Reading Jay Rayner’s article on the art of leftovers in the Observer Food Monthly, I find myself nodding in agreement with his enthusiasm for creating a new dish out of last night’s dinner or the remains of my fruit and veg drawer.
Almost all proper leftovers require a hot pan, and a knob of fizzing butter… or a well-seasoned wok, thin egg noodles, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and the brisk slap of chilli. Think leftover potato and cabbage, crusting up nicely in a nimbus of frothy butter for bubble and squeak… or 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.
Rather than seeing leftovers as bad planning, Rayner encourages his readers to over cater on purpose. Although dishes that use leftovers can be slightly mongrel in appearance and “less virtuous than the dish which begat them,” the imagination and spontaneity a cook uses to ressurect leftovers can often result in a moment of genius.
One thing Rayner fails to mention however, is that it is really hard to over cater and then not over eat. I live in a shared house, and all too often the smell of food bubbling on the hob will bring my housemates out of the woodwork. It is not uncommon for me to be cooking ‘for one’ (over catering of course) and then find myself serving seven hungry mouths round the table. Of course, sharing food is one of the joys of cooking – but sharing makes leftovers more difficult… I feel a bit tight siphoning off food to hide away in a tupperware, just so I have something left for the day after. Perhaps I should start over-overcatering?…
If you can manage to resist warm, fresh risotto, here is one of my favourite recipes for the leftovers:
Arancini: crispy fried cheesy rice balls
Left over mushroom risotto (about enough for 3-4 people)
200g crimini or other flavourful mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 balls buffalo Mozzarella, cubed
3 tbsp Plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
250g fresh white breadcrumbs
1.5 litres sunflower oil, for frying
Fry the crimini mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Once cool, stir mushrooms with parsley and mozzarella. This is your filling for the arancini.
With wet hands, take a heaped tablespoonful of the risotto and flatten into the palm of your hand. Put a teaspoonful of the Mozzarella mixture in the middle, and mould the rice around it to form a ball. Seal the ball completely so no cheese escapes whilst frying – don’t be too greedy and overfill them. Roll each arancini in flour, shake off the excess flour, then dip each ball in beaten egg and coat in the breadcrumbs. When all your arancini are ready, heat the oil until a bread cube turns golden in 20 seconds. Fry the arancini, in batches, until crisp and golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper.
I can guarantee you there will be no leftovers.