use whatever you like, within reason, add bacon or chorizo to chicken stews, stir a little apple sauce  into pork casserole, a spoonful of redcurrant jelly can do wonders for a lamb stew. Season to make you happy, I like lots of black pepper in most things. Black garlic  is great with beef, stir a couple of chopped cloves or a spoonful of paste in for the last half hour or cooking. Tomato paste cooked in with the vegetables, as above, adds a subtle sweetness – go for it!

To Thicken the Gravy 

Some people suggest coating the meat in seasoned flour before browning as it will help thicken the sauce.  I used to do this but have decided against it in more recent years, the reason being that the flour is easily burnt and hinders the browning of the meat.  Instead I add flour to the sautéed vegetables before adding the liquid.  If, once cooked, the gravy is too runny to just cook down a little then I would recommend (as above in the lamb recipe) the addition of …

Beurre Manie

Pin for future reference!
“Beurre Manie” means kneaded butter and is simply equal quantities of flour and soft butter mashed together to form a smooth paste. You probably only need a spoonful or so of each but if you make too much it is a useful thing to keep in the fridge.

Remove and set aside (we cooks do a lot of setting aside!) the meat.  Have your gravy at a simmer and whisk in a little of the beurre manie, bring to a boil, whisk and simmer till the sauce thickens. If you are not happy with the result repeat with a little more beurre manie till you are. If you make it too thick stir in a little more stock or water.

Turn off the heat and return the meat to the pan.  If serving soon, cover the pan to retain the heat.  If storing for later, transfer the stew to a fresh cold dish and cool completely before covering and storing in the fridge.

Ooh, I've just had an idea. Why not use a flavoured butter (e.g. garlic and parsley for chicken stew) to make your beurre manie!

Some Helpful Tips when making a Stew

~   ALWAYS get meat out of the fridge a while before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature (21°C / 70°F - ish). It will then cook more evenly and also a little faster.
~   Dry meat with a kitchen roll/paper towel before cooking, this will allow it to brown without sticking.
~   Get the pan good and hot before adding oil and then get the oil good and hot before adding the meat.
~   When browning meat ALWAYS leave plenty of room between pieces, otherwise what they will actually do is steam rather than fry and they'll end up pallid and soggy.

8 Ideas for Leftover Stew

Another useful pinnable image
(sorry to go on so!)

~   Use to sauce pasta.
~   Dilute with more stock to make a soup or, if just a little leftover, stir into a soup.
~   Stir through risotto.
~   Fill baked potatoes.
~   Eat on toast
~   Extend the stew with beans to make enough for a meal.
~   If you have enough make a pie topped with pastry or mashed potato (like Shepherd’s Pie) or bake topped with thinly sliced potato to make a hotpot.

Keep warm and dry! 

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16 January 2018

Best Before Dates - a Rant and a Good Idea

We have just been up-country, as we say in Cornwall, visiting family, having a belated Christmas dinner together (for the first time in about 20 years!) and seeing how grown and wonderful my great niece Amelia has become.  So that’s why I haven’t written for a bit.


Whilst there I picked up a leaflet from the East of England Co-op who have had a good idea. They will now sell products past their ‘Best Before’ date in their 125 food local stores for a nominal 10p.  I don’t know if they intend rolling this out to the rest of the country, but it is surely worth investigating. 

According to the leaflet …
I have read different but equally horrific figures elsewhere but however much food waste it is it’s too much!  This is something I have ranted on about for years.  In fact, at the end of my book The Leftovers Handbook I wrote …


            I really don’t want to encourage anyone to take risks with their food but would nevertheless like to moan on a bit about ‘best before’ dates. 

Whilst I am, of course, as delighted as the next person by a bargain I am also often irritated. Fruits and vegetables have sometimes not reached their ‘best after’ date when being offered as past their prime. I have bought out of date ‘ripen at home’ avocadoes that weren’t soft for weeks, I once lost a bargain white cabbage in the car when bringing in the shopping and it was still OK when I found it there ten days later (it was cold out) and I even snapped up a healthy growing basil plant with roots for 10p because it was ‘past its best before date’!

Cheese is another case in point. Bearing in mind that it was developed as a way to preserve milk and that many cheeses improve over time I was surprised last Christmas to see small gift cheddars, coated in wax, which were supposedly out of date by 9th January. Why? What would happen then? And don’t get me started on honey!

            ‘Are best before dates a cunning ruse to make nervous people throw food away and buy more?’ I ask myself cynically. According to Defra these dates indicate how long a food can be expected to retain its optimal condition and yet in my own experience many bargains have not even reached optimal condition by that date. May I therefore suggest that you rely on your own brain and your senses of smell and taste?

‘Use by’ dates are an entirely different matter as they concern food spoilage and safety and I don’t recommend you mess with them.

So, as I’ve said before …

Please, please, please learn to cook so you can use up all the food that you have available in utterly delicious ways. This is just one of my 7 Excellent Reasons to Learn to Cook. Go for it!!! 

Oh, and don't forget to pop down the Co-Op if you happen to be in the East of England!


In Other News …

A new edition of my book is to be released on 1st March.  It is now titled Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers and can be ordered here. 

I look forward to meeting it myself!

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21 December 2017

All my Ideas for Easy, Stress-free Christmas Cooking!

Over the few years I have been writing this blog I have posted all sorts of ideas on how to make catering for Christmas quicker, easier and tastier so I thought it might help if I collected all these links together in one place to help the cooks among us enjoy the festivities as much as everyone else. 

So, here are quick links to all my Christmas food ideas …

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes the Easy Way!

This post gives lots of ideas for side dishes that can be prepared in advance together with a useful timetable to get everything on the table at the same time.


How to Cook your Turkey the Day Before ~ Perfectly!

This post concerns both the turkey and the gravy.


Why Roasting your Veg for Christmas Dinner is Such a Good Idea!

Roasting vegetables ...

~ Makes them crisp and crunchy,
~ Caramelises their juice in a wonderful way,
~ Intensifies their flavour,
~ Can be seasoned with whatever you fancy – garlic or spice or whatever,
~ Brightens their colours for a fab looking meal,
~ Can be cooked alongside the meat so don’t need much last minute attention.


Scrumptious Christmas Recipes using Mincemeat

Mincemeat is not just for pies you know!


6 Easy No-Churn Christmas Ice Cream Recipes ~ for a refreshing change!

Among all the rich, heavy, wintery rib-sticking traditional Christmas desserts ice cream can be quite a refreshing relief!

For years (and years and years) I have used a gobsmackingly easy method to make lush, rich, creamy dairy ice cream without having to do all sorts of irritating things.

~ No fiddly custard making involved.
~ No ice cream machine needed.
~ No mashing of ice cream necessary whilst freezing.


The Easiest Way to Make Mulled Wine

The easiest way is to make Mulled Wine Syrup. My recipe makes 75ml which, as luck would have it is sufficient to mull one bottle of wine and 2 tbsp of syrup is enough to mull 1 standard glass of wine.


8 Hot Toddies and Warming Winter Cocktails

I’m afraid this link mentions the above mulled wine recipe too but there are seven more lovely hot winter drinks to investigate.


15 Delicious Ideas for Marzipan Trimmings

Not specifically Christmassy but useful if you’ve iced your own cake and have leftovers


So, I hope these ideas help and wish you a very ...


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13 December 2017

Scrumptious Christmas Recipes using Mincemeat

The other day whilst sorting books that had been donated to Cornwall Hospice Care  I picked up a very torn and tatty Woman’s Magazine for December 1935.  It includes an article on recipes including mincemeat so, it being out of copyright, I believe, I am going to pass these on together with some of my own ideas.

Mince Pies

Here is their recipe …

I would make a couple of changes to this; use butter instead of lard and add the finely grated zest (no white pith) to the pastry.  Also they seem to have omitted the brandy from the mincemeat!

Mincemeat Scones

It occurred to me (I’m a slow thinker) that I could make Christmassy scones using my genius scone recipe and some mincemeat.

225g/8oz self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
60g/2½oz cold butter or margarine
25g/1oz caster sugar
80g mincemeat
80ml/3 fl oz milk

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour and salt.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved (see here for how to rub in – you’ll have to scroll down a little way).
~   Stir in the sugar once you have finished rubbing in; if you add it earlier it’s uncomfortable on the hands although, of course, it does exfoliate.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, and then gently mix in the mincemeat. Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 1½cm/½” thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds. Or you could cut into squares which are easier and more economical on time: no re-rolling. They look quite good too.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking try, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 15 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack but eat while still warm topped with lashings of clotted cream if possible.

Speaking of Scones and Clotted Cream …

Christmas Cream Tea

Here’s a great idea, thanks to Rodda’s Clotted Cream people (they make gorgeous Cornish Clotted Cream); replace the jam in a cream tea with mincemeat.  Obviously, the mincemeat goes first topped by the clotted cream – see here for the scientific reasoning behind this!

Mincemeat Ice Cream

This is just one of six happily no-churn Christmas Ice Creams I have devised.

Warm Boozy Mincemeat Sauce

This is perfect for ice cream!

180g mincemeat
150g soft light brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
60ml rum or brandy

~ Gently stir together all the ingredients over low heat till amalgamated and hot. That’s it!

Mincemeat Cheesecake

See here for my basic no-cook cheesecake recipe  and where I mention “something else” add brandy or rum to the mix. Use crushed ginger biscuits instead of digestives and add a layer or two of mincemeat.

On the same page there is also a recipe for a delicious baked cheesecake recipe which would be good topped with the above sauce, but fairly cool!

Christmas Apple Crumble ~ for 3 or 4

4 medium cooking apples – preferably Bramleys
3 tbsp mincemeat
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
240g plain flour
pinch salt
160g butter
120g soft light brown sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~ Peel and slice the apples into an ovenproof dish.
~ Stir in the mincemeat and the tablespoon of sugar.
~ Rub the butter into the flour together with the pinch of salt then stir in the 120g of sugar.
~ Loosely pile this on top of the apples, level the surface, make a pattern if you feel like it and bake for about 30-40 minutes till the apples have collapsed and are tender and the top is golden brown.

Mincemeat Pinwheels

~ Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 and lightly grease a baking tray.
~ Roll puff pastry into a rectangle.
~ Spread with mincemeat.
~ Roll up the pastry from one long edge, moisten the far edge and seal the roll.
~ Slice the roll, somewhat on the diagonal is good, and lay cut side up (and down!) on the baking tray.
~ Bake till the pastry is crisp and golden – about 20 minutes.

Or try this from Woman's Magazine ...

Eccles Cakes

This looks good to me and is a great way of using up leftover  pastry scraps too!  Here are some more ideas for leftover pastry.

Mincemeat Flapjacks

180g butter
120g mincemeat
30g soft dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
250g porridge oats

~ Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325°F/140ºC fan/gas 3.
~ Grease a 20cm square (or similar) cake tin.
~ Melt together everything but the oats over low heat, stirring occasionally.
~ Stir in the oats and decant the mixture into the cake tin.
~ Bake for about 25 minutes till the top is golden.
~ Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares or bars or whatever.
~ Cool on a rack.

Mincemeat Bread and No Butter Pudding!

This is based on traditional bread and butter pudding but it enough it doesn’t contain butter other than for greasing the pan.  This means you can use random pieces of bread rather than neat slices.

100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
3 tablespoons mincemeat
180ml milk
>100ml double cream
1 tbsp brandy
2 eggs
75g caster sugar

~   Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish or divide between ramekins.
~    Stir the 3 tablespoons of marmalade to liquefy and then drizzle over the bread. Turn the bread around in it.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over pushing the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do.
~   Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~   Bake for about 40 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.
~   Sprinkle with sugar or icing sugar.

Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best.

3 Christmas Breakfast Ideas

1.  Porridge – why not stir some mincemeat (and perhaps a little brandy and cream!) into your porridge, after all it is 
Christmas.  See here for some more ideas for porridge, suitable for all year.

2.  Yogurt – as above but not sure about brandy and yogurt? Let me know if you try it!

3.  Mincemeat Pancakes

Here is another recipe in the Woman’s Magazine article:

This looks more like an American style pancake recipe to me, so either do what it says above (a gill is about 140ml) or see my post on pancakes here  where there is not only a great American style pancake recipe (scroll down a bit) but also instructions on adding things, such as mincemeat.

There are several other recipes in the magazine (one of which is no longer politically correct!) but these are the most appealing, I think.

Oh, and see here for Delia’s Mincemeat Soufflés

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