Monday, October 5, 2009

Recycled Meals 101

A culinary challenge I like to set myself is to see if I can get two different meals out of one cooking effort. No, not because I'm lazy in the kitchen; on the contrary, I find cooking a complex dish quite relaxing after a long week in the salt mines. (I don't cook much during the week, but during the weekend I do the bulk of the cooking in my household.)

It's partly because I like the economy aspect. I think it is something I picked up working at a large multinational food company that prides itself on not wasting anything. (Apart perhaps, from the souls of the hapless munters who find themselves working there long enough to get excited about products like canned dogfood. No, I'm not kidding.)

Anyway, any by products or seconds / rejects from the manufacture of one product would become an ingredient for another, known as "rework". So the best products, from the company's perspective, are the ones that can share key ingredients with another. This is why the nougat inside a Milky Way bar (the Australian variety), seems vaguely familiar - it's a reworked Mars Bar (again, the Australian variety) that didn't quite make it.

Unfortunately, they never found a way to recycle those sickly strawberry flavoured Milky Way bars, other than to sell them cheap to the hapless munters toiling away at the sister company's dogfood cannery at the other end of the state.

So armed with this insight into economical food production, I like to find ways of reworking leftovers into meals that are as different as possible. So, I'm not talking about leftover taco mince becoming mince on toast, or chopping up leftover roast dinner and frying it up to make bubble and squeak, although those things are good. I'm talking about a different meal.

Example one. Leftover risotto isn't just good for spackfilling the cracks on your stucco walls. If you have any large inclusions (pieces of meat, vegetables, etc), hook them out and chop them finely. Then add back to the risotto, along with some finely grated hard cheese like a parmesan or reggiano. Next, make the risotto into small balls, wrapped around a small piece of the same hard cheese (about 5mm cubed). Then crumb the balls (you can take a short cut here and use Krum-in-one or you can do it the old fashioned way. You decide.) and deep fry them until golden brown. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Arancini. Serve hot, with a cold Italian beer like a Peroni or a Moretti.

Example two. Yesterday I slow cooked some lamb shanks in an Italian-style sauce with a tomato base, which I served with mash. They were scrumpdiddlyumptious, and after 8 or so hours in the slow cooker the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. I had a few shanks left over, so this morning, I whipped up a quick and easy white sauce, chopped up the remaining lamb shanks and the carrots keeping the lambykins company in the slow cooker and made a lasagne. Its in the fridge at the moment, ready to whip out and stick in the oven for about 30 or 40 minutes tonight, when the hungry hoards arrive. I plan to serve a cheeky lambrusco with it, for the alliteration value alone.

That's how I roll, gentle readers.


  1. Man i think i will make an extra big rissoto, just so i can try that leftover dish.

    Now how can i steal some media attention from this post.

  2. I'm sure if anyone can find a way, you will...

  3. Wow Arancini sounds superb.

    Being the secondary cook of our household and an incredibly reluctant shopper, I am often the one to make use of whatever is in the fridge/cupboard/garden. My standard reuses are roast → quiche and curry/casserole → puff pastry parcels/pie.

  4. Those crumbed balls were good!

  5. Ahh, dammit.

    Sadly, with the health-conscious GP/wife observing closely, I don't get to do much deep frying. That sounds like a fkn brilliant recipe.