Leftovers – when they are not: leftover

The notion of leftover food and what happens to it, is a divisive one.  I remember my ex returning from a conference with a story about a fellow delegate just would not eat leftover food.  If there was any food left over, his wife had to throw it away.

I must digress

That entire exchange was more than twenty five years ago (as is the memory), but still raises qestions for me.  Firstly, throwing away good food.  Just does not make sense.  I’ll come back to this.  It’s not just the food issue that stuck with me, it was how the story was told:  it was clear that that husband concerned had issued a decree.  I remember thinking to myself:  this still happens in the late 1990’s?  Clearly, I was naive and protected.  I learned that not only did it still happen, but it still does.  It’s one of the signs of domestic abuse.  In South Africa, as with the rest of the world, gender-based violence is a crisis with a surge of femicides as South Africa has entered stage three of the covid-19 lockdown.

Food waste

While I’m on a bit of a downer, and staying with the lockdown, one of the very worrying consequences of the lockdown in South Africa, is the number of hungry people.  I grew up with the constant admonishment that I had to eat every single morsel of food on my plate.

There are children who have no food.

Then I would be regaled with stories about hungry children in Vietnam and other parts of Africa.  What most people who know me now, will have difficulty believing, is that I was a picky eater with the appetite of a bird (a small one!).  It was not unusual for me to whine, “I’ve had enough…” or “I’m not hungry…”  No-one, least of all my mother ever knew that I would feed my winter soup to the lavender bush that was up the back steps, round the corner and behind the garage.  That’s another story.  More relevant is that if I didn’t eat each morsel on my plate, said plate and food remains were deposited on top of the fridge.  They were my next meal.

Needless to say, two, no, three things happened.  I grew up and as I did, so did my appetite.  I also developed an appreciation for most food and an ability to eat virtually anything that’s put in front of me – even if it’s something I’d prefer not to eat.  The third thing is that I did develop a loathing for leftovers that are just the same meal.  Rinse Reheat and repeat does not work for me.

Not the vogue

I think I might have mentioned that my Dad grew up with an alotment and went on to train as a horticulturist at Kew.

My father – the one under the keg tap – “busy” in Kew Gardens.

Consequently I grew up with vegetable peelings always saved for the compost heep.  That compost fed the growing vegetables and flowers.  Sustainble living was just how things were done.  It didn’t have a lable. Then.

Back to my mother: I think I’ve mentioned that she was one of four sisters with a single mother, and grew up in the Second World War.

Mum at about 12 – circa 1940

(Well, I had, and it’s one of those posts I shall have to “reconstitute“.)  The point is, that every morsel had to stretch and nothing went to waste.

Both The Husband (whose parents were married during that same war) and I grew up with the concept of nose to tail eating and wasting no part of an animal.  The Husband talks about his mother who, as a young mother newly arrived on a smallholding in the then Rhodesia, making soap with pig fat. And curing ham.  Eating offal (which, by the way, includes oxtail), was just part of life.  As were meals with leftover meals.  Some more successful than others.  Stovies was one we both remember. In our house stovies were always made after roast beef and was one of my Dad’s favourite winter suppers.  And, let me add he, himself, made a mean pot of stovies.

Patterns repeat

As much as one thinks one rebels against one’s childhood, and “things our parents did”, it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock to discover that we are repeating the same patterns.  Or not.  Anymore.

It’s taken a while, and I’ve made peace with embraced some of those patterns.  Like the compost heap.  And leftovers.  However, in my defence, I plan my leftovers.  Like I plan the weekly meals.  The “deliberate” leftovers are essential ingredients in another meal.  As is the case with my roast vegetable “frittata”.

A while ago, I shared this photo on Instagram and a friend asked if I’d shared the recipe here. Well, I hadn’t then, and I am, now.

Roast Vegetable Frittata

Essentially, this is a baked omelette.  Roast vegetables is a favourite meal and I when do them, I make a huge quantity.  There is so much one can do with roast vegetables:  stir into pasta or risotto;  as part of a salad and in a frittata.   As I did for that particular evening’s meal.  It’s simple and it’s versatile.  One can make it North African by adding harissa and garnishing it with fresh coriander or take it to the other side of the Mediterranean with pesto and basil.  Or one can give it a Mexican touch with cumin, chilli and cilantro (or coriander and dhanya by other names).  I will even add a bit of spinach as I did the other evening when I paid proper attention to what I was doing – to be able to write up the recipe.

This particular evening, I also had some left over spinach from another meal, and I had also roasted some cauliflower (which I usually keep separate because the flavour tends to “contaminate” everything else).  I elected omit the cauliflower, but incorporate the spinach into this frittata.

This transformation of leftovers consists of a layer of roast vegetables in a greased baking dish, over which one pours beaten egg which is topped with grated cheese before being baked in the oven.  The detailed recipe is here in a printable format).

The roasted cauliflower didn’t go to waste, either, it went into the side salad that accompanied the meal.

A last word

This is the first of a few recipes-by-request which have taken a back seat to my lockdown related rants.  So, keeping a promise, this one is for Janette who also writes about reinvention and sustainable living:  under the milkwood tree in her garden which is on the beautiful Eastern Cape coast of South Africa.  Go and have a read.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

English writing and online tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I also share the occasional post on Medium.

Crazy about Courgettes

We have always loved courgettes and eat them in a host of different ways.  Tom will even eat them raw, like an apple.  So, this year, we have successfully grown them, and when Sannie (pronounced “sunny – because she is) Boervrou, a farmer friend of ours dropped off a box of them, I had such fun making all sorts of things courgette – including for breakfast.  So, in addition to pasta carbonara, here are some other really cool ways to cook delicious courgettes – for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner!

Courgette Frittata

Regular readers of this blog know that breakfast is not usually my domain – other than 100_2900public holidays – and we’ve had a few of those in the last month.  The most recent was voting day in South Africa.  With no need to get up early, brunch was in order, and with fresh-from-the-vine courgette, and a beautiful autumn day, I thought that a frittata might be fun.  A frittata is like a Spanish omelette, but is grilled and can be eaten hot or cold.

I roughly grated one courgette and beat together three eggs to which I added a little milk, salt and pepper as well as a good chunk of butter, chopped into small pieces.  In a large pan, in hot olive oil and butter, lightly sauté the courgette and then pour in the egg mixture.  Swirl a little in the pan and then cook over a gentle heat until it starts to bubble.  While this is happening, warm the grill.  When the mixture is quite firm around the edges but “wet-ish” in the middle, sprinkle fresh, chopped origanum and a little finely grated Parmesan or pecorino over the top.   Place it under the grill until the egg is firm and the top is nicely browned.  A frittata can be served immediately or left to cool.  I served our courgette frittata warm, with tomatoes topped with a dollop of cottage cheese and grilled.

Zupa Zucchini

2014-05-09 08.49.08Courgette and Camembert soup makes a delicious light lunch, particularly in autumn.  This soup is quite special to me – the original recipe comes from a school friend who now lives in Melbourne, and whom I’ve not seen since school days – some 30-odd years ago.  We have reconnected through Facebook and now enjoy cricket “together”, continents apart.  So, to make this, you sauté onion and courgette (coarsely chopped) with a potato in a pot and then add stock (ratio of courgette to stock is 1:1).  Bring to the boil and simmer until all the vegetables are soft.  Liquidise and then season, add Camembert to taste and liquidise again to make sure that the Camembert is well distributed in the soup.

You can make this in a vegan, Kosher or Halaal form by using vegetable stock and omitting the cheese.  I have also substituted the potato with a little flour which is added to the vegetables to which you then add the warm or hot stock.

Stuffed courgettes

The last idea that I’m going to share with you is a delicious side dish.  The idea came from a few recipes I’ve used and the inclusion of rosemary was the consequence of a suggestion from a friend in the village.

Select nicely shaped, firm courgettes and, depending on the size, half or more, per person.  (It’s easier to work with larger ones, so I’d recommend large ones).  Cut in half and scoop out the centre and set aside.  Pop the shells into a moderate oven, drizzled with olive oil and bake for about 10 minutes – 100_2907make sure they stay firm.  Then, in a pan, sauté finely chopped onion, red pepper and a clove of garlic as well as the reserved flesh. Season to taste and add a little oreganum and/or parsley.  Remove the shells from the oven and then stuff, placing a sprig of fresh rosemary between pairs of courgettes – the lovely flavour gently infuses into the marrows as they cook.  Put this back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve as a side dish.

Don’t use dried rosemary, or chop rosemary and add it to the mixture – it is too strong and will overpower everything else.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2015