Sometimes, don’t you just love leftovers? I do. It’s so relaxing on a Sunday to rummage through your fridge and cobble together a diverse meal of disparate flavours.
Making chapattis is a chore, and you shouldn’t have to bother with them—unless of course someone makes them for you. If, like me, you hate anyone in the house on weekends, it’s a great time to have fun with leftovers. If you’re feeling creative, use those leftovers as a starting point for a new dish altogether, guaranteed to put a zing into your weekend and beyond.
I come from a family that always has leftovers. Our fridge has always had substantial quantities of food. Day before yesterday’s chicken overlaps with yesterday’s fish, which overlaps with today’s sausage, which overlaps with, er, last week’s roast mutton.
Leftovers and fresh ingredients
We don’t share the general Indian squeamishness about so-called stale food. After marriage, my wife was horrified that I ate “old” food. I argued that refrigerators were built for a purpose. I think she is now a convert—at least partially—to this sound, modern logic. Only rarely now does she stick her lower lip out and scowl over leftovers.
The great thing about leftovers is that you can have a lot of fun. That’s what I did last weekend, gathering leftover veggies, rice, kebabs and sausages and merging them into one fun, fragrant dish.
If, like me, you also do your drinking over the weekend, do consider that alcohol is a great thing to splash and sizzle in your wok when you’re cooking. Swig. Sauté. Splash. Sizzle. Swig. Stir-fry. Splash.
I did just that as I cobbled together a one-dish meal (recipe given). To round it off, I stir-fried some greens for my wife, and she put together a quick iceberg and rocket lettuce salad, dressed with our standard home-made dressing of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and pepper.
There was a lot of the rice, so I could put aside half. It’s very satisfying to wake up on a Monday and pack whatever you created. Of course, this will now be the leftover of the leftovers. So what?
Twice-as-nice Spiced Rice
2 large spring onions, chopped (use stalks as garnish)
2 carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into half-inch pieces
1 yellow pepper
1 tomato, sliced
N-inch ginger, sliced into juliennes
4 big cloves of garlic, crushed
2 or 3 leftover shami kebabs or equivalent, crumbled
200gm leftover sausage, chopped into bits
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp black onion seeds
1 black cardamom
1 tsp cumin seeds + 1 tsp red or black peppercorns, crushed to a powder together in a mortar pestle
K a grated nutmeg
K cup vodka
2 cups rice
1 litre chicken stock
3 tbsp soy sauce
Cook the rice (in case you don’t have any leftover) in the chicken stock with the carrots (I used a rice cooker) and salt. Set aside. In a non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil with the cardamom, sesame and black onion seeds. When the seeds sputter, add the garlic and cook till light brown. Add the ginger and the chopped bulbs of the spring onion. Sauté till onion is translucent. Add cumin and peppercorn powder and nutmeg. Sauté, adding vodka in sizzling dribbles, followed by the soy sauce. You can also sprinkle red-wine vinegar. Add the tomatoes and stir for a minute. Add the kebabs and sausages and then the red peppers. Add the rice and mix everything well. Taste to adjust salt. Serve hot, garnished with the spring-onion stalks.
Chop-chop Pak Choi
(Left) the Chop-chop Pak Choi, (right) Twice-as-nice Spiced Rice
1 colander full of pak choi, leaves pulled apart and cleaned
3 garlic cloves, crushed
K tsp ginger paste
1 star anise
1 flat tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp soy sauce
In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil (do not let it smoke) with the star anise and sesame seeds. When they sputter, add garlic and ginger and stir-fry quickly. Add red chilli powder and sauté with red-wine vinegar. Add the pak choi in bunches. It will reduce in volume as it cooks. Add the soy sauce and salt. When cooked, remove to a serving dish and eat immediately.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is managing editor of the Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at email@example.com