Embracing Leftovers

Embrace the idea of leftovers by taking them as valuable portions of food that can be saved, deliciously altered and reused rather than thrown away or left to deteriorate. If taken seriously, leftovers could safe you unnecessary stress, time and money. Here are some reasons why leftovers should be valued:

  • Leftovers allow you to be creative in preparing food without additional cost. You can turn leftover vegetables into delicious sauces or use leftover fruit to garnish sweet dishes or include in cakes. Mixing and matching leftover food can also give you creative combinations you never thought of before.
  • Leftovers help you fix some cooking mishaps, such as diluting an over-salted or spiced-up sauce with some of yesterday’s double cream, or thickening a watery soup with leftover bread.
  • Leftovers are also a healthy quick fix for kids’ school lunchboxes. Rather than the usual emergency cheese-and-toast sandwich on those busy mornings, leftovers can ensure your kids have a healthier lunch. The same can go for you at work. Without a doubt, eating a leftover dish at work is healthier and cheaper than ordering a SR 30+ delivery salad or sandwich loaded with fatty sauces and salt.  
  • Whenever you have a special dinner party and end up with too much leftover pastries, desserts, chocolates and juice, do not panic and whine over the costs. Instead, freeze the remaining food or make that long-due invite to your neighbors or friends the following day for tea. This way, you put the leftovers to good use as well as return the invitation with minimum cost and effort since you do not have to prepare for the invitation from scratch.
  • Leftovers help you cater for people with different dietary requirements (either due to health reasons or following a new diet trend). It also helps when a family member may be eating at different times due to having conflicting schedules. So even the smallest batch of leftover food is worth saving. In fact, freezing and defrosting food in smaller batches is quicker and easier.

After exploring the importance of valuing leftovers, learn some tips on how to utilize them in cooking up delicious savouries, snacks, and desserts:

  1. Check these general tips on what you can do with ripening or leftover vegetables, fruits, bread and meat and dairy.
  2. If you have specific food items in your kitchen that you are looking to use up, check our A-Z tips on items ranging from apples to yoghurt – containing interesting ideas on prolonging the life of these foods and how to utilize them as leftovers.
  3. Take a look at our collection of video recipes under “Leftover Recipes”, showing you a range of delightful dishes which are bound to include something for everyone’s taste.

Tips & Hints

Leftover Vegetables

  • How many times do you remember throwing away leftover citrus juice or half-squeezed lemons only to discover another day that you are desperately in need of a little bit of lemon, but no one is willing to run to the store? If that sounds familiar, then learn to freeze leftover lemon juice in ice cube trays. It is useful for dressings, drinks and all sorts of recipes. Lemon skins should be placed in a bag and frozen so that you can grate them into cakes or risottos. For extra flavour, freeze lemon or lime slices in ice cubes and add them to drinks or juices.
  • If you have plenty of leftover broccolis, remember that they are nutritious and pricy vegetables! So instead of throwing them, add a little bit of milk to make a puree that you can serve with fish or chicken instead of those unhealthy, creamy and fatty dressings.
  • Potatoes are such a handy vegetable. Leftover potatoes can be used to thicken soups. Also, if you ever get your soup or stew slightly burnt, which happens to all of us, then pour the soup or stew in a new saucepan while excluding the burnt bit. Place a raw, peeled potato into the new saucepan for roughly 15 minutes so that it can absorb the burnt taste, then remove the potato and gently reheat the contents. The same can be done if you over-salt a soup; toss in a peeled, quartered potato for 15 minutes or simply add unsalted liquid to dilute it.
  • Tomatoes, similar to potatoes, are also very handy vegetables that should never be left to rot. Leftover tomato salsa or leftover hot tomato salad purée (salatah harrah) – which we make alongside many Saudi dishes such as Saudi style rice and meat dishes (kabsah) or rice with milk (saleeg) – can be used later as a base for pizza toppings, fajita sauce or as a delicious chilli layer in a gratin. In fact, one way to utilize that batch of fresh tomatoes and save money at the same time is by making your own ready-made sauces instead of buying them with preservatives and high amounts of salt. Anything from bolognaise and chilli sauces to pizza or fajita sauces can be made in large quantities at home and tailored to your own taste and health requirements. If for any reason you do not have time to cook those tomatoes into specific sauces before they rot, then just freeze them! Simply remove their stalks and put them in freezer bags. Whenever you need the tomatoes don’t defrost them, as they will turn into mush, rather put the whole frozen tomatoes into the pan as if you are using canned tomatoes.
  • Never give up too quickly on those droopy looking vegetables. Just cut off the offending parts, give them a scrub or peel and they will make a delicious wholesome soup. Simply soften an onion and some garlic in a little oil or butter and add your preferred herbs and spices. Then, add the peeled and chopped root vegetables, hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and add any green or leafy vegetables like coriander or parsley in the last few minutes to give a bit of flavour. You can puree half the soup with some milk or cream until smooth, and then pour back into the pan.
  • Rather than diluting over-salted sauces or soups with water, which sometimes can wipe out the flavour of herbs, try adding either a little bit of cream, brown sugar or vinegar depending on the sauce you are cooking. Remember, the trick is to add things gradually while tasting all the time to make adjustments. Also, a bit of unsalted cooked white rice pureed with water can help cure over salted soups or stews.
  • Just when you think those carrots and cucumbers have become soft and unfit for a salad, simply put them in a glass of water in the fridge and they are back to shape.

Leftover Fruits

  • Investing in airtight containers is a great idea as they can keep dried fruit in a good condition for quite some time. Dried fruit is a great healthy choice for your kids as snacks or as fruity additions to yoghurts, cereals and porridge. So make use of the fruits you have at home such as apricots, apples, pineapples, plums and mangoes. Just peel them if necessary, remove their core or seeds, and then cut into slim slices. Spread onto a baking tray in a very low heated oven for 45 minutes. Cool then store in airtight containers.
  • If you are baking a fruitcake and your dried fruit looks a bit too dry, then pour boiling water over it in a bowl, leave for 30 minutes and add a tea bag for flavour (optional).
  • Be clever with the kids as they are less likely to grab apples for a snack, especially if the apples are bruised. So, cut off any bruised sides of the apples and then shape them into appealing wedges to attract your kids. Another thing you can do is grate the good parts of the apple into salads.
  • The same goes with other ripening fruit you have. You can turn them into fruit fritters that can be added to yoghurt or ice-cream or turn them into delicious puddings. Also, when making pancakes, dip peeled slices of pear, banana or apple into the batter and cook in the pan. Before serving, just sprinkle the pancakes with caster sugar.
  • Likewise don’t wait on those avocados. Either add them to your salads or make a homemade guacamole that you can serve with fajitas, enchiladas or use as a dip. Just cut open a ripe avocado and scoop contents into a bowl. Add chopped garlic, ¼ of a red onion, a bit of sweet chilli sauce, and mix everything in the blender together. Adding lemon juice will help stop the avocado from turning brown. Also, you can pop the avocado stone into the guacamole salsa to keep the dip fresh and green for at least two hours. Remember to remove the stone before serving.
  • Fruits are easily forgotten in Ramadan with all the other classic dishes dominating the table. You can ensure your family eats fruits by making a warm fruit salad which you can add to some of Ramadan’s desserts or yoghurt for iftar. Simply take ripe orchard fruits such as apples, pears, plums and apricots, peel, remove the centers or seeds and cut into small chunks. Put into an ovenproof dish with a bit of honey, a splash of orange juice, a few prunes and raisins, and a bit of butter. Add some spices such as nutmeg, star anise, allspice and cinnamon. Cover and cook at 200°C (400°F) for about 25 minutes. Once cooled, freeze in an airtight container or bags. Defrost the amount needed a night before serving or you can heat the mixture in the oven and then either mix with yoghurt or top with muhallabia (milk pudding), custard or ice cream.  
  • The same can go for ripened manadarins, clementines and small oranges. You can save them by turning them into a quick puree that can be served with ice-cream, yoghurt or muhallabia (milk pudding). Just peel the whole fruits in an oven dish, sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon and soft brown sugar. Cover and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for 40 minutes.
  • Choose some days to switch to healthy fruity desserts. For example, stir a handful of chopped nuts and dried fruits and fill into cored apples or cored pears. Then add a bit of butter and a splash of fruit juice. Bake fruits until tender.
  • If you have a lot of grapes that you know you won’t get around to eating, then just freeze them and use later as tasty ice cubes for cool drinks or juice.  
  • Fruit-flavoured yoghurts from the supermarket are not only pricy, but can also fool you into perceiving them as a healthy snack considering the amount of sugar they include. Why not make your own fruity yoghurt instead and bring in the kids for some fun? Just use plain yoghurt and mix it with any other squashy fruits you have and you can add in vanilla, honey and nuts. You can even turn it into frozen yoghurt and get the kids excited.

Leftover Bread

  • Outlaw throwing away sandwich crusts, toast edges, or stale bread in your house. Instead of discarding them, put them in a plastic bag and store in the freezer. You will be amazed how many things you can do with these bread remains once you whizz them in a food processor. For example, you can use them as a binding agent in kababs, hamburgers or meatballs. You can use them to thicken your soups – especially if you mistakenly over-salt that soup! Bread blitzed in a food processor is great for topping bakes, coating chicken breasts, fish, chicken fillets or steaks. Just add to the bread crumbs some herbs, chilli flakes, lemon zest, garlic and grated cheese for flavour. Another suggestion is turning stale bread into croutons (bread cubes) for Caesar or fatoosh salad (Levant green salad with croutons) or even lentil soup. Simply cut bread crusts into small squares, brush both sides with melted better (or low fat butter spray), sprinkle with pepper, garlic powder and herbs and leave in the oven on 175˚C (350˚F) heat for 15 minutes until they have a golden crispy texture. Store croutons in a plastic container or bag. If you want to make a dessert, you can store the bread remains to whizz later to create piecrusts combined with melted butter or for sweet crust fingers with added sugar and cinnamon.
  • Make it a habit not to throw away bread. For example, before deciding to make any breakfast, check if you have toast that will not survive for another two days. Use it to make French toast served with sliced banana, strawberries and maple syrup. Another savoury option is making eggy bread and adding a little bit of grated cheese to the eggs. All these choices make a great weekend breakfast.

Leftover Meat & Dairy

  • Any leftover yoghurt can be utilized by either adding it to a cake or scone mixture instead of milk or by adding it to spicy Indian meat marinades. If you’re running a low-fat diet, a bit of leftover yoghurt with garlic and herbs is a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.  
  • Leftover smoked salmon can be a great addition to scrambled eggs or toasted muffins. Or, if you fancy a sandwich, then you can add the salmon to cream cheese and green rockets on a toast. Top with a sprinkle of lemon and black pepper.  
  • Some dairy products are also handy as correcting agents. So instead of throwing away a chokingly spicy curry sauce, just throw in some coconut milk, yoghurt, or regular milk to tone it down. Also, if you ever get carried away with whipping that cream for dessert, then just correct it by adding milk or a bit of ‘un-whipped’ cream and a pinch of sugar.
  • If you have any leftover coconut milk, try freezing it in ice-cube trays, and then transfer later into freezer bags to save space. Keep up to 3 months.