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We’ve all had that problem, right? Sitting in the fridge is a small plate of roast vegetables, takeaway curry, or pasta. But what should you do about it? It’s not big enough for a meal and not even really big enough for a snack, or it’s too big for a snack.
Well, there are heaps of things you can do! Browsing the shelves of bookshops, libraries, and my own cookbook collection, there are heaps of ways to transform leftovers. But I thought I’d give a few of my own solutions to the problem that I’ve learnt over time.
One I just experimented with recently was couscous, but this was for an entirely different reason — I hadn’t made enough food! I’d roasted up some vegetables — potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, capsicum — but it just didn’t look like enough. Panic sets in: what to do? My first thought was pasta! Let’s have a pasta salad. But then we had pasta last night and the night before that. Our stores are running dangerously low. And with that, pasta was out. I had a rummage in our pantry, to the containers that we used less often. And aha! Couscous!
Now, couscous gets a bad rap — lots of people think it’s just gross and doesn’t taste nice, but here’s how you can transform it! Generally you cook it in either water or stock. Now, stock can be expensive and if you’re vegetarian or catering for one, you can be limited. That’s when you can use packet soups! Not those cup o’ soups, but the proper ones that make about a litre. My friend’s mother introduced me to this and I’ve never looked back.
Basically you pretend you’re making couscous as normal: boiling water then adding your couscous, but when you’re boiling the water you add the soup mix. Obviously, if you’re making less that a litre and the soup makes a litre, don’t add all of it. Instead save the rest for another soup or future couscous-making endeavour. Then add your couscous and cook as normal (I tend to also add different spices — such as paprika, chili, or different herbs such as rosemary, oregano, etc.). When the couscous is finished add your vegetables, your cooked meat, and serve hot or cold. Voila!
Another trick I use is pastry. Now, most of us don’t have time to make pastry, but you can always keep frozen sheets in the freezer. It’s fantastic as they’re flat and thin so don’t take up much space at all. Simply take it out of the freezer, defrost a sheet or two, and then make mini-pastries (empanadas, Cornish pastries), pies, or tarts.
You can make mini-pies/open tarts in a greased muffin tin, large ones in a cake tin (make sure it’s a springform or loose-bottomed tin, so you can get the tart out), or just make a free-form tart on a tray. Just place your fillings in, brush exposed pastry with egg or milk, and bake! An easy way to transform anything — and if you make mini ones you can have them as snacks for lunch/brunch and freeze them. You can do this with pasta or rice dishes too — sounds weird but it tastes good.
These ideas should give you a really good idea of what you can do with unwanted leftovers, so get going and happy cooking!