11 March 2018

7 Leftovers You Should Never Throw Away

Leftover food is often thought of as just the unwanted remains of a meal but to me there are seven specific types of leftover, all of which are very much wanted.

The Seven Types of Leftovers  …

remains of a meal

1.   The remains of a made-up dish or the last few scraps of ingredient which are surplus to the requirements of a recipe. I think this is what most people think of as leftovers.

leftover egg yolk 

2.   By-products of cooking for instance egg yolks after making meringues, bacon fat or the rind of a Parmesan cheese.

salted peanuts
3.   Something forgotten you find lurking in the back of the cupboard or fridge such as the tail end of a jar of mayonnaise or half a packet of peanuts.


4.   Too much of something having been over enthusiastic when picking blackberries or due to two-for-one offers, for instance.

chocolate squares

5.   A very small amount of something you wish you had more of e.g. three squares of chocolate and four friends.

broken biscuits

6.   Accidents – for instance what to do with the result of having sat on a packet of biscuits.

steak trimmings

7.   Collections – it is a good idea when you have just a little of something to make a collection in your freezer of similar little bits (say a collection of fish scraps, or a bread crusts, or beef trimming) until you have enough to make something delicious. Read more about collecting leftover food here

Read more here.

In my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, which is an A-Z of potential leftovers with recipes and ideas for using them I address all these possibilities giving, for instance, 14 ways to use bacon fat or 18 things to do with bread crusts. Bearing in mind that I deal with 450 possible leftovers that is a lot of ideas, recipe and suggestions!

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9 March 2018

Do You Know How Easy it is to Make Burgers & Why You Should?

I'm going through all my old posts and updating the images, SEO etc. and was reading an earlier post on Michael Pollan’s excellent book Food Rules.  In it I mention how strange it is that people would rather buy a burger from MacDonalds or similar than make one.  I thought I’d extrapolate on this (Madam!).

Do you know how easy it is to make a burger? 

If not this is what you do …

~   Get some fresh but not too lean minced beef – you want your burger to be juicy.
~   Divide it into portions the size you would like your burgers but treat the meat gently as overworking it will toughen them. I have always made 225g/8oz burgers both at home for my real man and when cooking professionally. Allow me to go off on a small tangent here ...

typical bought in burger

According to McDonalds themselves their cooked beef patties in a Big Mac weigh approximately 66g/2.3 ounces each so that’s a little under 4.6g/5oz. Even allowing for shrinkage you can do way better than that! Anyhoo …

~   Heat a frying pan and grease lightly. ~   Season your burgers on both sides with salt and black pepper. The salt is important because not only does make the burger tasty it helps form a good crust on the meat.
~   Cook your burger till perfect by browning over medium high heat according to the timings below on the first side without disturbing it. Flip onto the second side and finish cooking. Times may vary a little according to the thickness of the burgers.
Rare – 3 minutes per side, feels soft and juicy.
Medium – 4 minutes per side, feels springy.
Well Done –  5 minutes per side, feels firm.
~   If you top your burger with something eg. bacon, cheese etc. cover the pan briefly to heat and melt the topping or, better really if you can,  pop the topped burger into a hot oven or under a hot grill for just a minute to heat briefly.
~   Serve with a burger bun (toasted or not to your taste) with whatever you fancy eg. mayonnaise, bbq sauce etc. plus real cheese, bacon, onions and so on.

Do you want a dimple in the bottom?

~   They do say you should make a small depression in the burger on one side which, apparently, helps the burger cook evenly and stay flat.  I have never done this and always been happy with my burgers but you could give it a try.

6 important points when making burgers …

~   DON'T crowd the pan; if cooking more than one burger there must be space between them or they will steam rather than fry.
~   DON'T press or flatten burgers during cooking because this squeezes out the juices, compresses the meats and really irritates me!
~   If the meat seems stuck to the pan when you want to turn it wait a little while; once a good crust has formed it will release itself .
~   Only flip once.
~   Don't cut into the burger to see if it is done at this releases yummy juices.
~   As with all meat set aside to rest in a warm place for a few minutes before serving.

homemade cheeseburger

5 Reasons Why You Should Make your Own Burgers

pros and cons of making homemade burgers pinterest image
Please pin this and spread the word!
 You will save money

Big Mac (just an example - other burger suppliers are available!)
£.3.19  comprising 132g ground beef (possibly and possibly not with additives), one white bun, some lettuce, a slice of processed cheese (or cheese product to be exact i.e. not real cheese).
or ...
Homemade Burger
£1.80 approx comprising 225g ground beef, 2 rashers back bacon, a generous portion of lovely mature Cornish cheddar, a spoonful of freshly fried red onions, lettuce and baby plum tomatoes, white burger bun.

~   You will save time

As I mentioned above, if you have the ingredients, making a burger at home is so much quicker it takes about 10 minutes from taking the meat out of the packet (although longer if you also do chips).  The alternative is driving to, parking outside and queuing in a take away and then driving home. Not only that, your food is fresh from the stove so in prime condition

~   You can eat “cleanly”

Even if bought in foods don’t contain any chemicals, e-numbers,  etc. they may still be high in salt, sugar and/or fat.  When you make your own you know exactly what is in your food.

~   You can Personalise your Burger

Season to taste i.e. your taste or perfect for whoever you are making it for . Make your perfect burger with whatever seasonings or additions you fancy; spices, garlic, smoked salt, bits of crunchy bacon etc.

~   Be happy – I haven’t looked into it much but have read that eating fast food can make people depressed and not just because it is not quite what they wanted!

So ~ your choice …

This is just one example of why you should cook your own food – it is real and fresh, can be made exactly as you like it and is also cheaper. Go for it!

Speaking of books ...

A new edition of my leftovers cookbook, giving recipes, ideas, storage instructions, handy hints, food pairings and cook's treats for 450 different potential leftover foods is now out – Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, read more here.

if you love your leftovers this is the book for you!

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1 March 2018

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

Five years ago my book, The Leftovers Handbook, was published and I was so excited. 

seriously useful book on cooking leftovers

Today a new edition is out.  It is now called …

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

… and I haven’t met it yet!  But I’m still excited.
leftovers are inspiring ingredients pinterest image

Basically, the book contains every recipe, idea, handy, hint and cook’s treat I could think of for 450 potential leftovers.  For each food listed I give advice on storage and also food pairing ideas, i.e. what goes with what so that, hopefully, two or three leftovers can be used up in one dish.

At the end of the book is a chapter of basic recipes such as soup, risotto, frittatas, a useful flexible dough etc.  There is also a chapter on what to keep in the store cupboard and a short rant on Best Before Dates!

As I say in the intro …

I wrote this book out of sheer irritation!

I lived and worked as a chef for many years on a small island in the Caribbean where supplies were limited, erratic and even occasionally non-existent. This was particularly tricky when running the kitchens of expensive, tourist ridden, restaurants.

I was already quite good at avoiding waste but this time in the tropics taught me to make the most of every single scrap of food available.  

On returning to England and seeing so much good food being thrown away I decided to tell people what to do with it, so to speak!

… and …

creative ways to use up leftovers, introduction quote

And I mean it!

I keep all my leftovers and then, when it is time to prepare lunch (suddenly, obviously) or dinner, I peruse what’s leftover in the fridge and get inspired, I rarely let myself down.

What’s Changed?

Well the cover, the title and the layout and, best of all, the price! Down from £12.99 to £8.10 (at the moment, at least) on Amazon. Apart from that (and the fact that the irritating clipart has been removed!) it is much the same as the original.

Reviews of Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

As Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers is, essentially, the same as the original, The Leftovers Handbook, here are a few reviews to let you get an idea of what sort of book it is.

“Cookery books are really very boring, but this one definitely isn't!”
“This book isn't just useful, it's very funny, interesting and educational, and I'm ashamed to say I have been reading it at bedtime while gnawing on tarted up scraps.”
“I'm really enjoying reading this book. It's not just a guide to ‘what to do with your leftovers’ but is a fun and informative read. It's had me laughing on several occasions, thus feeding the soul as well as filling the stomach. It's packed full of useful tips and ideas and covers an astonishing array of foodstuffs. I'm really looking forward to trying out some of the recipes.”
“Really useful! I love this book. In addition to being clearly set out in alphabetical order and having good ideas for using up a huge range of food, it has tips for cooking and for each ingredient a list of things that go well with it. I have used it a lot since I got it.”
“I find myself referring to my copy constantly, so it now lives permanently beside the cooker. A great resource that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.”

It’s OK, don't panic, I’m not going to quote them all, but you get the gist.

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19 February 2018

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers Safely ~ 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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