Recipes from River Cottage: Love your Leftovers

Lamb and mint couscous.
Lamb and mint couscous. Photo: Supplied

Lamb and mint couscous

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a light lunch

What I love about this recipe is how easily it turns Sunday lunch into Monday's lunchbox. If you have some leftover gravy, heat it up and add it to the liquid or stock you use to cook the couscous. I've added carrots and peas, but you can be pretty inventive with what you throw in – if it tasted good with your roast dinner, it'll taste good in your couscous too. I season this with a dollop of mint sauce or jelly, and stir in some perky herbs too, to add freshness. 

150g couscous or barley couscous
300ml hot water or stock and/or gravy, if you have it (or the amount of liquid specified on the couscous packet)
1-2 tbsp olive oil, plus an extra splash for the dressing
1-2 tbsp mint sauce or jelly
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
100g roast lamb, diced
100g cooked peas
100g cooked carrots, diced
Small handful of mint, parsley and/or coriander leaves, roughly chopped or torn, plus extra leaves to finish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

<i>River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers</i>, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

To prepare the couscous, put it into a bowl, add the hot water or stock and olive oil, then cover and leave to soak for a short time, according to the packet instructions.

When the couscous is swollen and tender, add the mint sauce or jelly, lemon zest and juice, and sprinkle on the ground spices. Fork the couscous gently to fluff it up and combine it with the seasonings.

Add the lamb, vegetables and herbs and toss gently to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, a little more lemon if you like, and a splash of olive oil.

Lemon and yogurt pudding cake.
Lemon and yogurt pudding cake. Photo: Supplied

Serve in bowls, scattered with extra herb leaves.

Tips and swaps: 

Fruity couscous and lamb:  Add a small handful of dried fruits such as raisins, barberries or chopped unsulphured apricots. First soak the fruit in hot water or tea for about 10 minutes to plump it up a bit, then drain before stirring it into the couscous.


Minted quinoa and lamb: Use quinoa in place of the couscous.

Swap the meat: This dish gives a good second life to roast meats other than lamb – try it with chicken, beef or pork.

Lemon and yoghurt pudding cake

Serves 6

Potato peel soup.
Potato peel soup. Photo: Supplied

This is a version of that cosy favourite, lemon delicious pudding. On cooking, the batter separates, leaving a pool of lemon curdy sauce at the base of the dish and a tender, light sponge on top. The recipe makes great use of slightly mature yoghurt. If you don't have quite enough, simply combine the yoghurt with some whole milk to bring it up to 250g.

40g butter, melted and cooled, plus extra to grease the dish
160g castor sugar
3 large eggs, separated
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
3 tbsp self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
250g thick Greek-style or other natural wholemilk yoghurt (less than fresh is fine)
Icing sugar, to finish

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly butter a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish.

Using an electric hand mixer, or free-standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy, about five minutes, scraping the bowl down with a spatula a couple of times.

Beat in the egg yolks and lemon zest, then sift the flour and baking powder together over the batter and lightly fold in.

Whisk together the yoghurt and lemon juice, then gently stir this mixture into the batter until just combined.

Whisk the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl until they form soft peaks then gently fold into the lemon mixture, using a metal spoon.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish. Stand the dish in a roasting tin and carefully pour in boiling water from the kettle to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for about 50 minutes until the pudding is puffed up and lightly golden on the top – it should still have a slightly tender wobble to it.

Carefully remove from the oven, then lift the pudding out of the roasting tin. Leave to stand for five minutes before serving.

Dust with icing sugar to serve. Hand round a jug of double cream or a bowl of thick fresh yoghurt for everyone to help themselves.

Potato peel soup

Serves 4

I understand that this might be a tough sell. But bear with me because it's miraculous. There's nothing humble about this soup's rich, creamy flavour – it tastes, remarkably, like mushrooms. And if it seems just a little too pared-back, it's very easy to jazz it up with some nice finishing touches (see below). Make sure the potatoes are well scrubbed before you peel them so the peels are very clean.

20g butter, or rapeseed or sunflower oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
1 bay leaf
About 200g potato peelings (about as much as you'd get from preparing a decent-sized tray of roast potatoes)
500ml whole milk
500ml chicken or veg stock
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish (optional):

Fried sage leaves
Crisp-grilled bacon

Heat the butter or oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the onions, bay leaf and a good pinch of salt. Saute gently, until the onions are soft but haven't taken on much colour, about 10 minutes.

Add the potato peelings and give everything a very good stir for a minute.

Pour in the milk and stock, season well with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the peels are very tender – another 10 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly, then puree in a food processor, blender or using a stick blender until very smooth.

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley, if using.

Serve in warmed bowls, topped with fried sage leaves and shards of crisp-grilled bacon, if you like. Finish with a generous grinding of pepper.

Tips and swaps:

Top with an egg: Float a poached egg on each portion and sprinkle the crispy bacon on top of it, if you like.

Chowder-like option: Add a handful of cooked sweetcorn and some leftover smoked fish or cooked ham or bacon.

Parsnip or carroty version:  You can use other root peelings as well as potatoes – especially parsnips and carrots. But keep it 50 per cent spud or it can become too sweet. A good pinch of cumin goes well with a multi-root version.

River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Bloomsbury, $45.