"I live in fear of the phrase "just enough". I regard just enough as nowhere near enough. Just enough means too little. It means one each. And only one each. That is plain wrong. So you cook twice what you need, and are left at the end of proceedings staring at piles of food, not with self-disgust but with the anticipation at the prospect of good meals to come."
Well after last night's birthday feast I was indeed left with a lot of leftovers. More than usual in fact, partly because the fourteen year-old grandson, who has a very healthy appetite, couldn't come, but mostly because I had cooked far too much - three main dishes - the toad in the hole above, a chicken traybake and asparagus cannelloni for our lone vegetarian. And if I am brutally honest with myself it might be that the cannelloni at least were overdone. I didn't time it all right. So I'm not necessarily looking forward to good meals to come.
I made the toad in the hole more for the grandchildren than anyone else, although I was pretty sure my sons would like it too. It was Nigel Slater's slightly fancy version as shown above, and I have to say it looked more or less like the picture - maybe even slightly better - puffier batter. However, I seriously misjudged the reaction. Yes my sons did dig in, but apparently my younger son rejected the sausage and only ate the batter. I don't think the grandchildren even tried it. Bear in mind that I had made double the quantity shown above too. Anyway I seriously misjudged and at the end of the evening I was left with a lot of sausages, and even worse, a lot of the Yorkshire pudding kind of batter.
Maybe it was the amount of wine I had drunk, but at the end of all the clearing up, my brain simply could not think what on earth to do with the leftover Yorkshire pudding part of the toad in the hole, so to my shame I threw it in the green bin. I am still castigating myself for this, even though, in spite of an internet search this morning, I could not find any tempting ideas on what to do with leftover Yorkshire pudding. Well there never is any is there?
In fact if you key in leftover Yorkshire pudding they seem to think you mean the leftover batter, not the actual pudding. The nearest, almost idea, was to turn it into a sort of pizza - but now that I look at that again all the images I see seem to be just a pizza base made with Yorkshire pudding batter. Like this, and most don't seem to think it's a good idea anyway.
Traditionally it seems the frugal Northerners would eat the leftover pudding with a dollop of jam and maybe custard the next day, which sounds rather disgusting to me. Ditto for an Instagram thing whereby you simply roll the cold leftovers in cinnamon sugar and eat. Maybe you could cut it into small pieces and fry with other leftovers - a sort of bubble and squeak concept. Blitz it into sort of breadcrumbs? But I shall never know, because I have indeed thrown it away. It's too late now. I will not retrieve it from the bin.
Sausages however are more amenable, although not an obvious leftover. You can, of course just eat them cold, or sliced in a sandwich with all sorts of other stuff, but we don't really do sandwiches in this house. Anyway I turned to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Love Your Leftovers book for some ideas - which, he has aplenty.
The first couple are sort of obvious. This is a dish that he calls Risottover, and which he describes as:
"comforting, tasty and fast! If you have leftover rice, cook the veg: if you have leftover veg, cook the rice. If you've got both, there is little to do other than combine the two."
To the rice and the vegetables which is the basic format, you can add anything else, meat, fish, bacon, even sausages.
Curiously he doesn't really do stir fries, but for Jay Rayner it's one of the obvious destinations for leftovers of many kinds.
"a stir fry of indeterminate provenance, designed to use up fragments of last night's bird, flavoured with the contents of almost every bottle in the cupboard." Jay Rayner
In this house too, but I confess that my attempts tend to be more like this assessment from Chelsea Kyle of Epicurious: "Leftovers tend to collapse into mystery mush".
But back to Hugh who has two more suggestions - probably more if I looked for more general advice - A quick cassoulet is the first and a distinct possibility because I also have some leftover chicken - not as much - and some leftover green beans. Not to mention some sun-dried tomato tapenade which would add substantial flavour. I even have tomatoes in the fridge - the truss tomatoes are relatively cheap and relatively good at the moment.
His final suggestion is one of his catch-all suggestions - and one of which I think Nigel Slater would approve, being a pastry lover - Turnovers - basically stick your filling in a small piece of pastry and make a turnover or a pasty. For the sausages he suggests combining them with potatoes and a bit of gravy - I have lots of onion gravy leftover too. But that won't be too hard to use up here and there.
The cassoulet idea however, has given me another idea. Lurking at the back of the fridge is a half open jar of sauerkraut - even home-made sauerkraut. Fry up the sliced sausages, mix with the sauerkraut, some onions, maybe even some apple and stew briefly with some stock - or that leftover gravy. No I think that's too sweet for this dish. Needs something sharper like wine, vinegar or lemon juice. The sausages, by the way, are the Coles Finest Italian pork variety which I have to say are most delicious.
Sausages are really not that difficult to use up in any number of ways - my leftovers are even without their skin - Nigel told me to remove it - so can be chopped back down into little bits for a pasta sauce, or maybe even meatballs.
"In the silted depths of a recession it would be entirely possible to structure a sturdy argument, heavy with lexicographical sinew and bone, about the moral imperative to eat leftovers. We waste too much food in Britain. We need to reduce costs. Doing otherwise is an obscenity. And so on. All of that is true, in a water-is-wet, let's-state-the-bloody-obvious sort of way. But underlying that is another far greater truth: you need to be proper greedy to do leftovers well." Jay Rayner
Well I think I am 'proper greedy' but I have already proved that I am possibly not greedy enough because of throwing away the Yorkshire pudding, and honestly I am very tempted to also throw away the cannelloni. I didn't eat this, but I do know it looked overdone and David did say the asparagus was chewy. Maybe I should do a deconstruction of the dish. The asparagus could possibly be chopped up and put in a quiche or something. The béchamel could surely be reconstituted as a sauce for something else, and the pasta?
The pasta is another problem. I used bought lasagne and the cheap home-brand kind at that. And it was not good. A bit stodgy looking. Now what could you do with that? If you cut it up into pieces would it be retrievable somehow? I don't think so really, and I did see somebody say that leftover pasta is not retrievable but she was talking about things like spaghetti, and she's wrong anyway - just heat them up in the microwave with some kind of sauce, or just some cheese and butter. So maybe that's for the bin too. Guilt, guilt, guilt.
The leftover traybaked chicken? Easy - so many options, and there's not a lot of this anyway.
Tonight I fancy quiche however, so I am going to use some of those sausages, and maybe some the asparagus and the beans. I shall not be using all of the sausages - there are too many - so there will still be an opportunity to do something fancier with them. There will be leftover quiche as well, but that's sort of deliberate because David likes quiche on Mondays when I'm fasting.
"Such a dish is always in my experience, made more scrumptious by the knowledge of its unpromising beginning." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
It's a race against time though - can I use it all up before it goes off?
Lessons learnt. First of all, one that I never seem to learn - 'never assume' - in this case that children - well young people - will eat sausages whatever you do to them. Indeed they will love sausages. Lesson two - also one I don't seem to be able to learn - don't over cater. This one is more easily explained though - fear of not having enough. Finally and more seriously - watch the food cooking and adjust timing, temperature, whatever, accordingly.
They all liked the chicken though.
I should, however, give a big thumbs up to the star of the evening - the birthday cake, which may not look that professionally glamorous, but it was truly delicious. Quite possibly the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever tasted. Made by my granddaughters, so maybe I should resign.
There was just one slice left, and also to my shame, we did not send it home to the grandson who couldn't come. So I hope he won his important soccer game.