Bread wheat 1

Recently I was reading the results of a survey (which, annoyingly I can’t find now) about why we waste so much food, and it turns out that a significant proportion of people don’t like eating leftovers. They’d rather just throw them out. They have a horror of eating the same meal two days in a row. Personally, I love leftovers. They solve the problem of what we’re having for dinner, and I tend to cook enough for several days so that there are several days when I don’t have to cook. (I love cooking, but not all days lend themselves to serious efforts.) This week we made a fondue for the first time, and spent a happy half hour dipping bread and raw vegetables and some leftover scraps of party nibbles into hot cheese. The recipe we followed made more fondue than two people could eat in one sitting. The following night it reappeared as pasta sauce on freshly cooked pasta. On night 3 we reheated it as pasta bake. That was three meals involving leftovers, all different, all tasty and all on the table pretty quickly!

Apparently that makes us, and people like us, unusual. According to a survey by Grundig, “20% of Brits throw away leftovers after a meal, compared to an average of 8% across other countries”.

Leftover fondue probably isn’t making up much of the £13bn of food we throw away every year, so this month I thought I’d focus on Grains.

Oryza sativa

There’s a widespread fear of reheating rice, which is not completely baseless, as cooked rice can cause food poisoning. The problem is that uncooked rice can be contaminated by spores of a bacterium that survive being cooked. Once rice is cooked they can start to multiply. The key with cooked rice is to refrigerate it quickly, and not leave it in the fridge too long. It’s not the reheating that is the problem.

The Kitchn has some tips on the best ways to reheat rice for people who haven’t tried it. In our house leftover rice is usually turned into fried rice, but it can also be used to make rice salads, or to add heft to soups and stews. Risotto I tend to reheat in the microwave, but one day I will get around to upcycling it into Italian arancini. You can also use leftover risotto/rice/rice salad to stuff peppers.

The Spruce has a good article on what to do with leftover rice, which includes recipes for all these ideas, and some more. The Guardian has 22 recipe ideas for leftover rice.

Of course, not all rice is savoury. BudgetBytes has an idea for turning plain cooked rice into dessert rice pancakes, which are then drizzled with syrup and melted butter.

Apparently it has become a tradition to serve rice pudding on Christmas Eve in Norway (and also on Saturdays…). Leftovers are then used to make riskrem, rice porridge blended together with whipped cream and sugar to make a fluffy pudding. It’s served with an incredibly vibrant red berry sauce. North Wild Kitchen is taking that one step further this year, and turning leftover rice pudding into rice porridge ice cream. I’m pretty sure no one would complain about eating those leftovers….


British cuisine isn’t heavy on eating grains in their natural state, but Culture Cheatsheet has 7 easy recipes that use leftover rice and grains that include ideas for quinoa, bulgur, barley and farro. For the most part, the ideas I’ve given above can be easily adapted to work with different grains.

Interestingly, if you Google recipes for leftover grains, you get a lot of ideas from home brewers, who thriftily want to make the most of the spent grains leftover once they’ve made their beer. If you have a beer maker in your life producing spent grains, you can turn them into beer bread, cookies and dog treats. Commercial breweries are starting to get in on the act, turning their waste products into food, drinks, or even paper.

Merry Christmas everyone!