As a chef for over thirty years on three continents, I learned a great deal about adapting, using up, and making something out of nothing. I found it’s possible that, with a little imagination, and not a lot of money, you can eat really well, by just using bits and pieces of food in the cupboard.
That’s the reason why I wrote The Leftovers Handbook: An A-Z Of Every Conceivable Ingredient In Your Kitchen With Inspirational Ideas And Recipes For Using Them. In it, I list over 450 possible leftover ingredients with all the interesting and creative ideas I can think of for getting the best out of them. Some of the most popular recipes in the book feature one of my favorite ingredients – bacon, and runner-ups, chocolate and cheese.
34 Ideas for Leftover Bacon
Living in the UK, I am amazed at the blatant food waste that now seems to be rife in the country; amazed and irritated, so much so, in fact, that I started a blog called, Sudden Lunch! ~ spontaneous eating from store cupboard and leftovers ~ as an attempt to show people that there is an alternative to throwing food away.
Bacon represents an excellent example. At the risk of being unpatriotic, I must say that American bacon is wonderful; it’s much better than ours! It is so sweet and salty and crisp. It stands to reason that not a morsel of this delicious stuff must be wasted. In The Leftovers Handbook, I list 34 ideas for leftover bacon, bacon scraps and bacon grease. I am pleased with them all, of course, particularly sprinkling crunchy pieces of bacon onto vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup. The book also features recipes for maple glazed bacon, caramelized bacon, warm bacon dressing, and much much more. My favorite, though, is something I use a lot… bacon salt.
1 lone slice of bacon 1 tsp. of crunchy sea salt ~ Preheat the oven to 375ºF or so. ~ Cook the bacon till it seems to have gone too far and looks horrible! ~ Pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside to cool and go hard. ~ Break into pieces and crush together with the salt in a mortar and pestle. ~ Store in a sealed jar in the fridge and sprinkle on eggs, fish, tomatoes, popcorn… anything really!
If you’re like me, bacon isn’t your only guilty pleasure. I am also a huge fan of anything with chocolate or cheese. This is why my book features plenty of recipes with these terrific foods as the main ingredient. Here are two favorites.
Bits of Decadent Chili Chocolate and Cheese
My book includes ten recipes for leftover chocolate, including the following recipe which is particularly good with chili chocolate such as that made by Lindt.
(per person) 1 oz. leftover bittersweet chocolate 1 flour tortilla (plain!) 1/2 oz. butter ~ Coarsely chop the chili chocolate and sprinkle over half of the tortilla. ~ Fold in two, pressing down firmly so that no chocolate can escape. ~ Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. ~ Gently fry the quesadilla in the butter until crisp and golden on the outside and lovely and gooey in the middle. Enjoy!
Homemade Vegetarian Sausages Made from Cheddar Cheese
Here is a recipe for a traditional frugal dish from Wales where it is often made with Caerphilly, a crumbly somewhat feta-like cheese, but whatever strongly flavoured leftover hard cheese, such as sharp cheddar, will work.
(for 2 people) 4 oz. soft breadcrumbs 3-1/2 oz. grated cheese 3 oz. finely chopped leek softened in a little butter for a minute or two 1 egg yolk a pinch of mustard powder salt and pepper another egg – beaten and set aside more breadcrumbs OR…Even better, if you can get them, panko crumbs (Japanese/Welsh fusion!) ~ Mix everything together. ~ Taste and season, then form into 6 small sausages. ~ Dip in the beaten egg, coat in the crumbs and shallow fry until hot, crisp and golden. Serve for breakfast with eggs and bacon, or for lunch with a tomato salad. A (not particularly Welsh) spicy tomato sauce goes well, too!
Freezer Collections and More
In addition to suggestions and recipes, I have included guidance on storage, a rant about ‘best before’ dates and suggest food pairing ideas, so that if you have two leftovers at the same time, you can check if they might work together. There is a chapter on what to keep in the cupboard so that cooking can be spontaneous, and another one on flexible basic recipes, which can be used for all sorts of bits and pieces.
One good idea to avoid wasting food is to start Freezer Collections. These are a great way of saving up trimmings and scraps until there are enough to make something good. I always have separate meat, fish and bread collections. The Leftovers Handbook has been written in English English, I’m afraid, and with all that goes with that, including the occasional oddity such as Mushy Peas or Haggis. But food is international, as are leftovers, and if readers from around the world are as irritating as us Brits, you might find my book useful!
The Leftovers Handbook is available at Amazon, and also in the WeHateToWaste Store.