The joy of cooking with leftovers
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I roasted a chicken recently. Nothing new there, of course, I roast chicken most weeks and it makes for a perfectly enjoyable, if not particularly memorable, mid-week meal. But that one was special because of what happened to its leftovers. The following day, instead of looking in the fridge and seeing a half-eaten bird, closing the fridge and moaning that there was nothing to eat, I made something that I remember vividly. I made a “Fricassée” with the leftover meat and a few unpromising vegetables. I used the gravy from the roast to enrich the sauce and as a final flourish threw in some fresh green herbs. It was delicious.
The joy of great leftover cooking is not just the fact that you’re not wasting food or the relief, at the end of a busy working day, of knowing that dinner is almost made. The real satisfaction comes from using the remains of a meal to create a completely different, sometimes an even more enjoyable, one. For some, leftovers are the whole point of cooking. Food writer Jay Rayner wrote recently in his book, The Ten (Food) Commandments, “Leftovers are why you embark on a major cooking exercise in the first place. Leftovers force you to think creatively, to fashion greatness from the mundane. When cooking with excess, one recipe leads to another in a game of gastronomic tag. Start thinking like this, and the food you put on the table for lunch or dinner is not the end of the process. It’s just the beginning.”
Today’s frittata fits into this category. Aloo Gobhi has always been one of my favourite comfort foods—I never tire of it. Then recently, on a whim, I wondered what it would be like cooked with eggs. The answer is, absolutely delicious and an example of a perfect leftover dish—unpromising-looking ingredients given a new lease of life with very little effort. The frittata is packed with flavour, the seasoning and spicing having already been done in the original dish. But it is so different from the original dish that even the most leftover-resistant diners won’t feel as if they are eating the same food twice. It has been such a lovely discovery that these days when I make aloo gobhi I always deliberately make too much and try to dissuade the family from eating it so that I can be sure of having enough leftover for frittata.
I know that Indian kitchens have traditionally operated on an andaaz/hisaab, waste not want not, system, managing quantities precisely so as not to have too much food left over. But if ever you were going to break the rules and “accidentally” make too much of something, it should be to try this frittata.
Serves 2-3 (though not if you want to make frittata!)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Half tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
Half tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1 tsp coriander powder
Half tsp turmeric powder
Half tsp salt
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
Fresh coriander to garnish
Heat the oil in a large pan or karahi and add the cumin seeds. Let them cook for a couple of minutes, then add the onions and ginger. Cook until the onions are just starting to turn brown. Add the coriander, turmeric and chilli powders and salt. Stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and potatoes, stir well to coat with spices, then add about 150ml water, put a lid on the pan and cook until the vegetables are tender.
Aloo Gobhi Frittata
Half tsp salt
500g cold leftover aloo gobhi
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (optional, but a nice touch)
2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh coriander to serve
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt, then add the aloo gobhi and tomatoes. Give it all a good stir.
Preheat the grill. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, pour in the egg mixture and leave to cook until the bottom is lightly browned but the top is still a little runny. Then, transfer the pan to the grill and cook until the top is also browned and the egg is cooked all the way through.
Serve hot, warm or cold, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Delicious with your favourite bread and pickle.
The Way We Eat Now is a fortnightly column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains. Pamela Timms tweets at @eatanddust and posts on Instagram as Eatanddust.