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How to use up leftovers

Leftovers can be inspiring to cook with and making a good meal out of something that would otherwise be thrown away is rewarding in several ways; creatively, economically and deliciously if you do it right!  With these scrumptious recipes and ideas, all of which feature everyday leftovers you, can get the utmost pleasure out of every single scrap of food available to you.

For instance …



Bananas are complemented by warm, spicy flavours such as cinnamon and cloves, and also by coconut, brown sugar, rum, chocolate, toffee, coffee, nuts peanut butter and, surprisingly, bacon.


Bananas won’t ripen in the fridge but, once ripe, they can be refrigerated for up to a week; the skin may turn brown but the fruit will be fine. To enjoy them at their best, bring to room temperature before eating. Banana flesh discolours quickly so if you want them to look pretty, toss in a little lemon juice to stop oxidation.


Why not try this delicious recipe?


Banana Brittle

 This is delicious to nibble or use to garnish ice cream and other desserts.


60g butter

1 tbsp oil

6 tbsp sugar

2 bananas, thinly sliced

 Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4

  1. Melt together the butter and the oil and brush over a baking tray to coat completely. Sprinkle with the half the sugar.
  2. Arrange the banana slices on the tray in a single layer.
  3. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar onto the bananas.
  4. Roast in the oven keeping a vigilant eye on them. Every time a banana slice goes golden and looks crisp, set it aside on a plate. I say ‘looks crisp’ because it won’t actually become crisp until it cools. Continue cooking until the plate is full and the baking tray is empty. This takes about 30 minutes.
  5. Cool the brittle and store in an airtight container for 4– 5 days.

 banana brittle

Bread and Apples


Apple Cribbly – for two people.

This is a great way to use up leftover apples and leftover bread simultaneously.


1 medium apple – Granny Smith is good but leftover apple is best.

60g sugar

2 slices of bread

30g butter

  1. Peel, core and dice the apple and toss with the sugar to coat.
  2. Cut the bread into similar sized dice as the apple.
  3. Melt half the butter in a frying pan till it foams, add the apples and cook, shaking and tossing till the apple is tender and beginning to brown and the juices are caramelising.
  4. Set the apple aside, add the rest of the butter to the pan and fry the bread, turning frequently, till crisp and golden.
  5. Return the apples to the pan and toss all together till hot and the bread has absorbed some of the buttery juices.
  6. Serve immediately with ice cream or clotted cream

Apple Cribbly



Bacon is good with tomatoes, avocado, cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, onions, potato, black pepper, most cheeses, beans and pulses, apple, bananas, liver, black pudding, chicken, seafood, maple syrup, peanut butter, eggs and breakfast.


Here’s a really easy idea that pays dividends!


Bacon Salt

Just one rasher of bacon makes a useful amount of bacon salt. Cook it in a medium hot oven till seriously overdone; not burnt exactly but unappetizingly dark and leathery-hard. Pat dry with kitchen towel, let it cool, break into pieces and grind in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoonful of coarse sea salt per rasher. This keeps well in a sealed jar in the fridge and is lovely sprinkled on poached eggs, roast tomatoes, cheese on toast and any number of other things.

Bacon Salt



I instinctively feel that porridge should be served with brown sugar, Drambuie and, even though I realise it is not Scottish, clotted cream. Porridge also, however, goes well with honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, jam, fruit and cream.



Porridge Scones

300g cooked porridge

30g soft butter

1 tbsp runny honey

100g flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

  1. Mix the butter and honey into the slightly warmed porridge.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients and work them into the porridge to make a soft but manageable dough, it will be quite sticky.
  3. Knead lightly and roll out on a floured surface to about 15mm thick.
  4. Cut into rounds, brush with milk and bake in a preheated oven 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 for 20-25 minutes till cooked, risen and golden.


For savoury scones replace the honey with 75g grated mature Cheddar, season with salt and pepper and continue as above. Sprinkle the tops with more grated cheese and/or crunchy sea salt.

Oatmeal scones


Jacket or Baked Potatoes

  • Cut into slices, wedges or just random lumps and fry or roast till crisp.
  • Hash Brown-ish Potatoes. There are many recipes, methods and even finished results of hash browns but, even if this is inauthentic, it is certainly both hash brownish and delicious. Coarsely shred cold jacket potatoes, skin and all if you like, and toss with salt and pepper. Melt together a mixture of oil and butter in a large frying pan, tip in the shredded potato and pack down into a loose cake. Cook till the underside is crisp and brown then flip and cook the other side.
  • Deep fry baked potato skins cut into strips or halves and fill with sour cream or similar.


Mrs. Beeton’s Potato Omelette

This omelette is more interesting than one would first think as it is not filled with potatoes it is made of them! According to Mrs. Beeton this will feed two people.


1 leftover medium sized baked potato
4 eggs, separated
seasonings to taste

  1. Reheat the potato in the microwave – I made that bit up, Mrs. B didn’t suggest it.
  2. Press the hot potato flesh though a fine sieve and allow to cool a little.
  3. For one medium potato mix in four egg yolks and season to taste. (Mrs. B. suggests lemon juice, nutmeg, salt and pepper).
  4. Whisk the egg whites till stiff and fold into the mixture.
  5. Fry in butter and, as this is a soufflé omelette, once the bottom is cooked finish it under a hot grill.



Coffee is delicious with chocolate, cream, spirits and liqueurs, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nuts especially walnuts, bacon, beef and a pinch of salt.


It’s only worth saving really good strong delicious coffee leftovers; store in the fridge or freeze till needed. These ideas are for black coffee, no sugar!

  • Freeze in ice cubes as an interesting way to cool appropriate drinks – Vodka springs to mind.
  • Iced Coffee – pour cold coffee over ice, sweeten with sugar or syrup and add milk or cream or Rum or something to taste.
  • Use instead of water when making hot chocolate.
  • Coffee Martini – shake together good strong cold coffee or espresso with half as much Vodka, a quarter as much Kahlua and ice. Strain into martini glasses. Add cream if you wish.



Ham and Red Eye Gravy – per person

This is traditionally served in America’s Deep South with hot biscuits or grits for breakfast.


a teaspoon of bacon fat

a thick slice of ham

a pinch of sugar

30ml strong coffee

  1. Fry the ham in the bacon fat till brown and hot.
  2. Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Add the sugar and coffee to the pan and cook, stirring and scraping up any ham juices.
  4. Taste, season, maybe dilute with a little water and pour over ham.


Whatever you have left over from last night’s meal, there is almost certainly something delicious you can make with it.


For more inspiration, Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers has hundreds of delicious and useful tips, ideas and recipes for over 450 possible leftovers. Also included are useful basic recipes, explanations as to which flavours complement each ingredient and useful storage advice to keep food fresh for longer. Never again leave food to fester because you can’t think what to do with it!


Suzy Bowler is a professional chef and hotelier turned freelance food writer. She spent many years cooking on an island where food supplies were limited and unreliable and became an expert in adapting, using up, and making something out of nothing. Now she shares her knowhow of ingredient-inspired cooking with hundreds of suggestions for using every conceivable leftover.