Love your Leftovers!

Blue Cheese

Tangy, ripe and deeply savoury there is no doubt that it is an acquired taste, but there is no denying its ability to pep up sauces, add depth to pizza and pasta and even makes a delicious savoury custard.

If you find that you have blue cheese of any description loitering in your fridge, whip it out and create something delicious for this is one left over ingredient that is just too good to waste.

Creamy Blue Custard

Don’t be put off by the name of this recipe; it is absolutely delicious especially when served with hunks of freshly baked bread and crunch salad

Serves 8-10

100g  full fat milk
250g stilton or other blue cheese
100g egg yolks
500 ml double  cream

1 tbsp honey

¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste

Butter for ramekin dishes

To serve
Walnuts, rustic salad, hunks of bread

1 Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark

Butter the ramekin dishes

  1. In a food blender blitz together the milk, honey, nutmeg, blue cheese and egg yolks until smooth. Mix in the cream and season to taste.
  2.  Pour into buttered individual ramekin dishes and bake in a bain marie* for about 20 minutes. (*Simply sit your ramekin dishes in a tray of water in the oven)

4 Sprinkle with roughly with chopped walnuts and serve with lots of salad and crusty bread.

 

For a super quick salad dressing simply combine 100ml double cream
100g gorgonzola or other soft blue cheese and generous pinch of  flaked sea salt in a food processor and blitz. This sauce can also be used in pasta I love to toss broken walnuts and toasted pine nuts through cooked pasta before stirring this sauce through: simple, quick and delicious!

 

Or for cheese on toast with a difference simply crumble blue cheese over toasted bread (bagels are fabulous for this). Drizzle with honey and then grill until the cheese begins to melt. This works with most blue cheeses whether hard or soft, especially gorgonzola, roquefort, cambozola, stilton and dolcelatte.

Bon appétit!


Bread

Of all the foods that we waste I can’t help thinking that the waste of bread is amongst the most sinful. Yes, that leftover bit of French stick might be as tough as concrete and the last few slices of white sliced a little dried out; but it is still a very versatile ingredient that appeals to my frugal mind.  So before you sling out that left-over bread consider making your own bread crumbs or why not make a classic bread pudding?

Classic British Bread pudding

This classic pudding seems to have rather fallen out of fashion in recent years, but in my opinion its stodginess can be forgiven in light of its heritage, frugality and moist deliciousness. It can be eaten cold or is simply divine when served warm as a pudding with lashings  of cream or custard

Ingredients:
1 loaf of stale bread (white works best)
300ml full-fat milk
300g dried mixed fruit (I used a mixture of currants, raisins, cherries and sultanas)
50g mixed peel
1 sweet eating apple, grated (include the skin)
3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
2 tbsp plum or damson jam
40g self-raising flour
2 eggs
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
100g butter, melted
Demerara sugar, to sprinkle over
double cream or thick custard (for serving)

Pre-heat the oven to 170C / gas mark 3.

Grease and line a square cake (28 x 20 cm) tin.

Firstly, you need to slice up the bread, including the crusts. Break up the bread into small pieces and soak in the milk until softened.

Once the milk has been absorbed (which will take about 10 minutes and may need you to push the bread down into the milk), beat well with a fork. The bread and crusts will break down and combine with the milk, forming a creamy milk sop.

Stir in the grated apple, then the rest of the ingredients and half of the melted butter. Beat well together until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

Pour the rest of the melted butter evenly over the surface. (Use a pastry brush to ensure that it is all coated.)

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 1¼ to 1½ hours.

When baked, sprinkle over a little Demerara sugar and serve warm with double cream or custard.

Alternatively allow to cool, and cut into squares and devour as a dense fruit cake.


Celery

As the cold chill leaves the air and the skies hold the promise of balmier days we tend to pack away the slow cooker and thoughts of comfort food and start craving healthier, lighter foods such as salads. When we fancy a salad for dinner we tend to grab every item in the salad aisle and many of these items can then sadly languish in our fridges is celery.

Celery is usually sold as a whole bulb and once you’ve taken away a stick or two for your impromptu salad, there’s a lot left to play with. Whilst delicious in salads or served with dips, once cooked, celery proves an invaluable ingredient. It’s a great base vegetable for lots of dishes – once sweated until soft, its peppery taste can add a real savoury depth and makes it a great ingredient for stock.

Buying and storing

Look for firm and tight celery with even stalks and leaves that look fresh. Make sure you wash it well and pat dry. Celery is really robust and often lasts for several weeks, although I recommend consuming it within two.

Celery and Fennel Salad

This is a great and tasty quick fix salad that is ready in minutes and will use up that left over celery that is loitering in your fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
  • Celery stalks
  • 3-4 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

 

Method

Very finely slice the fennel bulbs lengthways (a mandolin makes this easier, but watch your fingers!). Cut the celery stalks into thin matchsticks. Scatter the fennel and celery on a large plate or platter, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Scatter any fennel fronds and celery leaves over if you have them and top with the thyme leaves.

Celery Gratin -A great Veggie Main or Side Dish

This dish is a creamy delight that really showcases celery!

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery heads, trimmed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100g breadcrumbs  (stale)
  • 50g chopped walnut
  • 75ml white wine
  • 250ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 100ml double cream
  • 25g grated Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese

 

Method:

Cut any thick celery stalks in half, trim all of it into 1 inch lengths, then wash and drain. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy-based frying pan, and then add the celery, onion and bay leaves. Season well, cover, and then cook over a medium heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the onions burning.

Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs. Melt the remaining butter in a separate pan, then toss in the crumbs and walnuts, stirring often until lightly golden and toasted. Set aside.

Heat your grill to medium.

When the celery is tender, turn the heat right up, then pour in the wine and stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Pour in the cream, then reduce for a final few minutes (over a moderate heat) until you have a syrupy sauce. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste before tipping into an ovenproof dish. Scatter with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan then grill for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce bubbles.


Cottage Pie

There’s nothing as warming or hearty as a good cottage pie. It’s a recipe that lends itself to be improvised and is always satisfying to make and of course eat.

When it comes to Shepherds pie vs Cottage pie I think we can all agree that it makes logical sense, for the first to refer a dish made with lamb, and that by long custom, the second has come to suggest beef, but it seems both of these dishes appear in print with allsorts of variations of ingredients, but essentially they always produce a meat pie that that is swathed in a rich gravy and entombed beneath a thick layer of mashed potato.

From a food history point of view Shepherd’s pie appears to have been quite the new kid on the block in the battle between Cottager and Shepherd, making its print debut in the late 19th century, while that great chronicler of the inconsequential, Parson Woodforde makes reference to a Cottage Pye made with beef in his diary of 1791.

When it comes to making a traditional cottage pie you can forget about popping to the butchers and asking for a 1lb of best beef mince, for originally, cottage pie was a way of stretching out the Sunday roast leftovers. It’s well worth enjoying a joint of roast beef for your Sunday dinner, for not only will you be able to enjoy cold cuts for sandwiches and salads, but you’ll be able to make a warm and comforting cottage pie for when you get home on a miserable Monday.

Top Tip

We tend to think that Cottage Pie should be made with minced beef and this is down to a misinterpretation of old recipes; originally in English cookery ‘mincing’ , meant to chop something with a knife. So no more grey, watery mince we want gratifyingly chopped pieces of beef. We don’t want to go for hunks, just nice pea sized morsels.

When it comes to Mash

A smooth mash partners better with the meat filling, so it is a must to peel those spuds! Keep the mash plain and smooth, just some simple seasoning is enough, there is no need to lavish it in cheese or Mediterranean seasoning.

Perfect Cottage Pie Recipe

1kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled
150g butter
Knob of beef dripping
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
600g cold leftover beef, chopped into small pieces
350ml good quality beef stock
1 tsp corn flour

2 tbsp red wine
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or mushroom ketchup

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Cut your potatoes into evenly sized chunks, and put in a large pan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
  • Meanwhile, heat the dripping, in a pan over a moderate heat, then add the vegetables. Soften, but do not brown.
  • Add the thyme, and then the beef. Brown it all over, and then add half the stock. Whisk the remaining stock with the corn flour, and then stir into the meat mixture.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine and allow to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and mash with a generous knob of butter. Season to taste. (Do not be tempted to add milk to your mash as if the mash becomes too moist or rich it will ‘melt’ into the gravy laden filling underneath.)
  • Taste and season the meat, adding more Worcestershire sauce or wine if necessary. If it looks dry, pour in a little water.
  • Put the meat into a large oven-proof baking dish and top with the potato. For a nice crispy top, run a fork over the top. Dot with small pieces of butter.
  • Put into the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the potato is crisp and slightly brown, then serve.

Bon appétit! The good old fashioned classics really do make the best of leftovers!


Cream Cheese

Fresh dairy products are one of the main offenders when it comes to ingredients creeping past their best condition and they are considered a high risk food so you want to get that versatile half eaten  tub of cream cheese out of your fridge and into cooking action as soon as possible.

Cream cheese is a fairly robust fridge product, but it won’t last forever and one opened those last few dollops can go from pure creamy delight to something altogether fungal in a very short space of time.

A note on storing cream cheese:

Cream cheese should be used as soon as possible once the seal has been broken. It will last around a week and a half, but it’s best to use it as soon as possible. The most obvious sign of spoilage is mould, however other pointers are a sour smell, grey or yellow tinges or a slimy, watery texture.

You can add cream sauce to sauces or stir it through mashed potatoes but it makes a great addition to an omelette and transforms the ordinary to the extraordinary.

 

Seren’s Heavenly Omelette

Fantastic as a quick meal fix and delightful with a glass of something sparkling

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons, fresh minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh. Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 150g plain cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Knob of butter

 

Method

  1. in a large non-stick frying pan , heat oil over medium-high heat and add the butter.
  2. Whisk the eggs, half the cream cheese, chives, parsley milk , salt and pepper in a bowl
  3. Add egg mixture to pan ( the mixture should set immediately at edges).
  4. As eggs set, push cooked edges toward the centre, letting uncooked portion flow underneath.
  5. When the eggs are set, dollop the remaining cream cheese on one side; fold the other side over filling.
  6. Slide omelette onto a plate; enjoy with a crisp green salad

Bon appétit !


Bubble and Squeak

Sometimes it’s the simple food that is the most rewarding both to cook and eat. I love a plate of good old fashioned bubble and squeak and if I’m in the mood for a bit of luxury I’ll top it with a pool of butter and a poached hens egg.

This recipe for bubble and squeak is a great way to use up all those left over veggies from a good roast dinner and if you want to dress it up a little top it with smoked salmon and crème fraiche before serving…just the ticket with a glass of something sparkling, after all even leftovers can be decadent!

Ingredients:

250g left over roast potatoes (or a mix of roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips), roughly chopped
125g cooked, leftover,  Brussels sprouts
generous knob of butter
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp  plain flour
Vegetable oil, to fry

Salt and pepper for seasoning

 

Method:

Put the potatoes or root vegetable mixture in a large bowl or saucepan and mash them roughly. Shred the Brussels sprouts and mix them with the potato.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the spring onions. Fry for a couple of minutes ­until softened, but not browned and then tip them into the potato mixture. Season well.

Dust your hands with flour, then shape the mixture into four small, ­flattish cakes.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes to ensure that the cake hold together well when fried.

Remove the chilled cakes from the fridge and dust them lightly with flour. Pour enough oil into your frying pan to just coat the bottom. Put on a medium-high heat to warm, then add the cakes.

 

Fry for about three minutes on each side, so they develop a golden crust, then divide between plates and top with either a pouched egg, some fried bacon or a generous dollop of crème fraiche and some smoked salmon.   Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Rescue those on the turn veggies!

If you have a selection of peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, aubergine and onions – or you have any combination of these past their best, there is no need to turf them out as food waste instead  you can cook them into a ratatouille or pasta sauce. Or, why not make them into a healthy lunchbox salad and save even more money.

Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable and Pasta Salad

My recipe for Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable and Pasta Salad takes only minutes’ preparation and the vegetables cook slowly in the oven, caramelising a little to add extra sweetness. Absolutely delicious as a healthy lunchtime treat or add feta cheese to make it a main dish.

To serve 4 as a lunchbox salad

Ingredients:

  • 400g mixed vegetables (courgettes, peppers, mushrooms, onions, aubergine etc)
  • 200g farfalle pasta
  • 4 tablespoons soft cheese
  • 1tsp crushed garlic
  • 100g washed baby spinach leaf
  • 50g black olives (pitted and halved)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180◦c , fan 160◦c, gas mark 4

  1. Check your vegetables over and remove any mouldy or bad parts. Wash the vegetables and then cut into bite sized chunks and slices
  2. . Combine the vegetables and place in a shallow roasting dish.
  3. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle the sauce over the mixed vegetables and toss to coat.
  5. Roast vegetables until tender, which should take about 45 minutes. Stir halfway through the cooking time to ensure even cooking and prevent sticking.
  6. meanwhile cook the pasta according to the pack instructions, drain the pasta into a colander and run under cold water until cool, return to the saucepan.
  7. add the cooked vegetables to the cooled pasta and then stir in the cream cheese.
  8. leave to cool completely
  9. Stir in the baby spinach leaves and olives
  10. Divide into small airtight containers to take to lunch
  11. refrigerate until required

 

Top tip:  to make a more substantial meal you can add cubed feta, mozzarella, goat’s cheese, ham, cooked chicken, poached salmon or salami to this dish