Adam Liaw's recipes to use up leftovers

Roasted vegie and whipped ricotta pizza.
Roasted vegie and whipped ricotta pizza. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Leftovers should be a dirty word in the food dictionary. The term implies something abandoned and unwanted, long after the main meal is done. But yesterday's dinner does not need to be the poor cousin; here are some great ways to make the second round just as exciting as the first.


Crusader's bread

This Italian style of dried bread (also called pane dei crociati, friselle or biscotto) is truly ancient, dating to the time of the crusades. It may be old, but as a way of preserving bread it's as valid today as it was a thousand years ago. Dry torn chunks of stale bread in a low oven until crisp, and store it in airtight bags in the pantry. To eat, moisten the dry bread by flicking it with a little water, scatter it with juicy chopped tomatoes and torn basil, and then have at it with plenty of good olive oil, salt and pepper.

Panko breadcrumbs

Japanese breadcrumbs are popular for their light, crispy texture. They're made commercially made by passing an electric current through bread dough to cook and raise it without creating a crust. Ingenious, but thankfully at home there's an easier way. Trim the crusts from any slightly stale bread and pass it through the shredding attachment of your food processor rather than the ordinary blades. Dry the shredded bread in a low oven until crisp, and you're ready to go.



Rather than going "off", milk will first naturally sour, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The souring is caused by lactic acid produced by good bacteria in the milk, and the acidity actually inhibits other microbes that may cause the milk to spoil. This souring happens in both pasteurised and unpasteurised milk, although in highly pasteurised milk the souring process can take longer, leaving the milk more open to contamination. Trust your nose. If your milk smells sour rather than rancid, it's still good to use. Sour milk is perfect for baking, and you can use it for any recipe that calls for buttermilk. The acidity helps baking soda release carbon dioxide for extra rise, and it adds a light tangy flavour.


One of the best ways to use sour milk is to turn it into a fresh cheese. Combine sour milk with fresh milk up to a total of two litres. Bring the milk to a simmer (85C) and stir through four tablespoons of white vinegar. Simmer for a minute without stirring, then remove from the heat and allow the milk to stand and curdle for 10 minutes. Strain the curds through a tea towel and let it drain until it is the consistency you like. Season with salt and it's ready to eat.


Roast meat red curry

Red curry is a great equaliser for leftover roast meats. It works well with anything you can throw at it (or in it) - pork, chicken, beef or lamb, even fish; all stand up well in the rich coconut sauce. Just take a good-quality prepared red curry paste and follow the instructions with your favourite vegetables. Tear the roast meat into thick shreds and add it at the end of cooking. Add a dash of fish sauce, some fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime to serve.



Fruit muffins

Fruit that is just past ripe is one of the biggest sources of food waste in Australia, but a basic muffin recipe is the perfect answer. Take two cups of self-raising flour, half a cup of castor sugar and a pinch of salt, and lightly mix with a cup of milk, a beaten egg and a quarter cup of melted butter. Fold through some chopped fruit and bake for about 25-30 minutes in a 200C oven. The more fruit you add, the softer the muffins will be.

Individual fruit crumbles

Crumbles don't always have to be big desserts. If you have few ramekins lying around you can make individual crumbles to suit any quantity of leftover fruit. Cook any soft fruit with sugar until thick and soft. Fill ramekins, cover with a crumble topping and bake at 200C for about 20 minutes until well browned. The basic rule for a crumble topping is "one-two-three" by volume. Mix one part butter with two parts sugar and three parts plain flour. Pulse it together in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. It's amazing how a bit of crunchy crumble and a scoop of ice cream can make a bunch of old fruit suddenly irresistible.


Vegetable frittata

There aren't many dishes as versatile as a frittata. It's effortless to make and good to serve at any time - warm or cold, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just place any leftover vegetables (especially potatoes) in a baking dish, pour over eggs (about eight will feed four) whisked with a little milk (half a cup of milk to eight eggs), scatter with any cheese you like and bake in a 200C oven for about 30 minutes or until eggs are set and the cheese golden.


Fried rice

Any Asian family will tell you that fried rice is best made with rice the day after it's cooked. The outside of the grains dries slightly, and as it is fried in a wok it picks up the flavours of the other ingredients without falling apart. The simplest fried rice starts with chopped onion, garlic and egg fried in plenty of oil. Add the cold rice, a little salt and some soy sauce and press the rice against the sides of the wok to break up any clumps. Toss everything together and you're done.